Pack Journalism

I’m always amazed at how climate bloggers blame the media every time the narrative isn’t to their liking. Joe Romm and Michael Tobis, on one side of the spectrum, are famous for this. They often complain of a press that gives too much credence to climate skeptics. Additionally, both have asserted that “climategate” was a non-story that became a media-manufactured controversy because of irresponsible journalists.

Now I see that Bishop Hill, on the other side of the spectrum, believes that media outlets have recently “coordinated” a wave of stories with “warmist themes.” Right. I’m sure the editors of BBC and The Times and Nature got together at a London pub and said, “Time to move the pendulum back to the pro-AGW angle.”

C’mon. Pack journalism ain’t pretty, that much we should agree on. And it can be tragic and shameful.

Unfortunately, it’s an entity of the profession that is hard to do away with. But it’s not coordinated.

124 Responses to “Pack Journalism”

  1. Bishop Hill says:

    Keith,

    This is not a case of journalists pursuing the same story and copying each other. The stories linked are all “not news” – Richard Black’s Stormfront thing was 3 months old. Ben Webster’s piece was also nothing to do with anything that had happened recently as far as I can see; nor did the Nature article.

    It could be coincidence, I suppose.

  2. Eli Rabett says:

    Exactly how long have you had your head in the sand keith?  This is a long playing record (to date Eli at least three technologies back) with the bishop hills of the world.

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Stories need not be topical in the context of immediate current events to warrant publication. It is just one of the criteria in deciding if a story has news value.

    I saw the Nature piece, which is more a blog post than anything else and it had slight “climategate” hook, which has been in the news recently. The others I did not read but I’m assuming they had some kind of fresh angle or hook. Now, whether you agree with that angle or not is another story. 🙂

    Are there links to the other two stories? (You didn’t provide them in your post.) I’ll be happy to read them and tell you what I think the fresh hook is, if I think there is one.

  4. Keith Kloor says:

    Eli, my head has been above sand long enough to know that Romm and the Bishop share this long-playing record of disdain for the media regarding press coverage of climate change.

    Indeed, they are flip sides of the same record.

  5. lucia says:

    Keith–  The  “JournoList” story is circulating, and it goes a bit beyond journalists inadvertently acting as a pack.  I did a google news search and this story was at the top of the hits right now:
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0722/JournoList-Isolated-case-or-the-tip-of-the-iceberg
    The header reads:
    “Some of the liberal reporters in the JournoList online discussion group suggested that political biases should shape news coverage. Is the principle of journalistic impartiality disappearing?

    So, at least some members of the media do seem inclined to intentionally spin news. In current stories it happens to be liberal members doing the spin, but I suspect the inclination to spin would be non-partisan.

  6. Eli Rabett sure supports journalists when he sees fit!

    Kieth
    There are trends in reporting, just like anything else.  Stories of a kind always break out like a rash. You must have caught Andy Revkin’s rant about the ‘echo chamber of the blogosphere’, then you have our dear Black with his white supremacists, you had Times with their Exxon skeptics bill.

    It may be a zombified journo-automaton resonance, rather than conscious co-ordination. 😉

  7. Barry Woods says:

    Richard Black (BBC) chooses to write about  Schneiders death, linking it with a THREE month old story about stormfront, with less than subtle obvious implications that sceptics are like this
    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2010/04/06/questions-on-climate-change-stormfront-has-an-answer/
    Yet sceptics that knew Schneider write positively about him this week, Climate audit, Watts up, etc. and a positive climategate meeting, where the mainstream sceptics and pro AGW people mingled and had drinks, is not worth a mention.. ie extremists be ignored, there is a possible middle ground COULD have been the story…
    His article was by choice..

    Richard choose to link to RealClimate, a site set up to counter Steve Mcintyre’s criticism of the ‘hockey stick’ team.

    Then the article dives off onto an obscure 3 month old stormfront story, of an extremist website, only indirectly linked to sceptical science.

    Not reporting the recent words Steve Mcintyre (had on Schneider’s death, Or Antony Watts (Watts Up – website)

    Given that Watts Up is the Number ONE ranked science blog, and RealClimate, and Climate Audit are ranked.. 8th and 9th respectively, perhaps we should see more balance.

    http://www.wikio.com/blogs/top/Sciences

    Some the BBC’s reporters are perceived as gatekeepers to the news, and perceived as actively ‘spining’ stories. Perhaps, my example above might demonstrate why this perception might be..

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    Lucia,

    I haven’t read any of the direct exchanges on that listserv. From what I’ve heard and read of it second hand, it’s a bunch of journalists venting. Are they actively coordinating stories? I hardly think so.

    You also need to understand that even if obvious reporter biases seep through in a story, in a way that renders the piece slanted to one point of view, there are layers of editors at newspapers that should detect this. It’s not a fool proof system, by any means, but it’s there.

    The only real “coordination” of climate change stories that I’m aware of is part of this initiative. And that’s not some conspiracy, but an honest and open attempt by a group of publications to bring a sharper focus to climate change coverage.

  9. Barry Woods says:

    The BBC has a unique position with respect to reporting, it is supposed to be above all of this, it has a public charter and is si
    supposed to be impartial..

    If you read the Telegarph or Guardian you know what to expect…  The BBC has become so perceived as having a Pro CAGW position it is almost a national joke.  As I pay a taxes to fund it, I am annoyed when, it goes against it’s own charter.

  10. Lazar says:

    Keith,
    “I’m always amazed at how climate bloggers blame the media every time the narrative isn’t to their liking. Joe Romm and Michael Tobis, on one side of the spectrum, are famous for this.”
    Why be surprised? Could it be that Romm and Tobis view it as a public service to point out the what and the why? Could it also be that they are right? Later you seem to agree…
    “Pack journalism ain’t pretty, that much we should agree on. And it can be tragic and shameful.”
    Other than pointing out that ‘both’ ‘sides’ criticize the media, this article is unresponsive to the actual concerns that are raised, often and persuasively.
    Repeat polls show >95% of climate scientists view AGW as real and a problem, a view supported overwhelmingly by the data, but the public think the agreement is around 50%… that is a simple, avoidable failing. ’bout time the media took responsibility.

  11. GaryM says:

    You don’t need much active coordination when a group of people all believe the same theory, share the same intensity, agree on tactics, and share the same goals.  Most of what happens in the media with regard to derision of skeptics and scare mongering about climate is probably just happy coincidence.
     
    But just recently, there have been the Climategate emails speaking at length about coordinating attacks on the credibility of scientific publications that published skeptical research; the Jornolist  “journalists” discussing coordinating attacks on conservatives and burying stories unfavorable to Obama; and NAS scientists discussing organizing researchers to engage in a “street fight” with skeptics.
     
    Now why would skeptics (and conservatives) think that there might be a little coordination going on behind the scenes?

  12. Keith Kloor says:

    Lazar,

    Romm often points to individual stories not to his liking and there is a boy who cried wolf element to his carping. Many of his critiques are just too hyperbolic to be considered constructive. But I am sure he believes he is performing a public service.

    Sorry, I fail to see how the media is responsible for not persuading the other 50 percent of the public you say is not convinced. I’d say a good part of the public doesn’t read climate blogs or newspapers and gets most of its news from the TV. And then (in America, anyway) there are the 25-30 percent of people who are politically and ideologically predisposed (conservatives) to not take global warming seriously.


  13. GaryM says:

    Keith,
    As a knuckle dragging, mouth breathing conservative myself, I was just wondering where you got both your figures on the percent of the population that are conservative, and where you got the idea that conservative ideology “predisposes” someone to “not take global warming seriously?”
     
    Gallup shows the US with 42% self identifying as conservative,  20% as liberal.   As for “not taking global warming seriously” because of ideology, if by that you mean skepticism of Democratic politicians demanding massive taxes and extensive regulation, then I don’t understand your own  reluctance to embrace that agenda now, without further ado.  If you are instead adopting the theory that conservatism is anti-science by its nature, what principle of conservative thought gives rise to that?
     
    Your post is a symptom of what I call liberal Tourette’s.  No matter the issue, a moderate/independent/liberal feels the uncontrollable urge to remind folks that he/she too is a right thinking decent person.   This is its own form of group think, but really more entertaining than dangerous.
     
    “I was going to the (CHENEY!) store the other day to buy some (BECK!) food.  I was astounded (HALIBURTON!) to find how much (LIMBAUGH!) it cost.  But don’t get me wrong, I AM NO CONSERVATIVE!
     
     

  14. Barry Woods says:

    Looks like someone at RealClimate has read ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ – finally…

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-montford-delusion/

    The comments are interesting.

  15. Keith Kloor says:

    GaryM:

    You read too much into my comment. But here’s the Gallup poll I reference for that 30 percent figure of Republicans who are not concerned by global warming:

    “The net effect is that Democrats (66%) are now twice as likely as Republicans (31%) to believe the effects of global warming are already underway. Independents’ views (56%) are closer to Democrats’ than to Republicans’.”

  16. AMac says:

    The reports on “JournoList” do provide a credible narrative of reporters recently coordinating a wave of stories with predetermined themes in pursuit of a preset agenda. Google pulled up the “Daily Caller” story “Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright”, which provides pretty good evidence in that case.  Notably, the reporters aren’t apologetic or (among themselves) bashful about this activity — it’s a public service.
    That’s obviously not about climate science, but “it couldn’t happen here” seems like a weak assertion.
    That said, I doubt that most reporters would engage in such collusion.  I doubt that science reporters have done so in the case of reporting on climate.  Such charges should be accompanied by evidence — the more serious the assertion, the more compelling the evidence required.  As far as I can see, there isn’t any.
    And anyway, as pointed out upthread:  if most reporters are in basic agreement about the narrative arc that best frames a certain development, why would a series of similarly-themed stories be a sign of collusion?  It’s the outcome one would expect in the absence of coordination.

  17. GaryM says:

    Keith,
    OK, maybe you meant 30% of Republicans don’t take global warming seriously for political and ideological reasons,  but you wrote “30% of the people….”  Reading the poll, it is worse than you (originally) wrote.  30% reflects the percent who said that the effects of global warming ARE happening now.  That would mean 70% do not agree with that statement.
     
    If you notice the other question that asks how many believe “the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated in the news…,” that number is a very similar 67%.  If you think about the average person on the street, most would think those are the same question.  I doubt many who answered the poll thought “the effects of global warming are happening now” meant whether there has been a .10 rise in temperature per decade in recent history.  I suspect they understood it as “are the ice caps melting away, the Himalayan glacier disappearing, and the Amazon on the verge of becoming a desert.”  Look at the percentages of the other groups with respect to the same questions, and you will find they answered the two questions the same way.
     
    As for my liberal Tourette’s comment, it helps explain how a poll question that asks about the “effects of global warming” becomes “does not take global warming seriously.”
     
    I take global warming seriously, I doubt the science is anywhere near as certain as reported in the press, and some of the most hysterical predictions have been walked back already.   If you want to know what conservatives believe, and even more importantly why they believe it, ask conservatives. Don’t refer to polls with questions that are designed to get a particular response.
     
    By the way, since 26% of liberals and 40% of moderates answered both questions the same way, are they too ideologically unconcerned about global warming?

  18. Keith Kloor says:

    GaryM:

    Yes, I’ve been carelessly vague in my wording.

    Also, you write: By the way, since 26% of liberals and 40% of moderates answered both questions the same way, are they too ideologically unconcerned about global warming?

    Touché.

