Gangster Climate Talk

I continue to marvel at the parallels between WUWT and Climate Progress. Let’s examine recent comment threads from both blogs, in which the majority of commenters impugned the motives and character of their respective targets.

Exhibit A is the festival of insults and accusations that Anthony Watts allows in this thread about Bill McKibben. But let me back up for a minute to the source of ire for Watts and his readers. On Thursday, McKibben published an opinion piece in the LA Times. Referring to his 350 organization, he wrote that

we recently issued a call for ideas about a campaign of civil disobedience next spring “” at power plants and coal mines but at White Houses too, if they don’t turn at least a little green.

Oddly, Watts interprets this as a “threat” and then makes an unseemly insinuation after that McKibben passage about a planned civil disobedience campaign:

So tell me Bill, what then after that if that doesn’t work?

That’s all the prompting WUWT readers needed. In the thread, one commenter considers mere expressions of civil disobedience to be akin to “terrorist ideas.” Most readers are content to malign McKibben’s character and intelligence. One, however, suggests that a good physical beating might put some sense into McKibben:

At the end of the day, the one sure cure for a bolts-in-the-side-of-the-head liberal, such as Mr McKibben, is a seriously good mugging.

It is truly amazing how much clarity of thinking a near death experience brings. In exceptional cases, two muggings may be needed to cure the affliction.

BS? I have seen it with my own eyes ““ logic and good science rarely works, so a good mugging is about the only guaranteed cure for a serious liberal.

Watts doesn’t seem bothered by any of this talk; there are no inline comments from him asking readers to tone it down.

Now let’s review exhibit B, in which the Romm faithful wield their pitchforks against BBC journalist Richard Black. Upset over this story by Black on Arctic sea ice loss, which Romm calls “dreadful,” his readers–like those at WUWT–slime their man with all manner of accusation and insult. Black’s story is called “criminal,” by one commenter, while another says

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the creepy hand of BP is behind it.

My favorite–and it’s a true gem–is this one:

People who intentionally do harm for pay are gangsters. These people aren’t journalists: they’re gangsters.

Such is the degeneration of the climate debate. One side can’t abide peaceful (liberal) protesters and tars them as terrorists. The other side, fed up with the media, has taken to calling journalists gangsters.

No blogger can be responsible for the views of his audience, but both Watts and Romm frequently engage with their readers. If they disagree strongly enough with a comment, each has no problem letting the reader know. In these two cases, Watts and Romm are silent on the tone and content that reflects the respective threads.

107 Responses to “Gangster Climate Talk”

  1. kdk33 says:

    OT, but just to stir the pot…

    I wonder what Romm thinks of the WSJ article “Unfreezing Artic Assets” – Melting sea ice lures  investors north to explore for… more oil and gas.  Sweet.

    I’m thinkng: anthropogenic feedback.

  2. BenSix says:

    <blockquote>Such is the degeneration of the climate debate.</blockquote>
    Or is it just — the <em><a href=””>internet</a></em>?

  3. Lazar says:

    Keith is right… the excesses of both sides are approximately ‘the same’ and neither host lifts a finger to reign in the excesses.
    But also what Ben Six said… the scientific debate is not the blog war debate… the public debate is not the blog war debate… the causes of public doubt do not generally mirror those cited by blog warrior ‘skeptics’… and ‘the public’ are way more ambivalent and easily swayed… I talk to ‘the public’ a lot and am guessing Judith Curry doesn’t… the political debate is not the blog war debate… the political debate is heavily fuelled by corruption… the influence and representativeness of a very small number of soccer fans cheering their teams is vastly overblown…

  4. ‘Civil disobedience’ has a specific meaning and it is several steps ahead in the spectrum of political action compared to just “protesting”. Its equation with violence is sort of blurry. You seem to think civil disobedience is automatically non-violent, and KcKibben espressly instructs that people follow the Gandhian version of civil disobedience.
    But civil disobedience works best when used or targeted against specific laws or legislative strictures. Is there a law mandating fossil fuel use? No. It is not clear to me, as a third party, what exactly is supposed to motivate me, per McKibben. Maybe that’s what is ticking off Watts.

  5. Tom Fuller says:

    As someone who is in the process of getting slammed over at WUWT (I’m writing some guest posts as a favor to Anthony), I can only say that I am not troubled by the criticisms going on over there. As a Lukewarmer, I knew what I was getting into.
    On the other hand, the viciousness of the personal attacks from the other side of the fence–the commenters at Deltoid and Only In It For The Gold, Rabett Run, etc., I find offensive–but still not threatening.
    It’s just internet talk. It’s not like someone would show up at your place of work and demand to talk to you about it, right? …Oh.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Shub and Tom Fuller, you both find it easier to exuse the excesses of WUWT than the other side. I’m guessing this is because Shub identifies more with with the slant at WUWT  and Tom is just treated nicer by its host.

    Anyway, Tom, if you aren’t bothered by the McKibben thread than you shouldn’t be too bothered by what’s said about you over at Deltoid et al. (And please, let’s not make this about you.)

  7. Pascvaks says:

    Do you tend to jump on those who agree with your point of view in excess and praise those who don’t?  Your point is noted.   People are human.  It’s not just at WUWT or CP.  Please expand on your issue. 

  8. Hector M. says:

    I just think blogs that intend to disseminate science and foster scientific debate should exercise moderation.

  9. Lazar says:

    My guess too.

  10. Pascvaks says:

    Hector M. Says:
    September 19th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    So true!  But, one person’s moderation can be another person’s Gitmo or Oktober Fest.  I guess that maybe there’s a reason we have more than one blog on the web.

  11. Pascvaks says:

    A challange for the unflapable amongst us –

    Take a soapbox to Hyde Park the next time you’re in town.  Stand upon it and start talking at the top of your lungs.  Now, as you talk and shout and whirl your arms, watch and listen to those who are attracted to your spiel and what they say and how they say what they say pro or con as you’re talking.  Watch the ones who get the most excited at what you have to say –they are the most interesting of all.  After a few hours, pack up and return to tell us how many you thought heard every word you said; and how many only heard what they themselves shouted out while you were talking.

  12. Pascvaks says:


    Sorry!  I think I’m talking too much.  What was your point again?  Promise, won’t happen again.

  13. Andy says:

    WUWT sees it as a threat because it is a threat.

  14. KK
    I find the slant of WUWT agreeable. I read Anthony’s posts, but I don’t post there that often. These are facts.  For the record, I got into a scrap with AW and stopped using my real name as a result. But I think he is an open-minded, free-thinking person who does not delete comments – that is enough for me to back him.
    I do agree with you – bashing ‘liberals’ to teach them lessons? What the??
    Many people seem to have a instinctive gut-level hatred of hippies, peaceniks, protestors etc. Comments like the one you highlighted are a part of that reaction – I don’t understand this reaction fully. Why we see it, is maybe this has something to do with the fact that most of protesters are well-to-do. Their lives are provided for, and their protesting is an outcome of pure hobbyism. “Civil disobedience”, in this context, therefore appears like simple anarchism. I think that is how Watts sees it.
    This is yet another dimension of online comment censorship. If Watts had cleaned his thread of intemperate remarks, he might appear angelic. Romm appears angelic, to the godheads of AGW, in turn, by deleting polite reasoned comments which ask uncomfortable questions. Which version is better?

  15. David44 says:

    I have never patronized Romm’s site for this reason. I used to follow WUWT almost daily, but have recently stopped due to the increasingly negative and politically partisan tone. There has been and still is some really good science discussion there, but I’m fed up with the unsavory partisan slant. Ideologues and ideobloggers are not interested in changing minds, just preaching to their respective choirs. Controversy sells, not rationality.