  19. thingsbreak says:

    @kkloor
     
    The “balance as bias” case has been made successfully, and to my knowledge has not been rebutted, elsewhere so I’ll set that aside. The larger “crime” that the media perpetrates on an almost daily basis is the failure to provide any indication of how absolutely ludicrous a proposition is, because to do so could be seen as *gasp* taking a side.
     
    That James Inhofe is routinely interviewed as a credible authority on energy/climate policy to provide “balance” against scientists or Democratic Committee Chairs says it all, really. The media are de facto gatekeepers, whether they wish this were true or not, and have failed spectacularly with respect to alt med woo and denialism.
     
    In my opinion, (an at least subconscious) recognition of this and overcompensation is what drives the fetishistic elevation of purported middle-grounders, whose positions relative to their cited evidence are less important than their imagined “reasonableness”, e.g. Lomborg, Curry, Hulme.

  20. I object to being put in the same class as Joe Romm, though I appreciate much of what Joe does as a reporter, and I link to him frequently.
     
    I guess the fact that my efforts to distinguish myself from him (which did in fact tick him off a bit) carry no weight here, even though the article in which I tried to do that was featured here.
     
    In my opinion, Romm is a policy advocate, and in my opinion his advocacy for any given piece of science follows from his advocacy of those policies. He can be selective in that regard; he reports what supports him and argues against what doesn’t.
     
    (Whether those policies are optimal in any sense is another matter. I don’t agree with his prescriptions at all. I strongly suspect, in fact, that it is too late to avoid a heavy investment in nuclear power.)
     
    I consider myself an advocate for science, not for policy.
     
    I am sick and tired of the public having to make their minds up based on corrupted information. I think this problem goes beyond climate, and beyond sustainability. If people understood the facts, they would advocate different policies. Apparently this idea is considered laughably old-fashioned in various postmodern circles nowadays. I am not laughing. Let’s try the experiment, and see what happens once the broad outlines of the science are broadly understood, okay?
     
    Anyway, I am not an advocate for anything other than science, and I am not interested in being painted as the opposition for anybody, except someone who advocates against science.
     
    That said, I thoroughly appreciate Lazar’s comment above. It saves me from explaining why this whole article is so spectacularly unhelpful. I would have been offended had it gone after someone else besides me.
     
    I am trying very hard to help identify the course of action which is practical and minimally disruptive which still complies with the daunting requirements of sustaining the real physical and biological world.
     
    The only “side” I’m on is the earth’s. I wish the same could be said about the press.
     

  21. Barry Woods says:

    I’m on the Earth side as well…

    I suspect if we get a decade or two of cooling, Gaia, may be laughing at us little creatures

  22. Re: JournoList flap, I’ll just repost my blog entry from today and save you the trouble of clicking over there (unless you also want my take on Shirley Sherrod  and Breitbartgate; hint, the press had something to do with it. Do you think?)
     
    Sure enough, the so far only slightly mitigated success of “climategate” has led to imitation.
     
    Perhaps the fact that the latest massive email trawl picked journalists as a target will awaken the journalistic community to the nature of the travesty.
     
    Matt Yglesias summarizes:

    I’d encourage everyone to read  this Ann Althouse post on today’s bogus Daily Caller story about JournoList. Her bottom line: “The Daily Caller’s article is weak. And I’m inclined to think the material in the Journolist archive is pretty mild stuff.”



    What’s maddening about this whole issue is that of course it’s impossible to prove a negative. The closest one can come, however, is reasonable inference. The Caller appears to have access to a very large proportion of JournoList emails and they can’t come up with anything that withstands cursory scrutiny.
     
    Sound familiar? It should.
     

  23. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael,

    What side is the press on?

  24. To clarify #20, “I would have been almost as thoroughly offended had it gone after someone besides me.”
     
    To answer #23, clearly, the press is on the “CYA and sell papers” side. Postmodern journalism is pointless; it seems aimed at preventing useful decisions, not at supporting them. It was once different. I am old enough to remember.
     
    It went “and that’s the way it is”, not “and that’s what he said and the other is what she said”, remember?
     

  25. Hank Roberts says:

    “not coordinated” — citation needed, eh?

    http://www.google.com/search?q=“pack+journalism”+”social+network+analysis”

  26. Chris S. says:

    Keith says: “Sorry, I fail to see how the media is responsible for not persuading the other 50 percent of the public you say is not convinced.”
    Surely it’s because:
    “[A] good part of the public doesn’t read climate blogs or newspapers and gets most of its news from the TV”?

  27. Tom Fuller says:

    I am now a self-described opinion and commentary writer. Back when I was a more conventional  journalist, I saw no evidence of the press being on any side.
     
    In the past couple of months I have criticized Schneider, Monckton, Morano and Romm for specific actions or writings.  I care very much that the facts be reported accurately. But as an opinion writer, I think it important to point out that other opinion writers have an agenda that is not determined by new facts or daily discoveries.
     
    I consider people like Romm to be paid propagandists, and I really don’t care what his scientific qualifications are. Marc Morano is essentially the same, but I find him much less offensive (because he’s an aggregator, I guess, and doesn’t write much copy).
     
    And Michael Tobis, at the risk of being tiresome, if you want to advocate for science, write about science. You don’t know very much about journalism, so when you write about it you make a lot of mistakes. Journalism is a lot easier to understand than science, but you’re not willing to put in the work to do so.
     
    Fine–write about the science. That’s what you care about, that’s what you should write about. Don’t you think?

  28. thingsbreak says:

    @kkloor
     
    It believes it isn’t on anyone’s and thus is relatively non-biased- though in fact it’s incredibly ideological and biased, just not necessarily along typical lines. Although written about the US political press, Jay Rosen’s article is worth reading here, particularly from “True believer,” a term of contempt” on.
     
    There are virtually no process stories about climate science. Scandal, conflict, and mavericky-ness are more enticing hooks. Disaster hooks (hurricanes and polar bears, anyone?) still prompt coverage, as do sufficiently press-release-hyped papers in high impact journals (though these are usually stenography rather than reporting).
     
    The structural biases of legacy journalism mean that Ben Santer’s comment about wanting to thrash Pat Michaels is a juicier story than his fingerprinting work. The press is on the press’s side- a partisanship as profound and ideological as any seen in politics.

  29. Hank Roberts says:

    > reminded people of the early stages of the
    > Nazis rise to power

    I only know one person who was a German citizen during the 1930s. I asked him about this some years ago, during the last Bush presidency.

    He said then that he was regularly, strongly, reminded of what he saw and heard in Germany in the 1930s, as the base was built to elect Hitler.

    Yes, folks, Hitler was elected by a majority, after a sustained effort to convince citizens.

    Those who do not remember history ought to read more of it.

    http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0403a.asp

    It might help.

  30. Keith Kloor says:

    Ah, now I see. Michael longs for the good old days of journalism, that mythological time when papers didn’t just care about selling papers and a saintly authority figure who anchored one of just a few news outlets served as the country’s resident truth-teller.

  31. In the face of things like the high-level Wednesday strategy session run by Grover Norquist, and Frank Luntz’s spin business, both of which exist to feed talking scripts to all cogs of the conservative public influence apparatus (which most certainly includes Roger Ailes and Fox News), the righteous wrath of  the lucias and Breitbarts of the world over  centrist/liberal journalists bitching on a mailing list, is both amusing and appalling.

  32. Keith Kloor says:

    TB (28):

    Of course I know the media is biased towards conflict. But I fail to see how this is partisan or even ideological.

  33. CBS had the balls to take on the establishment, once in a while, in the Cronkite days. How would a replay of the Chicago Democratic convention of 1968 (the moment I established an interest in politics) play out now? Where was press skepticism on the Iraq invasion?
     
    The fact that Cronkite was a nice and smart guy isn’t the issue. The facts are that Edward Murrow took on Joe McCarthy, or Woodward & Bernstein took on Nixon, or that Cronkite started criticizing the war in Viet Nam. Such behavior from an employed journalist now is practically unimaginable.
     
    These sorts of things come out of the blogosphere now, and to the extent possible, the press still shields the public from every one of them. Yeah, we only had a few mass market news sources when I was a kid, but right now, we essentially have none.
     
    On climate, I can think of only two general interest English language publication that have done a good job: the Economist and the New Yorker. Those are pretty idiosyncratic publications, but at least they show that it’s possible.
     
    However strong the climate science consensus is, it goes against a journalistic consensus that it must not be reported. It can be discussed, it can be argued, it can be mocked or worshipped (preferably by a panel with equal representation of both ‘sides’) but it cannot actually be reported, essentially guaranteeing that all the discussions and arguments will be worthless.
     

  34. thingsbreak says:

    @32 kkloor:
    But I fail to see how this is partisan or even ideological.
     
    I intended my comments and the link to be fairly straightforward, so I will try to be clearer. It’s not just the bias towards conflict- it’s also the fallacy of the golden mean, the gatekeeping, etc.- in combination, these biases become partisanship.
     
    One of the side effects of this is the elevation of purported centrists and mavericks who are willing to scold “both sides” and ostensibly occupy some “middle ground”, regardless of whether or not such ground is in “the middle” or even exists at all. So the Lomborgs, Judith Currys, Roger Pielke Jrs., et al. receive plenty of attention and little pushback. I’m trying to remember the last time I read one of their assertions strongly challenged by an interviewer unprompted by the interviewer’s commenters.
     
    Another is the unwavering deference to power. Someone like Joe Barton or James Inhofe or Sarah Palin gets treated as an authority on energy by virtue of their political power when their actual comments and positions on the issue range from the banal to the absurd.
     
    Richard Lindzen, James Lovelock, and Paul Erlich are interviewed as authorities on climate issues well beyond anything they’ve actually published on due to accolades and acclaim earned long ago. CEI, CATO, and other industry front groups and Greenpeace/WWF are set up as opposing voices on scientific issues that their spokespeople aren’t properly educated on. The media sets the terms of “reasonableness” based on issues that have nothing to do with the actual evidence in play.
     
    There exists (with a few hopeful signs of progress on that front) an almost pathological aversion to fact-checking. I can’t think of an instance in which mitigation was discussed in the mainstream press without unsupported assertions/implications that doing something about climate change will be severe-to-dire for the economy, while the purely economic costs of mitigation or do-nothing are never brought up.

  35. Tom Fuller says:

    Michael–well, you’re proving my point.
    L.A. Times, 22 July: You can’t explain away climate change
    Some hold that global warming stopped in 1998, but scientists know better.
     
    Scope, July 19: It’s a bizarre phenomenon: While scientific consensus (.pdf) on the dire consequences of global warming mounts, the number of Americans who see climate change as a serious problem has fallen in recent years
     
    NY Times Opinionator: But I rely on the experts, those people who’ve devoted their lives to understanding changes in the earth’s temperature, to guide political leaders, and ultimately get me to join the rest of the planet in trying to keep us from slow-cooking ourselves to death.

    Salon, July 7: Supposedly, see, there’s this global cabal of scientists conspiring to bring about socialist one-world government. But what really got the ball rolling wasn’t the weather, but a manufactured, media-driven scandal.

    Irish Times, July 15: THE GREAT majority of climate scientists say that the world is warming, human activities are contributing strongly to this warming and catastrophic environmental consequences will ensue unless we bring this warming under control. But, public opinion polls reveal that the number of people who are sceptical about climate change is rising significantly

    And on and on for 118 results, most very recent. The fact that most scientists agree on the science regarding climate change is widely reported in major media and also in the blogosphere.