    I’m interested in the accuracy-in-science and rational policy debates, not the irrelevant and often offensive partisan politics so I’ll spend my time elsewhere now. There are a number of good sites (too many to list, actually) that keep the unrelated politics, name calling, and labeling entirely out or to a minimum.  I applaud Judith Curry for her effort to launch a blog that attempts to be a rational voice on the science and to bridge the divide between the polarized camps.  It is unfortunate that climate science is so politically polarized, and I have to say that those climate scientists who have become political policy advocates – some more shrill than others – and who refuse to countenance  doubt or debate who are most responsible for it.  A scientist who becomes a strident advocate for a cause cannot help but lose objectivity and be at risk of confirmation bias and groupthink.  There a few who can keep the necesary intellectual firewall between objective science and political advocacy.

  16. David44 says:

    “There a few” intended to be “There are few”

  17. Keith Kloor says:

    Shub (14):

    I never suggested that either Romm or Watts should censor their threads, or even weed out the nasty stuff. But could they signal to their readerships their displeasure before a thread turns into a insultathon? Of course. They don’t. Nary a peep on either of those threads that I mention. That’s very telling to me and sends  a message that it’s open season. As for the rest of your comment, you’re still making excuses for Watts–even blaming the target.

    Jeez, just call like it is. Read what David44 says.

  18. Lazar says:

    Civil disobedience… Y’know it suddenly struck me, the weird Kingsnorth case, where the owner of a coal-fired power plant tried to prosecute protestors for the costs of CLEANING graffiti off the side of a chimney. In the U.S., emissions from fossil combustion kill approximately 20,000 annually, worldwide the figure is in the hundreds of thousands. Plus thousands of deaths from coal mining. Reminds me of the scene in Apocalypse Now, where Kurtz goes… “They train young men to drop fire on people, but they won’t let them write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it would be obscene!” Maybe every chimney could have a graffiti, ‘these emissions kill’. Like giant cigarettes. ‘Course ol’ Hansen tried to help the protestors out, succesfully, so he must be the villain for ‘politicizing the science’ (right Judith?).
    Humans and their strange priorities.

  19. Lazar says:

    Keith is absolutely right.
    Keith is a gentleman, with a spine and a sense of fairness.

  20. Ed Forbes says:

    “… Which is why, with other environmental leaders, we recently issued a call for ideas about a campaign of civil disobedience next spring “” at power plants and coal mines but at White Houses too, if they don’t turn at least a little green…”

    This is a threat to break the law and not for the legal and protected right of assembly for address of grievances.
    They are explicit in their aim to cause, at the least, economic damage to their targets.
    With an explicit call for an unlawful act, it is  reasonable to wonder how far into illegality they are prepared to go and how extreme their unlawful acts will be.
    Driving nails into trees to produce danger to those cutting trees is considered by some to be “civil disobedience”

  21. Lazar says:

    How fast ‘China’ is really growing
    “the World Bank, as Watts shows, has calculated the annual bill for Chinese pollution – health costs, premature deaths, damaged infrastructure and crops – at 5.8 per cent of GDP. That lowers the Chinese miracle to our level. And if you add in erosion, desertification and environmental degradation, the World Bank calculates there is an 8 to 12 per cent bite into China’s GDP, stopping the miracle in its eroded tracks.”

    “Consider cement production, where, according to the China Cement Association, 38% of capacity consists of “shaft” kilns. These have been obsolete in most of the rest of the world for over a century, and accounted for less than 3% of production even in 1957, when most of China’s cement plants were imports from Eastern Europe. Nowadays, however, shaft kilns are a favorite of local governments because they can be built cheaply and quickly and generate growth and employment. Achieving economies of scale and lessening environmental impacts simply are not priorities.”

  22. Ian says:

    Or, Lazar,  as USAF sergeant Leonard Matlovich stated after coming out as gay, The Air Force pinned a medal on me for killing a man and discharged me for making love to one.
    However, in regards to coal are you making the inference because the burning of coal produces greenhouse gasses that, depending on where you sit on the spectrum, may cause warming of the climate or because the extraction of coal results in the countless deaths of miners? If  the latter, these deaths are, by and large, the result of undeveloped workplace safety practices (China being a prime example) which unfortunately appear to be inclusive to the extraction of many minerals. If you start with graffiti on coal power plants where do you stop?

  23. keith kloor says:

    Ed (21):
    Did McKibben say he was going to drive nails into trees? Do radical enviros still do that or didn’t that go out of fashion with Earth First? In fact, I thought sitting in trees was all the rage these days.
    Anyway, I think judging by the Watts thread I referenced and previous ones where civil disobedience is the subject, it appears that Greg Laden could have been talking about WUWT when he wrote that “the Republican position on ‘Civil Disobedience’ has been that it is the same thing as Terrorism.”

  24. Lazar says:

    The ‘where will it stop’ meme is really good.
    I mean, once someone threatens to break the law, who knows where their craven instincts will take them. If someone threatened to chew gum in Singapore, next they might actually chew it. Then onto theft and murder. Environmentalists sitting in the road, holding hands and singing Kumbaya? WHERE WILL IT STOP? Next they might be sporting Kalashnikovs like Thoreau and Gandhi.

  25. Lazar says:

    “However, in regards to coal are you making the inference because the burning of coal produces greenhouse gasses”
    Please reread the comment... deaths currently being caused. Lookup sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides, ozone, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and particulates.
    “or because the extraction of coal results in the countless deaths of miners?”
    Sigh… did you not read the comment?
    “these deaths are, by and large, the result of undeveloped workplace safety practices”
    That’s alright then, let’s keep on burning coal.
    But, no, problems are bad even in high GDP per capita countries with relatively good health & safety practises, like the U.S. Lookup coal worker’s pneumoconiosis and pulmonary massive fibrosis.

  26. Lazar says:

    I posted this on WUWT…
    Anthony Watts is absolutely right for raising the very important question “what then after that if that doesn’t work?” History teaches us that the original Boston Tea Party was an illegal act of civil disobedience which led to war! Clearly the current Tea Party movement are modelling themselves on terrorists. WHERE WILL THEY STOP? Frankly, they should be incarcerated before they cause any trouble. Along with the hippies. But maybe in separate prisons.

  27. Lazar says:

    Lol, Anthony is so sweet…
    “REPLY: I don’t share your view that “they should be incarcerated before they cause any trouble”. That view is just as wrong as can possibly be. Thought police and all that. If crimes are committed, then the law in enforceable, not before. ““ Anthony”

  28. KK
    I am not making excuses for Watts. I am trying to explain, why Watts sounded so pissed off with McKibben(and thereby gave a green signal) . Explaining does not amount to excusing, one hopes?

  29. David44 says:

    Kieth @ #24.  I don’t know McKibben’s history or his plans for the future, but in the sphere of animal rights advocacy, at least, so-called civil disobedience has certainly escalated frequently to uncivil behavior including wanton destruction of university and personal property as well as terrorism of farmers, researchers and their families.  This is much different than sitting down in the street, chaining yourself to a bulldozer, or refusing to move to the back of the bus.  Non-violent, nondestructive civil disobedience is useful, healthy even, but escalation to force becomes a slippery slope (slippery escalator?).

  30. Ian says:

    “Please reread the comment... deaths currently being caused. Lookup sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides, ozone, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and particulates.”
    From your original post I wasn’t sure whether you were referring to such chemical by-products  or inferring that the burning of coal is currently causing climactic events (eg. heat waves, desertification) that can be linked to the deaths of thousands around the world.
    “That’s alright then, let’s keep on burning coal.

    But, no, problems are bad even in high GDP per capita countries with relatively good health & safety practises, like the U.S. Lookup coal worker’s pneumoconiosis and pulmonary massive fibrosis.”
    Such problems are not exclusive to coal. The extraction of any number of resources are currently having detrimental effects on humanity and the environment (high atmospheric lead concentrations; copper contamination, mercury hazards from gold mining etc, etc, etc).  If, hypothetically, they were able to prove  that anthropogenic CO2 emissions were not a significant climate forcing would the denunciation of coal-powered plants (‘these emissions kill’) be so vociferous?