    I know of nobody, in major media or in the blogosphere, who says that the majority of scientists don’t agree on the science regarding climate change. (Although skeptics and lukewarmers both are quick to point out shades of grey in these opinions.)

    Where we seem to have a failure to communicate is regarding what we should do about it.

  36. thingsbreak says:

    Here’s a question- can anyone think of a story in a media (rather than science) outlet that discusses attribution of warming beyond the fact that we’re emitting GHGs? Do the public ever hear anything beyond a simple correlation between rising temps and GHGs?
     
    I’ve had the pleasure of discussing attribution with dozens of people online and off, and virtually none who were skeptical of the reality of anthropogenic warming were familiar with evidence showing that the warming can’t be driven by the sun,  “ice age cycles”, etc.
     
    One of the great things that I’ve noticed Revkin doing more of is covering NRC/NAS/IAC position statements. Do they get covered enough outside of the NY Times to penetrate the din of Lindsay Lohan or Glenn Beck crying jags?

  37. laursaurus says:

    My favorite anti-partisan talk radio talk show host, Phil Hendrie, frequently offers this important insight. Folks need to understand that journalism is struggling for survival. As the internet popularity grew, the most of the traditional newspapers balked at the trend. They felt assured that the public would continue their loyal reliance on the established newsprint sources. Since any Joe Blow could post whatever on the web, it couldn’t possibly even compete. Plus providing free content could hurt subscriptions. The prestigious names would only become tarnished by publishing sub-standard content. The newspaper business model became based on producing a product, rather than providing a service. News media ultimately distributes information. When The Drudge Report was first to break the story of the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, it marked the turning point, as Phil sees it. In the past, professional journalists diligently verified stories of this magnitude with the most credible sources. The flow of information was no longer confined by meeting deadlines and once-a-day appearances. A few recognized where the trend was quickly going. But too many dug their heels in rather than lower their pride by becoming too much like tabloids.
    In the next few years, additional cable news channels filled nicely filled another huge void in the market. USA Today and the WSJ quickly overshadowed the local hometown journals.
    Around a year or so ago, when some congresswoman made a passionate case in favor of rescuing the newspaper business, it was almost comical. With 2 wars going on, the unemployment rate reaching double digits, the national debt sky-rocketing, who gives a damn about resuscitating a business who essentially set fire to the place and committed deliberate suicide? And her best argument was the nostalgic feeling she got from spreading out the Sunday Paper on the kitchen table and clipping articles to post on her fridge.
    What I’ve been observing since is a reactive MSM. People were sending letters to editor of our local paper complaining about the number of dismal stories about economy. Lately, I’ve noticed that stories tend to try to put some positive spin on these stories. Even after Climategate, newspapers all over the globe ran the exact same boiler-plated  desperate plea for success at Copenhagen. The appalling hypocrisy escaped these pro-environmental journalists just like it had the mob of attendees. Think about all that fossil fuel burned up on distributing newspapers on top of the transportation of the excessive numbers of attendees! Their writings betray their sincerity with all the trees that were expended for their preferred manner of delivering that message. Is Ansel Adams turning over in his grave over the chemicals and wood pulp that go into selling his photos?
    In the interest of the planet, journalists who continue to publish in print might consider their personal contributions to the ever increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Weekly news magazines like Time are quickly becoming part of the past.

  38. laursaurus says:

    addendum: the part about the environmentalist newspaper writers and Copenhagen is my opinion. Not Phil Hendrie’s. His point is that we remember that journalism is in a life-and-death struggle that drives the decisions for what content to run.

  39. lucia says:

    Michael Tobis–
    Well…With respect to JournoList,  I’m reading Jim Lindgren on VC’s blog.   It begins:

    The latest quotes from the JournoList emails are on the initial response to Sarah Palin. I remember being shocked at the viciousness of the attacks at the time.
    Defenders of J-List have argued that the Daily Caller (DC) is taking quotations out of context. That is certainly possible. For that reason, it would be better if the DC (or one of the J-Listers complaining about the DC) released an entire thread or an entire day or two of posts so that we can get a better sense of the broader context.
    Nonetheless, without the broader context, the quotes and characterizations appear to be worrisome:
    To read more visit: http://volokh.com/2010/07/22/latest-journolist-revelations-attacks-on-palin/
     
    I agree with Lindgren it would be useful if the Daily Caller released more emails.  I’m not so sure those that are available indicate nothing more than venting– but that may be so.

  40. thingsbreak says:

    @35 Tom Fuller
     
    1. Editorial in a paper that also publishes climate idiocy by Scholars like Jonah Goldberg.
    2. A medical school blog.
    3. Editorial by Timothy Egan (enjoyed his book on the Dust Bowl- I had no idea he was writing for “The Opinonator”, which I’m unfamiliar with despite reading the NY Times online frequently).
    4. Salon opinion piece.
    5. An opinion? piece titled “Climate-change sceptics should be given a fair hearing”.
     
    I don’t want to speak for MT, but I imagine he was referring to something other than op-eds, which I think we’d all agree are hardly representative of climate reporting. Unless, again, we want to include George Will, Jonah Goldberg, Sarah Palin, et al. in the media tent.

  41. Vinny Burgoo says:

    The gorgeous Christine Ottery offers a thoughtful analysis of the pros and cons of campaigning climate journalism in her most recent blogpost. As a bonus, arch-spinner Bob Ward pops up with some surprisingly sensible advice (then undercuts it with a daft rhetorical question).
     
     

  42. Lazar says:

    Keith,
    “I fail to see how the media is responsible for not persuading the other 50 percent of the public you say is not convinced”
    My bad. What I meant to write was opinion polls show that around 50% of the public believes that most climate scientists think AGW is inconclusive or not occuring, in contrast to polls of climate scientists and literature surveys where more than 95% express the belief that AGW is occuring which is supported overwhelmingly by the data. That half of the public have come to such a basic misimpression of what scientists think is almost certainly, at least in part, a failing of news media. He-said-she-said journalism, controversy mongering, and the overweighting of the opinions of around 3% of climate scientists as well as those of assorted cranks who have little or no relevant experience.  Avoidable errors. Journalists are our communication channels. It is their responsibility. Some journalists do their job very well. Too many don’t.
    “Romm often points to individual stories not to his liking and there is a boy who cried wolf element to his carping. Many of his critiques are just too hyperbolic to be considered constructive.”
    Do you want Joe Romm to stop pointing out articles he thinks are flawed? Or do you want his criticisms to be less hyperbolic? Or something else?
    The errors in individual articles are less important than the meta context… how in general are the media reporting the science of climate change, what are their methods and what are the results. In this light Michael Tobis’ critique is stronger and more necessary for news media to address. As stated previously, this article doesn’t address the criticisms, it seems to be a complaint that criticisms exist… or something… sorry Keith, I don’t get your point.

  43. Tom Fuller says:

    thingsbreak, anybody searching online for recent news about global warming or climate change would without doubt see headlines reporting the scientific consensus. It would be impossible to avoid.
     
    Casual readers–don’t know. You’d have to convince me their eyes don’t glaze over at the mention of global warming or climate change.
     
    Most people don’t care about this issue, because they don’t want to invest the time in understanding it. This has nothing to do with climate change per se–it is the typical public reaction to any issue that requires study and doesn’t have an immediate effect on their lives.
     
    What journalists have to balance is the need for more and better information for those few who care and making sure the basics are available for anyone who just turned the light on.
     
    Blaming journalists for reader apathy might be satisfying to those who want to criticize. Don’t know what else it provides…

  44. I was referring NOT to whether one accepts that there is a consensus or otherwise; this is widely discussed. I was also NOT referring to whether one agrees with the consensus or not. This is equally widely discussed. I was referring to whether one knows what the consensus position ACTUALLY AMOUNTS TO.  Hardly anyone who is not a professional in the field has any idea what it is.
     
    For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay. Far from accepting this or rejecting it, they have never heard of it. Yet it is the consensus.
     
    Between one “side” saying that there is no serious consequence to inaction and the other “side” saying there is no serious cost to action,  and the press ignoring anything that doesn’t fit their simple model of the two “sides”, it is little wonder that people have tuned out.
     
    Another crucial consensus: every year adds to the costs of adaptation and to the costs of mitigation. Do you see this fact anywhere?
     
    Another crucial consensus: the coal must stay in the ground. Basically, forever. If there are other carbon reserves of comparable scale (clathrates, shale, tar sands, etc.) they must also remain largely unused. Is anyone discussing this?
     
    These are all things that one cannot prove, but which are far more likely to turn out true than false. Do people understand these likelihoods? Does Keith? Do his readers? Do you?
     
    No, Keith wants to carve out a “middle ground” where we spend some effort on a more or less inconsequential improvement on the carbon imbalance. Surely that’s better than nothing?
     
    Well, no. Not consequentially, no, it isn’t.
     
    The correct long-target for CO2 emissions is zero. The correct short-term target is negative. That’s not radicalism or idealism or romanticism or folly. That’s just the facts.
     
    That’s the way it is, and the journalists of the 50s, 60s and 70s would not have been so unanimously afraid to tell us so.
     

  45. thingsbreak says:

    @41
     
    Yes, this is something I’ve commented on before. It’s unfair to blame the media for failing to convince everyone of the reality of anthropogenic warming. It’s less defensible to claim that they’ve done an adequate job convincing the public of the scientific consensus (on climate and other issues).
     
    Obviously there are cases where those polled just ignore the media reports that contradict their preconceptions, but my anecdotal experience is that large swaths of the public who aren’t antagonistic to the issue are just genuinely in the dark.

  46. laursaurus says:

    thingsbreak  – you cracked me up!
    The media is trying to hard to be balanced? The media misses the mark by aiming to be moderate? The crowd supporting urgent action on CC have complained lately that the media is leaving the false impression of an equitable scientific debate. But to you, this problem applies to everything being covered? While most people think the media sensationalizes too much, you think they don’t do it enough. That’s pretty funny!
    The media is delivering whatever the readers will want to read. It’s pretty much becoming consumer-driven. Those opinion polls also function as their marketing tools. Is this what is meant by the expression about “the tail wagging the dog?”

  47. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Michael Tobis: For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay. Far from accepting this or rejecting it, they have never heard of it. Yet it is the consensus.
    This is your blind-spot. You do this again and again and again. There is a consensus on the manmade-greenhouse-gases-as-additional-blanket thing and a lot of informed people say that this extra blanket might cause problems. Beyond that, there is no consensus. You are, yet again, conflating WG1 with the real world.
     

  48. laursaurus says:

    MT: “No, Keith wants to carve out a “middle ground” where we spend some effort on a more or less inconsequential improvement on the carbon imbalance. Surely that’s better than nothing?”
    Keith is a genius! I stumbled across Joe Romm’s vicious attack on Keith just a few weeks before Climategate broke. The comments reveal that nobody had ever heard of Keith Kloor. The noise from Romm’s wordy rant echoed across several climate blogs. Amazingly, they defended this “nobody.” But it wasn’t really necessary because Keith rose to the occasion, proving he was more than capable of holding his own. Anyone who took the effort to investigate the whole story quickly realized that Joe was completely off his rocker. Keith came out smelling like a rose.
    I just discovered C-a-S when he interviewed Lucia and Bart. I immediately subscribed to the feed and was blown away by what was being accomplished. The who’s-who of both sides were appearing to weigh in for the first time on the same blog! He is a gifted moderator who makes no bones about where he draws the line. People are given just enough rope to hang themselves. There is no permanent ban either for those who make the effort to behave themselves. A moderator who effectively persuades self-moderation.
    Leo LaPorte explained on his radio show how much skill is required to produce a busy, quality blog. I would bet today everyone interested in climate blogs knows the name, Keith Kloor, now. Whoever is left doesn’t know what they’re missing! If you want people to visit your blog, you ought to post here. There is great stuff linked in these comments.
    I’m not sucking up either because he definitely holds my feet to the fire, too.