  31. Ed Forbes says:

    KK #24 .” Greg Laden could have been talking about WUWT when he wrote  that “the Republican position on “˜Civil Disobedience’ has been that it is the same thing as Terrorism.” 
    I followed your link to Greg Laden, though I do not follow what it has to do with WUWT.  AW did not co-relate the two.
    This is interesting because up to now the Republican position on “Civil Disobedience” has been that it is the same thing as Terrorism.
     RNC Saint Paul: “Conspiracy To Riot In Furtherance Of Terrorism “They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC,assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul.” .
    Yep… I think that fits as terrorism
    “Eight RNC Protesters Accused of ‘Furthering Terrorism’ Thanks To Statute”…same story as above
    Wiki on “2008 Republican National Convention” with ref to the same story
    “When Protest Is Terrorism: RNC 8 Charged as Terrorists Under State Patriot Act” same story
    I am making no judgments as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, but the charges themselves do not fall under the category of “tree sitting”.

  32. Ian says:

    Gawd…the formatting of that last post looks like a dog’s breakfast…

  33. Ed Forbes says:

    Ian (34)

    My text editor goes strange at times. 
    But mostly it’s what comes of following a link from KK that links to 4 articles itself. You really need to follow all of them to see that, IMO, they do not support what KK alleges, ie: that the  “Republican position on “Civil Disobedience” has been that it is the same thing as Terrorism”

  34. Tim Lambert says:

    So I take it that the question of whether the BBC story was misleading is completely uninteresting to you?

  35. Keith Kloor says:

    Tim, it figures you would be the one on the other side to gloss over any criticism of Climate Progress. My post wasn’t about the BBC story; it was about the similarities between WUWT and CP.

  36. Lazar says:

    Leonard Matlovich… good quote!

    “would the denunciation of coal-powered plants (‘these emissions kill’) be so vociferous?”
    maybe, maybe not… who knows

  37. Roddy Campbell says:

    Am I missing something in this ‘deaths from coal’ thing?  Is it really as babyish as it looks?  I could have sworn the electricity generated from it did some good.  Every year cars kill people.  Apparently.

  38. Lazar says:


    “Am I missing something in this “˜deaths from coal’ thing?”
    Yes. There are cleaner and safer options in nuclear power and renewables. Or even natural gas.

    “I could have sworn the electricity generated from it did some good.”
    So did the heat from open coal hearths in Victorian London… shame about the respiratory illnesses. Cigarettes do “some good” in providing employment for people to grow, manufacture, and sell the death sticks, and employment for people to care for those dying from  the results.

  39. Roddy Campbell says:

    Nuclear or gas, I’m there, I just think it’s up to the South Africans to decide whether to use their lovely cheap coal in order to provide electricity to their teeming masses who don’t have it, and do their own cost-benefit analysis on mining deaths versus all the good things, oh yes including fewer respiratory illnesses from biomass.
    And they have done that analysis and decided to go coal.
    You tell them they’re wrong, I’m not going to.

  40. Ed Forbes says:

    I think the point with coal is not if you use coal, but how well you scrub the nasty stuff out of the stack of the things that cause direct harm, such as sulfur.

    the stack outflow of new US coal plants are pretty good. I am not sure the Chinese even try.

    Coal is getting OT but since we are here.
    Mining the coal has issues of safety, but I do not think the Chinese try very hard at safety. The US coal mine record is pretty good. Do people die mining coal in the US? Sure, but they do in other such work as farming and construction also.

    I work in Civil Eng and if you do not watch your ass on the job you will be splotch on the pavement due to the size of the equipment on site.

  41. harrywr2 says:

    According the the FBI, eco terrorism is a major problem.

  42. keith kloor says:

    I’m not condoning acts of sabotage but a little perspective wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure the FBI allots its manpower and resources in proportion to the terrorism threats facing the United States.

    Just curious: are you just as concerned about the other violence-prone activists, whom the FBI also have to deal with.

  43. D. Robinson says:

    Keith, how long have you been reading WUWT?  I ask because since the site’s visitor numbers exploded over the last year or two, the tone of the comments has gotten nastier (overall), and there seems to be less tone minding moderation on Anthony’s part.
    You called it an echo chamber a while back and you’re right, but it used to be more temperate with more AGW defenders posting counter opinions.  IMO the sites popularity has changed the tone for the worse.