  49. dhogaza says:

    “This is your blind-spot. You do this again and again and again. There is a consensus on the manmade-greenhouse-gases-as-additional-blanket thing and a lot of informed people say that this extra blanket might cause problems. Beyond that, there is no consensus. You are, yet again, conflating WG1 with the real world.”

    When Michael says “this is the consensus”, he means, of course, the consensus among practicing climate scientists, of which WG1 is representative, not the populace at large.

    As a nit, I’d say it’s the scientists who study the real world, even if in your opinion they’re not part of it …

  50. Tom Fuller says:

    Geez, Louise, Michael, don’t underplay the magnitude of the problem–this might get really serious!
     
    Let’s  play guess the author:
    1. “I readily confess a lingering frustration: uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes, let alone provide confident probabilities for all the claims and counterclaims made about environmental problems. Even the most credible international assessment body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has refused to attempt subjective probabilistic estimates of future temperatures.”
    2. “Because the costs of adaptation are very large, and greater uncertainty about future climate is likely to be associated with more expensive adaptation, reducing uncertainty in climate predictions is potentially of enormous economic value. We highlight the need for much more work to compare: a) the cost of various degrees of adaptation given current levels of uncertainty; and b) the cost of new investments in climate science to reduce current levels of uncertainty. ”

    “Our estimated mean global surface temperature increase by 2100 is 2.5 oC, reflecting the fact that the distribution is skewed toward high temperature increases. In contrast to our analysis the IPCC does not indicate whether there is a 1 in 5 or 1 in 10,000 chance of exceeding its upper estimate of 5.8 oC. Our illustrative results suggest that there is about a 1 in 100 chance of a global mean surface temperature increase by 2100 as large as 5.8 oC.”

    Answers: 1. Stephen Schneider, 2. Ed Hawkins and Rowan Sutton, NCAS-Climate & Walker Institute, University of Reading, and 3. Mort D. Webster, Chris E. Forest, John M. Reilly, Andrei P. Sokolov, Peter H. Stone, Henry D. Jacoby and Ronald G. Prinn

  51. Eli Rabett says:

    Keith is probably surprised that there is gambling going on in Reno.

  52. Bishop Hill says:

    Richard North is reporting that “At the beginning of this week, a major international newspaper was to have published a piece calling for the retraction of The Sunday Times retraction, but internal politics have kept it off the pages so far.”

  53. Bishop Hill says:

    Should have made clear – he’s referring to the Amazongate thingy.

  54. AMac says:

    Michael Tobis characterized the consensus position of climate scientists on AGW-related policy in #44.  As someone who is (now) familiar with the debate, I am familiar with most of those stances.  As a newspaper reader/public radio listener, would I be?  Only to an extent, probably.  AGW jostles with dozens of other high-priority topics.

    I haven’t been aware that the Consensus AGW position on continuing CO2 emissions into the near future is as Michael describes:

    “I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay. Far from accepting this or rejecting it, they have never heard of it. Yet it is the consensus.”

    Michael, could you provide a link or citation to a widely-subscribed Consensus statement to this effect? (E.g. an IPCC passage. professional society position, or petition.)

    To stray briefly off-topic:  if–having decided to venture into the policy realm–AGW Consensus scientists wanted to convince me of the seriousness and urgency of driving emissions to zero in the next few decades, they would be urging enactment of immediate policy changes that would prompt rapid and widespread adoption of nuclear power.  The compelling rationale for this position has been discussed elsewhere, notably by Stewart Brand .  Yet, so far as I know, this stance is held by only a minority of climate scientists.

  55. It is not the role of climate science to advocate policies. It is already stretching the traditional role of science to indicate that policies are necessary; IPCC does so only implicitly. So an official statement from climate scientists on actual energy policy is not likely to be forthcoming.
     
    In my experience, climate scientists are, as individuals, supportive of nuclear power. For myself, I think it’s too late to avoid a major increase in nuclear power, (though I think Brand goes too far in dismissing concentrating solar/thermal, a very promising approach).  But this is admittedly just a personal impression. I think it would be an interesting question for a survey.
     

  56. AMac: “I haven’t been aware that the Consensus AGW position on continuing CO2 emissions into the near future is as Michael describes”
     
    See Fig 22 in the Copenhagen Diagnosis (p.51). It’s true that it hasn’t been spelled out this clearly in the past. But if you put the various pieces of the puzzle together, something like this is what comes out.
     
    Admittedly, it is based on the “2C = danger” threshhold, which is more of a values-based than a science based decision. That is perhaps why this figure is not explicit in IPCC.
     
    But actually valuing the stability of the environment of the entire world, presumably, is not a stretch. Even if impacts increased just linearly over this temperature , we’d be looking at triple the impact we already have seen if we don’t start heading for zero quickly. So limiting impacts to triple what we see now is a long shot.
     

  57. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, much as I’m sure it amuses you to harass people, that quote appears in its entirety.  It was dated in 2002, which is relatively recent given that we’re still discussing MBH98 actively. Are you suggesting that Schneider didn’t say it? Later retracted it? That it was part of a longer statement that changed the meaning? I doubt it.
     
    I see no consensus regarding the need for zero net carbon among climate scientists. At all.

  58. Tom Fuller says:

    “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), developed countries would need to slash their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to constrain global warming to 2ºC.”
    “What’s needed to mitigate climate change fast, Nobel laureate Mario Molina and colleagues argue, is a focus on phasing out short-term warming agents. They pinpoint four non-CO2 gases and particles that could be regulated under existing legislation. Complementing cuts in CO2, these faster-acting mitigation strategies could “begin within 2″“3 years, be substantially implemented in 5″“10 years and produce a climate response within decades”, write the authors.”
    I do not see a consensus among climate scientists that CO2 emissions must or should be cut to zero.

  59. Hank Roberts says:

    > I do not see …
    Tom, ask.  Try starting here, where the rate of change is most urgently a concern:
    http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/#1
    Policy development and decisionmaking

    Isn’t it better that we sacrifice the oceans and let them keep on taking up CO2 and buffering climate?


    

    Ocean acidification and climate change are two sides of the same coin. Both are direct consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions and cannot be separated from each other. The present uptake of about one quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions by the ocean indeed serves as a buffer against rising atmospheric CO2, and so this “service” could be considered to diminish, but not prevent, climate change. In the long term, on time scales of tens of thousands of years, the majority of anthropogenic CO2 emissions (80-90%) will end up in the ocean. This, however, will not protect the climate system from global warming during the intervening period. It is also important to point out that the impacts of CO2 uptake by the oceans will have profound effects on the functioning of Earth’s ecosystems. The oceans provide vital roles in biogeochemical cycles—not only in the regulation of CO2, but in the production of oxygen, the cycling of nitrogen and other important nutrients, as well as the production of gases that affect such things as cloud formation. Many species use both land and ocean habitats, and many humans rely on healthy oceans for their livelihoods. The oceans are an integral, interconnected part of the Earth system, and cannot be realistically considered as a separate entity. “” Ulf Riebesell, Professor, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences IFM-GEOMAR, Germany; Joan Kleypas, Scientist III, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA

    Is it too late to do anything?

    It is within our technical and economic means to modify our energy and transportation systems and land-use practices to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from our economies by mid-century. It is thought that the cost of doing this “” perhaps 2% of the worldwide economic production “” would be small, yet at present it has proven difficult for societies to decide to undertake this conversion. “” Ken Caldeira, Senior Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA
     
     
     

  60. Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, and:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=zero+net+carbon+emission&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=2009
    finds among much else the cold equations, simple arithmetic
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature08047.html
    HD Matthews, NP Gillett, PA Stott, K Zickfeld -2009 –
    experiments have shown that eliminating CO 2 emissions leads to approximately stable, or slowly decreasing global temperatures over time 3, 7, 13 ; this implies that close to zero net anthropogenic carbon emissions are required to stabilize global mean temperature ….”
    and

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/38446x155740p568/
    “… may only provide for the current global population of 6.51 billion equitably at the current average consumption of 1.49 t C per capita, calling into question the sustainability of developing countries striving for high-consuming country levels of 5.85 t C per capita”
     

  61. Hank Roberts says:

    But remember — don’t confuse “energy” and “CO2 emission” — the idea is to tax greenhouse gases to bring them down to zero emissions, not to tax energy.
    Past experience with industry in similar challenges says industry always says it’s impossible, then gets it done when it has to.

  62. Tom Fuller says:

    But Mr. Roberts, it’s a different matter for you to cite individuals or groups (even numerous ones) and say that’s a consensus than it is for me to cite individuals or groups (even few in number) to show that a consensus doesn’t exist.
     
    I have no doubt that there are many scientists arguing for a net emission of zero CO2. I have grave doubts that they comprise a consensus.

  63. Hank Roberts says:

    Right. Your beliefs are up to you.  What I’m interested in is the facts you consider reliable as the basis for your public statements.
    You’d expect a consensus — when? You’d look — where?
    How about the Fifth IPCC Report?
    “… it takes some time for a new finding to be verified and accepted by the scientific community. … Ocean acidification and its effects have now been documented to the point that they are widely accepted by the scientific community and it will be seriously addressed by the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC….”
    http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/#1

  64. GaryM says:

    First we have:
    MT(20):  “I consider myself an advocate for science, not for policy.”
    and
    MT (55):  “It is not the role of climate science to advocate policies.”
     
    But then we get:
    MT(44):  “For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay….[I]t is the consensus.”
    and
    “Another crucial consensus: the coal must stay in the ground. Basically, forever. If there are other carbon reserves of comparable scale (clathrates, shale, tar sands, etc.) they must also remain largely unused.”
     
    Now admittedly I have no PhD in climate science, but “reduce net admissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living ” and “the coal must stay in the ground” sure sound like policies to me.
     
    Climate scientists have the same right to argue policies and politics as anyone else.  And they absolutely should bring their knowledge and expertise to bear on the positions they take, as well as in the arguments they make.
     
    But the claim that policy arguments become “science” when they issue from the mouths (or keyboards) of scientists is just patently ridiculous.
     
    (And by the way, please remember to refer all complaints about this post to Mr. Fuller.)

  65. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, that still does not rise to the level of Tobis’ claim to near unanimity or even a consensus on reducing net emissions to zero.
    It actually isn’t even close.
     
    In the very long Q&A you link to, the only relevant statement I found was:
    “There is no argument that seawater chemistry is changing due to rising atmospheric CO2, and that human combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation are the root cause. There is less certainty about the possible biological impacts of ocean acidification, but this primarily reflects the fact that different groups of marine organisms express a wide range of sensitivity to changing seawater chemistry. There is broad agreement among the scientific community that ocean acidification is occurring and that it likely will have significant effects, some positive and some negative, on a large number of marine organisms. “” Scott Doney, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA”


    Hardly a near unanimous call for zero emissions.

  66. Hank Roberts says:

    “… and it will be seriously addressed by the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC”¦.” — that’s where you will find a consensus written down and documented.  You want a consensus, you look where they’re put together.  You don’t see it yet?  It isn’t done yet.  CO2 will keep increasing as long as we keep emitting it into the atmosphere.  Do you find this hard to believe? 
    http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/#1
     

  67. thinsgbreak says:

    Between this and the What Now? thread UPDATE, I couldn’t have timed these comments of mine any more perfectly, it seems.
     
    In my opinion, (an at least subconscious) recognition of this and overcompensation is what drives the fetishistic elevation of purported middle-grounders, whose positions relative to their cited evidence are less important than their imagined “reasonableness”, e.g. Lomborg, Curry, Hulme.
     
    One of the side effects of this is the elevation of purported centrists and mavericks who are willing to scold “both sides” and ostensibly occupy some “middle ground”, regardless of whether or not such ground is in “the middle” or even exists at all. So the Lomborgs, Judith Currys, Roger Pielke Jrs., et al. receive plenty of attention and little pushback.

  68. Hank Roberts says:

    Zero emission isn’t sufficient, though.
    ” a single pulse of carbon released into the atmosphere increases globally averaged surface temperature by an amount that remains approximately constant for several centuries, even in the absence of additional emissions. We then show that to hold climate constant at a given global temperature requires near-zero future carbon emissions. Our results suggest that future anthropogenic emissions would need to be eliminated in order to stabilize global-mean temperatures. As a consequence, any future anthropogenic emissions will commit the climate system to warming that is essentially irreversible on centennial timescales.”
    http://www.agu.org/journals/ABS/2008/2007GL032388.shtml
    “… a one-time removal of 100% excess CO2 from the atmosphere offsets less than 50% of the warming experienced at the time of removal. To maintain atmospheric CO2 and temperature at low levels, not only does anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere need to be removed, but anthropogenic CO2 stored in the ocean and land needs to be removed as well when it outgasses to the atmosphere. In our simulation to maintain atmospheric CO2 concentrations at pre-industrial levels for centuries, an additional amount of CO2 equal to the original CO2 captured would need to be removed over the subsequent 80 years…..”
    http://dge.stanford.edu/labs/caldeiralab/Caldeira_research/Cao_Caldeira3.html
    “Roger Pielke, a climate policy expert at the University of Colorado in Boulder, agrees with the findings. ‘This research makes the case that simply stabilising concentrations is insufficient to stabilise temperatures. Their argument, if widely accepted, raises the bar on what it means to mitigate climate change,’ he says.”
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13395-only-zero-emissions-can-prevent-a-warmer-planet.html
    Now that’s science — you can read the citing papers and the footnotes, look for anyone claiming the arithmetic is wrong, figure out what’s being said, or wait til the IPCC does it in a few years.
    That’s not policy.  We can hope that we’ll do the right thing, after all possible excuses fail and all false hopes collapse, and that there will still be time by then.
    Experience differs.  With chlorofluorocarbons, where top-down control was feasible, controls worked so far; it’s not resolved but it’s being managed.  With fisheries, where top-down control is a lovely illusion that fails over and over, we lose one fishery after another and only collapse of the fish population reduces the attempt to catch them.
    “”Cod have been reduced to between 1% and 3% of their natural abundance and people still want to fish them,” says Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. “Are we going to do the same thing with tuna?”
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13346-tuna-fisheries-facing-a-codlike-collapse.html
    “… such management measures would maximise fisheries profits while accounting for population dynamics and differences in mortality from different fisheries. However, the case study also highlights that the more elementary policy challenge of preventing overfishing has still often to be overcome.”
    The economic efficiency of a time”“area closure to protect spawning bluefin tuna.  J. Applied Ecology V47 Issue 1 pp 36-46
    What’s the difference?  Top down vs. bottom up?  Long term planning vs. short term benefit?  Better information vs. better enforcement?  That’s a story worth writing about, I’d hope.

  69. Tom Fuller says:

    Are we talking about anthropogenic emissions of CO2 or fisheries management?
     
    And thingsbreak, I don’t claim to be reasonable. I’m striving to be right on the facts. I don’t give a s**t if I’m in the middle or on one of the extremes. I don’t really care who’s on my side, and I don’t particularly care who’s against me–especially if it’s some conjured up ‘consensus’ that melts away at the first breath.
     
    You guys gotta quite inventing motives and creating Batman supervillains. It’s killing you in the marketplace of ideas. Look at the drivel being spouted about this bill. It’s the Riddler! No, honest!

  70. Hank Roberts says:

    We’re talking about pack journalism — reporting that blurs the distinction between facts, science, and policy.  Reporting that fails to help readers understand the science, by writers who don’t.
    CO2 emissions, fisheries management, ozone/CFCs, whooping cough epidemic, government career employees’ reputations — many other examples.
    What’s the real story?  How do you find it?  Show your work.
    The “pack journalism” fails by copypasting talking points, and always, always, failing to cite sources (because usually they’re copying out of some blog somewhere instead of checking sources themselves).
    Heck, you can get pack journalism without journalists!  It’s so economical.
    You can confirm by putting a few strings from any popular newspaper story into Google and finding the same damn press release has been reprinted under dozens of bylines by dozens of newspapers word for word, except cut to fit around the advertising on the page layout of course.
    (pity so many good professional science journalists have lost their positions, innit?)

  71. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, that is to some extent understandable and to some extent lamentable.  Real stories will be covered by all. That’s the name of the game.
     
    Bad (or just over-busy)  journalists will follow a pack.
     
    I’m sure you’ll note that it happens pretty evenly throughout. In fact, I think that’s one of your complaints, isn’t it? That people actually give equal time to the opposition?
     
    If you want to know why, it doesn’t involve conspiracy. Journalists, in dealing with non-media types, tend to give subjects the benefit of the doubt (except in courtroom reporting). That’s because most people tell the truth most of the time, unless it’s about sex or their salaries.
     
    Media trained people are determined to get their message, their way, into a story. Journalists have a lot of experience with this, and it motivates them to get another side to the story.
     
    Since the consensus team has more resources, they sadly have more media-trained types dealing with the journalists.  To avoid getting spun, journalists seek out the other side.
     
    Every defender of the consensus I’ve ever seen on TV has made me really want to get a second opinion. That’s just the way it is. The non-consensus types–Steve McIntyre in particular–come across as untrained and more credible. He’s obviously not trying to spin anything. Of course, if he’s really, really well-trained, that would be the effect he would want. But that’s a bit much to expect from a Canadian mining engineer. (But maybe there’s really a mini-Mac pulling the strings!)

  72. Hank Roberts says:

    Now, trust me on this, I don’t recommend journalists do their research from their chairs online, or not only that.
    But it’s always a start.  Want to know what scientists write referencing Caldeira’s and other scientists’ papers about zero CO2 emissions?  Scholar.  Let’s see what the first four hits are for an obvious search to try: 
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=caldeira+zero+emission+CO2+
    [PDF] Stabilizing climate requires near-zero emissions
    ed.ac.uk [PDF]HD Matthews, K Caldeira – Geophysical research letters, 2008 – see.ed.ac.uk
    Figure 1. Climate response to an instantaneous carbon emission pulse at year zero. (a) Simulated atmospheric CO2. (b) Simulated change in global mean surface air temperature, relative to pre-industrial. L04705 MATTHEWS AND CALDEIRA: CLIMATE STABILIZATION
    Cited by 78

    Climate sensitivity uncertainty and the need for energy without CO2 emission

    K Caldeira, AK Jain, MI Hoffert – Science, 2003 – sciencemag.org
    Ken Caldeira, 1 * Atul K. Jain, 2 Martin I. Hoffert 3. To achieve this climate stabilization, we could
    either allow today’s emission rate to double by mid-century or need to bring emissions near zero, depending on whether climate sensitivity is 1.5° or 4.5°C per CO 2 doubling.
    Cited by 133

    [HTML] Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions

    homeftp.net [HTML]S Solomon, GK Plattner, R Knutti, P “¦ – Proceedings of the “¦, 2009 – hunter.homeftp.net
    Matthews HD,; Caldeira K. (2008) Stabilizing climate requires near-zero emissions. Revelle R,;
    Suess HE. (1957) Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO 2 during the past decades. Tellus 9:18″“27.
    Cited by 138

    [PDF] Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?

    arxiv.org [PDF]J Hansen, M Sato, P Kharecha, D Beerling, R “¦ – Open Atmospheric “¦, 2008 – arxiv.org
    on climate sensitivity and non-CO2 forcings. Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that net CO2 emissions approach zero, because of the long lifetime of CO2
    [10, 11]. We use paleoclimate data to show that long
    Cited by 264

    Now, what can you learn about what scientists think from Scholar?  Well, how many subsequent papers agree and how many disagree with those four papers?  Assume some overlap, you won’t need to look at the sum of all these numbers, so you can’t just add them up for a total.  But it’s an indication.
    Cited by 78
    Cited by 133
    Cited by 138
    Cited by 264

    Now your editor wants “the other side” so you go looking for papers discussing continued CO2 emission of course.  You can come up with a better search, perhaps, or try this one:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=continued+emission+CO2+
    or this one
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=continued+emission+CO2+consensus

    (limit your search to, say, the year or so before the 4th IPCC Report, since that covers the territory up to its cutoff.  Or look at any of the big national science associations’ publications since then. You know how to find those.

    See, when you want to know if there’s a consensus on some subject, you have to make up your own mind or trust someone.
    You might
    — ask people who would know and report their opinions
    — look it up for yourself, count papers and report your opinion
    — wait for a major review to be published (the 5th IPCC)

    If you claim you can’t find a consensus on a particular point — how have you looked?  Where have you looked?  What did you find?  What _consensus_ statements did you find, from when?

    Best approach — ask a good librarian at a reference desk.

    Or read this:  http://www.ipcc.ch/meetings/session31/inf3.pdf
    for a summary of consensus statements over more than a decade as the science has improved and policy has developed.  Look at:
    —-brief excerpt follows —-

    “Assessment of various emission trajectories for stabilisation

    The AR4 SPM concludes, “Delayed emission reductions significantly constrain the opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels and increase the risk of more severe climate change impacts”….
    ….
    “¢ “Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels.”
    ….
    “¢    “There is high agreement and much evidence that all stabilisation levels assessed can be achieved  ….
    ….
    “¢ “There is high agreement and medium evidence that in 2050, global average macro-economic costs for mitigation towards stabilisation between 710 and 445ppm CO2-eq are between 1% gain and 5.5% decrease of global GDP. This corresponds to slowing average annual global GDP growth by less than 0.12 percentage points.”
    — end excerpt—

    Or, wait til it’s over — by which time the consensus is provided by the historians.

  73. Lady in Red says:

    <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    Now, this is witty entertainment.
     
    I just came from RealClimate, at Lucia’s suggestion, way back at the beginning…..
     
    Does anyone but The Mindless Committed read that stuff, Real Climate?  “…good job, Tamino…”
     
    I am (always) particularly offended by Gavin’s embedded, nonsense comments, totally incomprehensible. …which I assume, he assumes, speaks to (my) ill-education, ignorance and his superiority. Wave hands furiously….sputter loudly…
     
    Reading Gavin, I conjure up a cartoon bunny, frenetic, yelling at other cartoon characters whose heads spin ’round and ’round, in total confusion. Say duh!
     
    I have been impressed with Revkin’s unwinding of the rope that tied him to “the climate mantra” of recent, as though he’s learning to stand, stretch. Hell, I don’t know where the truth lies, but I can discern smart people, good writing. Smile….
     