  44. charles says:

    Huh?  Why do you find it ‘odd’ that someone would call an organised campaign of civil disobedience a threat?  I suppose it depends what you mean by civil disobedience. To me it means breaking the law.
    D Robinson is right to point out that the tone of Watts has changed recently, he used to be much more polite.
    As for Romm’s rantings, I have no idea what he is on about, the BBC article looks accurate and balanced to me.

  45. Keith Kloor says:

    D. Robinson (45), to the extent that I became more interested in the kinds of conversation taking place at climate blogs, which is only in the last year or so, that’s when I started paying closer attention to various blog threads, including those at WUWT.

    I want to reiterate that I’m not advocating anyone to scrub their blogs of material they disagree with or find offensive. I actually think it’s revealing to see what people are saying in these threads. But I also think that commenters take their cue from their hosts. If you look at most threads, you’ll see that Anthony usually chimes in at least a few times to either rap someone’s knuckles or to thank them. In the particular thread I reference, its telling he is silent, even with that one guy who thinks McKibben could benefit from a a “mugging.” Same goes for Romm. He doesn’t feel compelled to reign in any of the crazies over there, either.

  46. shpik says:

    So, what do you call people who intentionally do harm for pay?

  47. David44 says:

    @shpik 11:41am

  48. Lazar says:


    “it’s up to the South Africans”
    You’ve changed the subect from power supply choices made in rich developed world countries to those made in a third world one. That’s a different COBA.

  49. Barry Woods says:

    I’m currently being censored on the BBC’s Richard Black’s Earthwatch.. The BBC is supposed to report things impartially, not have an AGW policy.

    THey just do not like this comment 47#
    My comment (43#) in Richards previous article, has spent 4 days in consideration, is that a record?
    It really was quite short,and on topic, (and no pdf’s)
    I was merely trying to mention, that the only reason nuclear was being considered, was because of emmissions..
    Thus of interest to report, that whilst the BBC were very willing to quote on MP on a select commite, saying all scientists agree..
    Why would they not quote Graham Stringer MP, of the same select committee, saying that the work of one of the scientists at one of the leading climate research centres – CRU, and a much longer critica interview by him
    “That is just not science, but literature”
    Surely, there is a difference there in these MP’s opinion of the agw science, that is worth investigating, otherwise we may be making unneccesary nuclear waste and dumping it in holes in the ground.
    if the BBC ever allow it, anyone can check the links themselves, in the nuclear article

    It may appear at some point in the future, of course long after the thread is dead and buried and other readers might see it..

    No doubt this comment will be said to be off topic, as an excuse.

    But as you cane see from the other comments LOT of stuff is allowed way of topic.

  50. Ed Forbes says:

    one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

    goes along with “Why does treason never prosper? Because if treason succeeds, none dare call it treason.”

  51. Barry Woods says:

    Meanwhile George Monbiot claims that Bishop Hill is trying to smear him..

    Because of this article…

    Read both and you can decide for yourselfs..
    George does not invite comments  on his blog.

  52. willard says:

    > George does not invite comments on his blog.
    Click on “Discuss” at the bottom right:

  53. willard says:

    > [O]ne mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.
    Here is what one can find on :
    > We are not an anti-government militia, we are a pro-government militia that believes in fighting for the Constitution of the United States **by all means necessary**.
    Our emphasis.  Their words.

  54. Lazar says:

    Ed Forbes,
    “I think the point with coal is not if you use coal, but how well you scrub the nasty stuff out of the stack of the things that cause direct harm, such as sulfur.”
    Current technology cannot make coal clean and safe vis-a-vis nuclear, natural gas, and renewables. Choosing the dirtiest form of power over all others is entirely the point…

    “The US coal mine record is pretty good.”

    Engineering failure is not the primary cause of death in the U.S. The primary cause is due to inhaling the dust. Kingsnorth is located in the U.K., where most coal consumption is from imports, and most imports are from South Africa and Columbia.