    Good night, gentlepersons. …Lady in Red

  74. Hank Roberts says:

    > I think that’s one of your complaints, isn’t it? That people
    > actually give equal time to the opposition?
    Er, no.
    My complaint is that often  journalists report opinions without citing sources.  I’m not on anyone’s side about this.  I’m a customer, a reader, part of the audience. I’m often disappointed by the quality of the product provided by journalists.  When I check work, often it’s bad because it’s second-hand — repeated from a blog or secondary source without checking the facts, and without commenting on whether the claims made have facts to support them.
    Opinion I can get anywhere.  Facts, I hope, journalists will help find, and check, and report.
    I think a good journalist is like a good librarian — helping find good information, not just everything.
    Everything is easy to find:  http://www.nukees.com/comics/nukees20100716.gif   Less than everything takes discrimination.
    Good information needs the professional eye of a good reporter to dig out.  Good reporters aren’t in the pack, they inform — info, news, information.
     

  75. Hank Roberts says:

    Without the garbage trailing spaces, that link works:
    http://www.nukees.com/comics/nukees20100716.gif

  76. dhogaza says:

    “Now admittedly I have no PhD in climate science, but “reduce net admissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living “ and “the coal must stay in the ground” sure sound like policies to me.”

    Tobis is pointing out consequences.  This is not the same as advocating policies.

    If you’re fine with the consequences, great!  We’ll all live with it (me less than others, being 56, male, no kids, no heirs, no reason to give a shit).

    So, I’m fine with the consequences in the sense that I can’t wait to see everyone like you whine, cry, complain twenty or thirty years ago …

    “why didn’t science warn us?”

    Because that’s *exactly* what you and others like you will do.

    Just as the “Obama racist” flap has turned into “why did the executive branch believe the RW news!” (RW saying this), rather than “why did the RW news people fall for such a scam!”

  77. Hank Roberts says:

    What journalists do:  separate what’s worth reporting, from the other stuff.  Here’s a fine example of not taking bait and not reporting garbage:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/vp/38271650#38271650

  78. GaryM says:

    Reducing admissions to zero and leaving coal in the ground are consequences?  Is it that they don’t teach basic reading comprehension in climate school?
     
    No.  The real point is that some “climate scientists” assert special authority when arguing about climate change because of their expertise, which is fine to that point.  But then, they try desperately to shoe horn their politics into the category of science so they can then claim that same authority.
     
    But fortunately, words have real meanings independent of debate.  And it’s easy to tell the difference between science/consequences and policies/proposed actions.  For those who skipped the liberal arts portion of their education, we’ll go over it here one last time.
     
    “As the globe warms, ice will melt.”  Now that is a “consequence,” and an issue of science.
     
    “Because of climate change we have to reduce our emissions to zero and leave the coal in the ground.”  That is a statement of proposed action, ie. policy.

    Any questions?

  79. Lazar says:

    “He’s obviously not trying to spin anything”
    http://deepclimate.org/2009/12/11/mcintyre-provides-fodder-for-skeptics/

  80. AMac says:

    This discussion of “zero CO2 emissions” began with Michael Tobis’ #44, where he wrote –
     
    “For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay. Far from accepting this or rejecting it, they have never heard of it. Yet it is the consensus.”
     
    This was said in the context of one of Michael’s oft-stated criticisms of Keith Kloor and journalism as a whole:  that when it comes to AGW, reporters “split the difference” and validate vapid middle-of-the-roaders, rather than reporting the facts.
     
    Are Kloor & co. guilty as charged?  If so, there should be a prominent statement agreed upon by “nearly all” climate scientists:  “Net GHG emissions must be reduced to zero by ~2080, or there will be hell to pay.”
     
    So far in this thread, Michael has provided a link in #56:  “See Fig 22 in the Copenhagen Diagnosis (p.51). It’s true that it hasn’t been spelled out this clearly in the past. But if you put the various pieces of the puzzle together, something like this is what comes out.”  The Executive Summary and Fig. 22 imply that the prominent authors of that prominent document more-or-less agree with Michael’s “Zero by ~2080” policy prescription.  Hank Roberts has provided useful Google Scholar results suggesting that those climate scientists who write on the topic hold more-or-less similar views.
     
    But the charge was:  “Pack journalists” like Kloor and Revkin fail to report the fact that the expert consensus is “Zero by ~2080.”
     
    As far as I can tell, climate scientists — not a shy bunch — haven’t made an effort to present “Zero by ~2080” as the expert scientific consensus policy prescription of the field of climate science.  There is no Consensus Statement for journalists to refer to.
     
    If correct, that observation explains why Kloor, Revkin, et al. don’t write about this topic in the way that is acceptable to Michael Tobis.

  81. Barry Woods says:

    And 99.99% plus, of the world’s population is oblivious to the existance of RealClimate, Climate Audit, Bishop Hill, Collide a scape,  etc.. and any real, CAGW, AGW or aGW debate.
    I wonder what the ‘unenlightened’ masses, by these websites, will be saying to the politicians if we have another 1, 2 or 3 cold winters! Regardless of weather is not climate, or vice versa.
    Where will we be then.

    politicians and the media may just change their mind, by public pressure, right or wrong

  82. Lady in Red says:

    EDIT
     
    To my mind, the climate problem transcends corruption of the media with liberal bias: now, the “players” are infected. Mainstream climate science no longer advocates science, only “global warming.” Can anyone get a NSF grant to study “science” that might cut against the grain of “the community?” I doubt it.
     
    Patrick Michaels wrote in the WSJ that he’s been unable to get papers published, of recent. The guy is not a jerk, not a non-scientist. Why is he unable to publish? He writes that he knows of others, the same.
     
    I can deal with the politicization of media, understand it, even, the power of playing Saul Alinsky’s game of winning, rules for radicals. I don’t like it. “¦ jes the facts, m’am…. but, I understand it.
     
    Bastardizing science, the right answers, not looking for the bigger questions, makes me sad. It is only…: Cap and trade…. Cap and trade…. Goldman Sachs…Cap and trade. We all agree…. cap and trade…. We can’t predict the weather, but we can predict the future, with a certainty that requires expensive worldwide mediation. Lockstep science knowing with certainty the future.
     
    How sad that only a lone Judith Curry steps out (excepting the Piekles)…. There are wise old men (Stephen Schneider might have been one…Robert Corell, Carl Wunsch?) who have given gravitas to the nonsense of “settled science,” no more looking….
     
    I chuckle at the future, fifty years from now ““ an ice age? ““ and all the “players” are dead. I wonder if science will have learned something, like humility.   …Lady in Red
     
     

  83. Hank Roberts says:

    > There is no Consensus Statement
    Sure there are.  What you’re looking for is a sound bite, a few punchy words.  That’s not how a consensus is presented in science, or medicine for that matter.
    Consensus statements on many subjects are issued annually.  A consensus is a _snapshot_ , not a foundation stone, not an end point.  You ask for the impossible, then complain it’s not given to you without the need to do any reading or thinking.
    On climate:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aipcc.ch+consensus
    http://www.google.com/cse?cx=partner-pub-0011605016028824%3Aj8rkr4-so0i&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=consensus+CO2+emission&sa=Search
    More generally, a million examples of consensus statements:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=consensus+statement
    Don’t make the mistake of looking for a “Darwin” statement thinking it’s a foundation stone from which all else is built.

  84. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, I believe what we’re asking for is something reflecting Michael Tobis’ assertion, that a majority of scientists working on understanding climate and its changes currently believe that it is urgent that we move towards zero net emissions.
     
    I personally believe that most such scientists do not actually believe that. If I am wrong, best to know now, don’t you think?

  85. Tom Fuller: I believe what we’re asking for is something reflecting Michael Tobis’ assertion, that a majority of scientists working on understanding climate and its changes currently believe that it is urgent that we move towards zero net emissions.
     
    If one believes 1) that the sensitivity is on the order of 3 C per doubling, 2) that geochemical feedbacks are neutral or adverse, and 3) that temperatures must stabilize at some value less than 4 C, all of which appear to be reasonably supported consensus positions, then 4) a decarbonization on the order of 100% is implied before the carbon fuel runs out. I am not sure which part of the reasoning would fail to achieve a consensus status. I agree that it is worthwhile to test it.
     
    It’s exactly the public’s and the polity’s failure to understand this that is the problem. Climate science should long since have ceased to be a first-order input into this problem, but somehow the understanding of the situation that experts have is dramatically different from the understanding that those reporting on the matter have.
     
    I agree with Tom Fuller that it would be best if we had better ways of quantifying who believes these things and who doesn’t. But I seem to recall him recently reacting in fury to an attempt to quantify scientific opinion.
     
     

  86. Tom Fuller says:

    Michael, you make some points that seem to call for a consensus. However earlier you asserted that this consensus exists.
     
    Whether it should or should not,  I do not think it does at the moment.

  87. Tom Fuller says:

    And Michael, don’t go there. Please.

  88. AMac says:

    Hank Roberts #84 —
     
    Thanks for the three linked Google searches.  However, I am not sure how they relate to the matter under discussion.  In #81, I said, “As far as I can tell, climate scientists haven’t made an effort to present “Zero by ~2080″³ as the expert scientific consensus policy prescription of the field of climate science.  There is no Consensus Statement for journalists to refer to.”
     
    Which of the 364/89/1,180,000 results of Search 1/2/3 provide an answer?
     
    Similarly, Michael Tobis in #86 provides a 1 -> 2 -> 3 -> 4 chain to arrive at “Zero by ~2080.”   Seems logical to me.  But neither “compelling to Michael Tobis” nor “logical to me” demonstrates that “Zero by ~2080.” is the consensus view of climate scientists.
     
    Getting many (most) climate scientists to state “Zero by ~2080”  with few (none) dissenting — that meets the “consensus” criterion.
     
    Blaming Kloor and Revkin for failing to highlight what you haven’t demonstrated:  seems unreasonable to me.

  89. GaryM says:

    In the immortal words of Strother Martin:  “What we have heah…..is failure….to communicate.  Some men you just cain’t reach.”
    “…a decarbonization on the order of 100% is implied…I am not sure which part of the reasoning would fail to achieve a consensus status.”
    ” Main Entry: con·sen·sus: 1 a : general agreement; 2 : group solidarity in sentiment and belief.”   Nary a mention of an “implied consensus status.”
     
    I think I am going to compile a lexicon of words that are being redefined by the more extreme climate advocates.  In just the last 24 hours on this blog alone we have: consequence, policy, consensus, and science.  I truly hope they are better at science than communication.
     
    On the other hand, perhaps it is intentional.  Some would much rather distract their opponents into arguing about anything other than the details of restructuring the debate, or a true cost benefit analysis.  Witness Gavin Smith’s prior injection of a graph into the “Main Hindrance to Dialogue” thread.  The graph clearly was not from the paper he cited, and he misrepresented the contents of the graph.  Sure enough, much of the rest of the thread was consumed with arguing about those issues, rather than the stated topic.  Did he really not realize his errors?  Or was the effect of those errors on the discussion the real goal?
     
    Arguments about what “consensus” means or what constitutes science v. policy, have the same effect.  It may be not so much that these bright lights of climate science don’t really understand those terms.  It may be more about distracting those who disagree with them, and hijacking the discussion.  Kind of like calling random conservatives racists to distract them from talking about Jeremiah Wright.