  55. Tim Lambert says:

    Keith, I did not gloss over your criticism of CP.  Why is it that you are uninterested in or make excuses for misleading journalism, but someone being uncivil in a comment on a blog has you heading for your fainting couch?  Which of these things matters more?

  56. Barry Woods says:

    53, sorry need to be more specific, they don’t remain very long, lots of Guardian experience…..

  57. Marlowe Johnson says:

    +1 to Tim.

  58. Keith Kloor says:

    Tim, could you point to any examples where I make excuses for journalism?

    And you’re right, you didn’t gloss over it; you just ignored the focus of the post altogether. Because if you read what I wrote again, you’ll see that I’m not talking about “one uncivil comment.” I’m talking about the tenor and content of an entire thread, winked at by the blog hosts with their silence.

    Tim, you like rolling around in the gutter with your readers?

  59. Marlowe Johnson says:

    It seems to me that we’re forever talking about different things.  You seem to think that tone and form are important in a given discussion, while I (and Tim L and others) think that it’s the substance that matters more.
    And I think this post is a prime example.  By focusing on the tone  of the two blogs you’re missing the most relevant questions which is the honesty/accuracy of the content.  And I suspect you’d probably agree that Romm is more accurate in his facts than Watts.  By failing to mention this crucial point you’re implicitly saying that they’re two sides of the same coin, when in fact they’re clearly not (one deals with reality and regularly engages personally with credible experts on the topics that he writes about….the other guy not so much)….

  60. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe (61):

    Tone affects how the content is interpreted. Romm and to a lesser degree, Lambert, are serial shouters. So every critique of a journalist by Romm ends up being the worst piece of reporting. Until the next day. And the day after that.  I can’t take him seriously anymore because he exaggerates every individual failing, every flawed story into this collapse-of-msm-jounalism narrative.

    His readers feed off this hysteria and reinforce it on the thread. The same goes for Watts. Except over there its fear of greenies, etc. There is nasty sewage and conspiratorial talk that runs through both threads. In that sense, they mirror each other.

    Like I said on another thread, why must there be some litmus test for my blog posts? Why can’t you just comment on the substance of my post–because all I’m doing is making an observation about the comment threads at two very popular climate blogs, including how the respective hosts deal with crazy talk?

    It never ceases to amaze me how people on the two sides instinctively shrug off any criticism of their guys.

  61. David44 says:

    A Marlowe Johnson @ 1:03pm.
    Tone and substance are both important.  I don’t read Romm because of his outlandish and polarizing tone so I wouldn’t know about the quality of his facts and experts, but I would have great skepticism because of the hardline attitude.  I no longer read or trust WUWT because of the highly partisan tone. In both cases the tone prevents me from trusting the substance or even wanting to read it.  Again, these guys aren’t interested in changing minds just reinforcing the prejudices of their constituencies.

  62. Marlowe Johnson says:

    David.  I suspect you’re right.  It’s funny, I don’t read the comments @CP for the same reasons you mention,  but I do read the posts as they’re a great source of information on climate related science and politics and policy (e.g. see Nasa’s latest on black carbon or the developments around Prop 23).
    OTOH I find the discussion here much more engaging/entertaining despite the fact that the posts themselves are less illuminating…

  63. Keith Kloor says:

    “…I find the discussion here much more engaging/entertaining despite the fact that the posts themselves are less illuminating”¦”

    Like a knife through the heart. 🙂  If only I was a paid propagandist and not an independent journalist, I might be more illuminating. Meanwhile, I’ll settle for entertaining.

  64. David44 says:

    Marlowe –
    One chooses one’s poison, I suppose, but as I said earlier, there are plenty of places to find good science discussion w/o the hyperbole.
    When I want point-of-view with entertainment,  I watch the Daily Show.  Apparently there are a great number of people who find spiteful rhetoric entertaining, thus the advent of talk radio and Fox news.  I don’t always agree with the progressive slant on NPR, but at least it’s thought provoking and educating w/o the spite and bombast.
    I have only recently begun following Keith’s blog so no judgment on content and entertainment value, but I appreciate the civility and apparent range of topics (and mostly thoughtful comments).