  90. Hank Roberts says:

    > distracting
    Good point.  Don’t worry about the precision of zero or the exact year MT is talking about.  Nitpicking at that kind of thing and insisting it has to be in a formal consensus statement somewhere is exactly that kind of delaying and befuddling.
    The IPCC section on policy isn’t written by scientists, and includes nothing unacceptable to any national government.  So you may not get a consensus from the scientists — ever, anywhere — in the form you’re describing.   You’ll believe, but only if?
    Some things are only obvious to those who do the homework.
    “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” — Aldo Leopold
     
     

  91. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, I have seen nothing that gives any indication that all, almost all or even most climate scientists think that we need to move towards zero net emissions.

  92. Do people believe that there is a consensus of informed opinion that CO2 concentrations must eventually stabilize?
     
    That is the same as zero net emissions.
     

  93. Tom Fuller says:

    Michael, you certainly made it sound as if there was an explicit consensus. This seems perilously close to hand-waving.

  94. Kooiti Masuda says:

    The concept of stabilizing CO2 concentration has considerable ambiguity. The condition to keep the concentration at a certain level (above the pre-industial level) is not the same as zero net emissions (unless we count natural sinks enhanced above the natural level as negative emissions). I guess that the knowledge penetrating to non-experts do not have this level of differentiation.

  95. AMac says:

    Michael Tobis #44 —

    “I was referring to whether one knows what the consensus position ACTUALLY AMOUNTS TO.  Hardly anyone who is not a professional in the field has any idea what it is.

    “For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay. Far from accepting this or rejecting it, they have never heard of it. Yet it is the consensus.”

    – – – – – – – – –
    Hank Roberts #91

    “Don’t worry about the precision of zero or the exact year MT is talking about.  Nitpicking at that kind of thing and insisting it has to be in a formal consensus statement somewhere is exactly that kind of delaying and befuddling.”

    – – – – – – – – – –
    `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

    – – – – – – – – – –
    Alice would be much too puzzled about what the consensus position actually amounts to, to say anything.

  96. JohnB says:

    #73 Hank. Thanks for those links, I’ll give the papers a read.

    The very first thing that comes to mind though is that they all seem to imply that the climate is inherently stable. ie. Things we need to do to “stabilize” the climate system.

    The historical record shows that of all the words that could possibly be used to describe climate, “stable” is not one that comes to mind.

    The underlying assumption that the only reason climate changed in the 29th Century is fallacious. It’s followup, that if we reduce our impact to an absolute minimum climate will “stabilize” is frankly just as silly.

    I also have to take the side of MT as to “policies” in this thread. Taking climate out of it for a second. If a Biochemist says “Polluting waterways will large amounts of mercury will make the fish dangerous to eat, so it might be a good idea to stop polluting waterways with mercury” he wouldn’t be accused of making policy.

    MT is not discussing policy. His comments stem from the central point “If burning lots of Fossil Fuels is a bad idea, then a good idea is to burn less of them.” Leaving coal in the ground is the logical conclusion to his statement rather than a statement of policy.

  97. Dr. Masuda’s point is correct. He says:
    “The concept of stabilizing CO2 concentration has considerable ambiguity. The condition to keep the concentration at a certain level (above the pre-industial level) is not the same as zero net emissions (unless we count natural sinks enhanced above the natural level as negative emissions). I guess that the knowledge penetrating to non-experts do not have this level of differentiation.”
     
    That is, the idea of stabilization of atmospheric concentrations being identical to zero net emissions is only approximately correct by the usual definition of emissions. But it is a good approximation for policy purposes.
     
    It is only exactly correct if we treat the ocean in a slightly nonstandard way in the definition of terms. However, that is no reason for people to fail to understand that without very large cuts in carbon (order at least 80%, but arguably as much as 120% into negative net emissions) that very large climate changes are nearly certain.
     
    I believe that stating the target “80% to 120%” is less compelling than “100%”. 100% is a good approximation, and this follows from the (to a good approximation) cumulative nature of the system.
     
    I will have  a posting on this subject on my blog soon.
     

  98. Tom Fuller says:

    Michael Tobis, there is no consensus on pushing urgently for zero net emissions. None. Why not just admit you exaggerated completely for effect?
     
    As for your website, with all the completely wrong statements and absurd accusations on your lead post this morning, I can understand your wanting to bury it with something new. But why would any of us want to read it?  You are completely wrong here about consensus. You are completely wrong on your weblog about Climategate, both in your post and in your comments.
     
    You just make stuff up, Michael, and you seem to think that because you’re a ‘climate scientist’ or ex-software developer or something, that you have a right to make stuff up.
     
    You don’t.

  99. GaryM says:

    Main Entry: sta·bi·lize: 1 : to make stable, steadfast, or firm
    2 : to hold steady.  Again, nary a mention of stable means reduce to zero.  Wouldn’t “reducing” something be the exact, you know, opposite of stability.    (So now we add stabilize  to the climate double speak lexicon.)
     
    One could make emissions stable at current emissions of Co2, hold steady at half the current emissions of CO2, or make steadfast at zero emissions.   But the only way you get to stabilize net emissions at zero is by first reducing them to zero, which would require radical restructuring of the entire global economy.  That is their real goal, but no sane person will vote for it on the current evidence if they are honest about their goals.  Which is the real reason they want to disguise their policy proscriptions as “science.”
     
    Orwell was right, those who want power over the lives of others through “government” will always seek to redefine the language.  Tax becomes invest.  Policy becomes science. Reduce becomes stabilize.  In becomes out, and up becomes down.
     
    So let’s forget how “reducing carbon emissions to zero” is in some Alice in Climateland way not a policy statement.  Let’s pretend it is a scientific principle, and the consensus no less.  Let’s pretend therefore that because of his extensive scientific training, MT and his supporters here are more qualified than anyone else to explain this to us.
     
    Perhaps they can now share the scientific explanation of how those reductions will “occur,” what the exact effects of this reduction will be on 6 billion people, and why they are not concerned with such minor policy issues, but only the “scientific consensus” that we must reduce net emissions to zero.
     
    Yeah, social policy disguised as science.  We haven’t ever seen that before have we?  Wait, isn’t Marxism (and all of its off shoots like democratic socialism) based entirely on the notion of the scientific determination of political and economic policy issues?  Some of the most horrific policies in human history (aside from Marxism itself) have been  dressed up as science.  Can you say Margaret Sanger?  (I knew that you could.)
     
    You know the last person to really try to implement this kind of “back to the agrarian future” economic policy?  A guy named Pol Pot.  Ask the Cambodians how that worked out.  Those who survived.
     
    The only real question is whether these “scientists” think anyone but themselves believes this doublespeak.  So far, the ones who really count, the stupid, arrogant voters for whom they have so much contempt, aren’t buying it.

  100. “¢ National Research Council, National Academy of Science, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia, 2010.
     
    From the executive summary:
     
    The report demonstrates that stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will require deep reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. Because human carbon dioxide emissions exceed removal rates through natural carbon “sinks,” keeping emission rates the same will not lead to stabilization of carbon dioxide. Emissions reductions larger than about 80 percent, relative to whatever peak global emissions rate may be reached, are required to approximately stabilize carbon concentrations for a century or so at any chosen target level.
     

  101. Tom Fuller says:

    First, that says 80%, not 100%. Second,  that gives no indication of a scientific consensus.

  102. GaryM says:

    “Climate Stabilization Targets” and “chosen target levels” are not referring to possible policy choices?
    And “any chosen target level” means zero?
     
    Well at least the National Acadamies Press can read English. This from their description of the book cited by MT:  “According to Climate Stabilization Targets; Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts Over Decades to Millenia, important policy decisions can be informed by recent advances in climate science….” and ” Although it does not recommend or justify any particular stabilization target, it does provide important scientific insights about the relationships among emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations, temperatures, and impacts.”
     
    Some people know the difference between science (This is what we believe will happen if net emissions are not reduced to zero) and policy  (We should reduce net emissions to zero).  For those with short attention spans:
    MT(44):  “For instance, I find even relatively well-informed audiences are absolutely incredulous when I say that if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay”¦.[I]t is the consensus.” While the book cited does not recommend or justify any particular stabilization target, Mr. Tobis clearly did.
     
    Some men you just cain’t reach. Now, anybody want to talk about the actual proposed subject of this thread again?  “Pack Journalism?”

  103. Hank Roberts says:

    For Tom Fuller, you missed the context and just replied to the “80%” number — look again.
    The quote says:
    “…. larger than about 80 percent, relative to whatever peak global emissions rate may be reached ….”
    Not 80%
    Not 80% of today’s rate
    More than 80% of the peak emissions rate, whatever that is.
    I’m urging you to read the sources out there or tell me what you’re relying on if you have other sources.
     
    Look at the scenarios:
    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/emission/005.htm
    Those are from 2000 — the Third IPCC Report — and also were used for the Fourth.  They’re obsolete, too low compared to reality.
    “The SRES Scenarios were also used for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007…” — Wikipedia
    Look at the annual total CO2 emissions rate change over time:
    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/File:Global_Carbon_Emission_by_Type_png
    Look at where we were in 2000 — about 7 GtC (gigatons of carbon) per year.  Look at the scenarios to end up at a _stable_ high CO2 future:
    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/thumb/a/a3/Carbon_Stabilization_Scenarios.png/300px-Carbon_Stabilization_Scenarios.png
    “Note that in all cases presented here, carbon emissions must start to decline before 2100 to reach these targets.”
    Look at what the US expects to be doing:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/overview.html
    “Total U.S. primary energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) increase 8.7 percent in the AEO2010 reference case, from 5,814 million metric tons in 2008 to 6,320 million metric tons in 2035, or an average of 0.3 percent per year (Figure 9).”9
    So there’s your increase in emissions.  To what peak, and when?
    What do you think reducing by 80% of the eventual peak would amount to?
    ———-
    Breaking out of the pack:
    <a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/23/AR2010072303078.html“>Dana Milbank’s <i>Washington Post</i> item</a>
    Hat tip to: 
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_07/024885.php
    “… it doesn’t even include the usually-obligatory “both sides are bad” caveat. What set Milbank off, for good reason, was Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s appearance at the National Press Club this week. Blankenship is well known as one of the nation’s most aggressive anti-union conservative voices, who rejects both the need for safety regulations and the science behind global warming. …”
     

  104. Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, Tom, you said two things wrong above.
    > 80%, and
    > that [book MT pointed to] gives no indication of a scientific consensus.
    Just looking at the link won’t give you an indication of consensus.  MT isn’t trying to spoon feed you sound bites.
    You should _click_ the link and _read_ the source.
    I’m going to skim it for you — but you need to read it yourself.  I’m just one of your readers, not a research department.
    Looks to me like the consensus information you’re asking about is mostly on pp. 48-49.  See where it says “How large a reduction … and does it depend on when this is done ….?”
    This document is _a_ consensus_document.
    It’s not the only one, or the last word.  This isn’t a religion where everything is based on one founder’s single cornerstone and all falls down if that’s shaken.  This kind of consensus summary document gets written by many groups many times. You need to read them.
    So on those pages, they estimate a peak emission rate (12 gigatons per year, up from around 7 now), then talk about reductions from that peak.  Fifty percent reduction from 12 isn’t enough to stabilize climate.  Our current level is already too high and we’re going to go much higher.
    What then?  Scenarios include zero emissions.  Look at the pages.
    As I pointed out earlier, and GaryM also points out, the consensus is on the science.  The policy choice — well, we all know how smart human beings are.  What do you think we’ll do?

  105. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Roberts, I don’t disagree with you. I have no doubt that the consensus among scientists is for dramatic reductions of CO2.
     
    I do disagree with Tobis. That consensus is not for zero net emissions.

  106. OK, OK.
     
    My claim is scaled back to “near enough 100% as to not make much practical difference”. Thanks for the correction.
     

  107. Tom Fuller says:

    No, Michael, that’s not okay. There are two points to consensus. First on the net reduction of emissions. I see no sign that scientists in general are calling for reduction to net zero.
     
    Then, second, we need to define ‘near enough 100% as to not make much practical difference.’
     
    I don’t think you did very much homework on this–Mr. Roberts has had to bail you out with internet references while you rail away on your weblog at the injustices of Climategate.
     
    I think you had a case of internet wish fulfilment and made up a consensus for zero. Is that how establishment climate science can be presumed to proceed?

  108. Gary #103 shares the common misconception of confusing emissions and concentrations.


    Any target concentration requires near-zero emissions, because concentrations are (for practical purposes to a good approximation) cumulative.
     
    In other words any scenario sufficient to limit climate change to any chosen threshhold requires reaching near-zero emissions. The more final CO2 concentration we tolerate, the longer we have before undertaking the larger than 80% cut from the peak, the way the NAS study is putting it.
     
    There are reasons to argue for closer to 100% than to 80%, but that is, admittedly, open for debate.
     
    However, that allocation will go to 9 billion people, not to the 2 billion that are currently responsible for most of it. So that cuts your residual by more than a factor of 4. That is, on a per capita basis a typical westerner (or a relatively wealthy person elsewhere) will be looking at a greater than 95% cut anyway.  Americans even more so.
     
    Let’s just go with Caldeira’s formulation instead. It’s easy to remember: The proper target for CO2 emissions is the same as the target for mugging little old ladies. Zip, zero, nada, zilch.
     
    If you guys think you are doing more than splitting hairs here you are still missing the gist of the story. The carbon must stay in the ground. We must reach the point where any carbon fuels or organic raw materials we can’t do without (pretty much airplane fuel as far as I can tell) comes from plant sources. The sooner the better.
     
     

  109. Hank Roberts says:

    MT knows what he’s talking about.  Anyone can make the effort to find information about this.  I’m not getting the very best answers, just giving examples of how to look it up for yourself.  Any journalist knows at least one reference librarian well enough to get better help than I’m providing.
    MT knows the consensus from conversation and reading. That’s where consensus comes from.  Very much later, it gets written down, and cites to bits and pieces of the source material.
    Here’s a simulation with a slider at the bottom.  It starts off illustrating a continuing increase in CO2 emission — ‘business as usual’ — and the changes expected.
    Move the slider.  Look at the extreme on this illustration — a 95 percent reduction in emissions.   Note the outcome.
    Y’all who want it all carefully put together by someone else with footnotes will get it, likely from the 5th IPCC Report, if not sooner from some of the usual sources for annual reviews of science.
    The bickering and poking is, well, sad.  Think journalism, folks.  Some of you are journalists, some of you would like to be, some of you are doing something else to teach people what you know (or what you believe, if you don’t cite sources).
    Those of us who are readers here to learn about the world have to figure out who’s able to help us find information, and who’s here to tell us what they believe.  I’ve made the effort.
    Show us your work, if you’ve done the same.  Don’t just insist you want answers, make the effort and share how you do it.  If you’re a journalist, show your skills.  If you’re not, well, maybe you can teach the journalists something about how to get good sources.
    Meanwhile, watch this:  http://widgets.vodpod.com/w/video_embed/ExternalVideo.908734

  110. Hank Roberts says:

    wups, postus droppus citus.
    The simulation:
    http://climateinteractive.org/simulations/climate-momentum-simulation  — and move the slider
    (Warning, the climateinteractive folks don’t show what happens to CO2 going into the ocean; their simple presentations seem to assume it just goes away.  They know better; I hope to see better work from them.  Even _ignoring_ ocean pH change, look at what various changes to CO2 emission to the atmosphere do.)
     

  111. Tom Fuller says:

    Had the both of you started in the way you are finishing, this thread would have had a different tone.

  112. Hank Roberts says:

    > I see no sign that scientists in general are calling for ….
    “Scientists in general” don’t, as far as I know, produce consensus statements on _any_ subject.
    Can you point to one?

  113. GaryM says:

    They are finishing?  While I was writing this post, Hank Roberts showed that Tom was mistaken.
     
    This thread is in fact an excellent example of what I believe is wrong with the climate debate, at least in the terms this blog has been discussing.  The plain and simple fact is that Michael Tobis believes we should begin to move towards zero net carbon emissions NOW.  Hank Roberts agrees .  Both claim there is a consensus among climate scientists on this point.  Both claim their position is not advocacy.
     
    This thread began as a discussion about “pack journalism” and was side tracked by Mr. Tobis’ attempts to claim his policy recommendations were unfairly omitted by the “pack journalists”who should have reported them as consensus science.   He began playing with the meaning of “science,” “policy,” etc.  This redefinition of words and attempts to characterize political goals as science completely diverted the discussion.
     
    I don’t need to read any of the articles cited by Mr.s Tobis and Roberts (though I did) to know that an awful lot of climate scientists believe that we must radically change our economy and political structure.  Whether you label that a “consensus” or not is not something I find terribly interesting, I have no problem agreeing there is a such “consensus.”  After Kyoto, the AR4, all the declarations and papers published and signed by multitudes of scientists, is that news?
     
    But I must admit that I am surprised to hear that the consensus extends to a belief that we need to “leave all the coal” and the oil in the ground beginning now.  There have not been many scientists openly advocating that in the mainstream press.  But by all means, feel free to tell people they have to stop using coal and oil right now.  Publicize that consensus as far and wide as you can.  Please.
     
    I also don’t think that it is “pack journalists” keeping this “scientific consensus” from the masses.  James Hansen, Gavin Smith, Phil Jones, any newspaper or television news program in the world would let them air their views.  There is an obvious reason that these real movers and shakers in the field don’t make that claim in the mainstream press.  The politicians who support them would have them taken out and shot.
     
    One reason I like to read Mr. Tobis (and respond to some of his his posts)  is that he actually says the things I think most climate scientists who form the “consensus” believe, but refuse to say.  I don’t think that he is any more or less honest than the rock stars of his profession, I think they are just better at understanding the politics than he is.
     
    I am not confused about anything that I have read (or written) so far.  I have not debated the science, though I have debated  what constitutes science as opposed to advocacy.  I have debated the misuse of language in general that seeks to hide the real debate.  Read Mr. Tobis’ posts from this and other threads and his blog.  Read his fond reviews of the statism in China and Russia.   Read his radical prescriptions.  If you understand his goals, understanding his arguments is so much easier.
     
    In short, what Mr. Tobis, Mr. Roberts and their colleagues want is not a debate, but a lecture.  The climate scientists who are seeking the kind of radical changes that Mr. Tobis seeks are not interested in debate.  They are interested in obedience.  They thought they had the debate won.  The policy, and funding that follows it, were supposed to be inevitable after Kyoto.  Copenhagen was supposed to be a coronation, not a debate.
     
    That is why they still try so consistently to divert the debate, to cause arguments about simple words and basic language.   But the debate is going to go on, whether they actually participate or not.  Seriously, over 50 comments to work out the meaning of the word consensus?  (And Hank isn’t done yet….)

  114. Hank Roberts says:

    “… this topic has somehow become way too divisive and far too polarizing,” … “And as long it’s polarized in this way we are incapable as a society of coming together and making the tough decisions we’ve got to make.” — John Abraham
    Quoted in:  http://www.examiner.com/a-2741975~UK_climate_change_skeptic_accuses_US_prof_of_libel.html
    I think our goal as readers of science ought to be to cut some of the journalists out of the pack  (actually it’s more of a herd than a pack, innit?  There’s no problem with feral packs of fierce smart predator journalists, the problem is the ones that all sound and look the same and run together.)
    Want to read a thoughtful contemporary policy analysis by scientists?  Here’s one worth the time it takes to read and understand — and, if you’re a journalist, I suggest it’s worth the time it would take to write it up.  It’s news, or ought to be.
    Show it to a journalist if you know one.
    http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss2/art12/

  115. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Re Hank #111, it looks like the climateinteractive folks don’t bother with aerosols either. No temperature boost from reduced sulphates.

  116. Whether my position is advocacy or not is an interesting question. I am trying to plough through Roger Pielke’s “Honest Broker”. I think Pielke’s taxonomy is not the final word on the subject. He does raise an important question.
     
    The evidence is compelling that IF we want to minimize the chances of enter a state where the climate is destabilized, THEN net emissions must get close to, or below, zero on the shortest time scale that is feasible.
     
    Do I have a consensus document to point to, to support the claim that this is consensus? Yes, there is the recent NAS report and the Copenhagen document. I don’t think the outlines of what established science say are well-understood. It is, as always, difficult to be sufficiently emphatic without leaving oneslef open to nitpicking attack. I will search for a better way to say what I’ve been trying to say on this thread. It is important.
     

  117. AMac says:

    GaryM wrote at #114,
     
    “[Michael Tobis] actually says the things I think most climate scientists who form the “consensus” believe, but refuse to say.  I don’t think that he is any more or less honest than the rock stars of his profession, I think they are just better at understanding the politics than he is.”
     
    The complaint about  “pack journalists” is that they fail to report that the consensus views of climate scientists.  The example offered by Michael Tobis (#44) was, “if we do not reduce net emissions to ZERO within the lifetimes of people now living there will be hell to pay.”
     
    By reading every argument and clicking every link between #44 and #116, readers learn that there is no consensus that journalists could report on.  As GaryM points out, many (most?) climate scientists may well agree with the stance advanced by Michael Tobis and Hank Roberts — but they are not on the record as endorsing it.
     
    So, Kloor and Revkin are failures because they don’t trumpet Michael Tobis’ views as the consensus stance of scientists in his field.  Despite the absence of evidence that his views are the actual views of most of his peers.
     
    My advice:  first, get fellow climate scientists to go public with “ZERO by ~2080.”  Then, complain about journalists behaving as a pack.

  118. Well, Revkin makes a liar out of me this very morning, not about the point of very deep reductions but about the press ignoring it.
     
    “Of course, if you’re serious about stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, achieving the American goal in 2020 is just step one in what would have to be a centurylong 12-step (or more) program to completely decouple global energy use from processes that generate heat-trapping emissions.”
     
    I think his concluding sentence is problematic, as he refers to the unregulated, externality-distorted circumstance as the “status quo”. This is misleading because this circumstance is deeply unstable. There is no status quo: deep change is unavoidable. The only question is how damaging that change will be.
     
    That said, Revkin does a good job today of recognizing the scope and scale of the problem, and he offers other links to show that what I claim here really is close to what most people professionally thinking about the problem think.
     

  119. Hank Roberts says:

    AMac, you’ve missed the whole point.  “Journalists” report and analyze.  The “pack” (or rather “herd”) behavior is likely due to the lack of journalism because there are far fewer journalists in the mix than in the past, and the fact that editing now can be done just by copypasting other people’s work.
    Journalists look into what people think and report on it, and can report on a subject as a consensus develops.
    Copypasters wait til someone else does it, then write about that.
    Of course if you demand the impossible, you can delay forever.
     

  120. […] time to time, journalists like Andy Revkin and Keith Kloor protest that the mainstream media doesn’t do an awful job covering the issue of climate […]

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