  65. Marlowe Johnson says:

    nice to you taking it like a man Keith 🙂

  66. Ed Forbes says:


    I disagree that engineering can not / does not  solve most of the issues with coal.

    The US currently has a pretty good track record with coal. It is cheap and what comes out of the stack of the newer plants is not a problem.

    Now what the Chinese are doing is criminal. 

    Make US, or equivalent, scrubber tech on the county of origin a requirement to ship goods into the US would be where I would start to stop exporting jobs and pollution out of country. The jobs stay gone but the pollution does come back.

    I would be in favor of grants to help install new pollution controls on plants in developing nations, but the tech and engineering would have to be purchased from a US based firm to keep the money from the grants at home.

    No need even to use the gun boats this time around to enforce the rules as China wants to export to the US more than the US is going to be able to ship to China. 

    Now do not get me wrong. I think getting rid of coal and going heavy into wind is just the thing for the UK and the EU. It cuts down on the compatition don’t you know.

    Speak softly, but carry a big stick. Nothing changes.

  67. Lazar says:


    “Make US, or equivalent, scrubber tech on the county of origin a requirement to ship goods into the US would be where I would start to stop exporting jobs and pollution out of country. The jobs stay gone but the pollution does come back.
    I would be in favor of grants to help install new pollution controls on plants in developing nations, but the tech and engineering would have to be purchased from a US based firm to keep the money from the grants at home.”
    … I’m with you there.

  68. David44 says:

    Now here’s a topic for congenial conversation around the fire, but maybe you’ve covered it before.

  69. The Chinese are doing criminal things? Gun boats? Big Sticks?
    I guess Kieth Kloor’s blog has become a nest of festering hatred toward third-worlders who dare to burn coal – without the constrictive regulations the first world has inflicted upon itself. Another commenter agreed to it, and the blog owner just let the comment pass.
    🙂 🙂

  70. Lazar says:

    “Another commenter agreed to it”
    Wrong again, Shub.

  71. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Shub you need to be careful; otherwise the harry2-coal-bot will show up and hijack the discussion with arcane references to the price of coal in china on july 26th,2010….:P

  72. Ed Forbes says:

    Shub Niggurath (71)
    “nest of festering hatred toward third-worlds who dare to burn coal”

    You missed my point. I could care less if they choke to death on their own fumes as long as it does not blow back into the US, which some does. 

    But I like having clean air and want effective air pollution controls to get it.

    I also do not want to give the  third world a competitive advantage vs the US due to their lack of pollution controls. I do not want to continue the current practice of the US exporting industry and jobs due to pollution control requirements to stay competitive.

    Its easy, they want to sell here in the US, they do it under the same rules that US industry has to abide.

    The UK is in the process of committing national suicide and I do not want the US to follow the same path.

    Case in point where the Brits paid a steel co millions to close a plant in England and open in India. The co was awarded the money because the plant in India was going to have much better pollution control than was normal in India.

    The funny part is that the new plant in India pollutes more than did the closed plant in England.

    Please note that I do not consider the plant food  CO2 to be pollution

  73. Jon P says:

    New to your blog, find it interesting so far.

    I agree that there is a lot of nasty comments on blogs, but I find I can ignore those and keep reading. And coomentors whose only purpose is to agree/defend/promote the author of the article really do not add anything to the conversation, now do they?

    Tim L,
    How is the iron-fisted moderator doing today? Is it true that you delete more comments than you allow through? lol Don’t bother to answer I will not believe you.

  74. Ian says:

    I was actually referring to my previous post.
    cheers, ian

  75. Tim Lambert says:

    Keith, here are some of my comments from the thread that Tom Fuller was complaining about and where you reckon I was wallowing in the gutter:
    Dear commenters, please be polite.
    Dear readers, please don’t let Fuller wind you up. He really wants to portray us as an angry mob, so don’t help him. And while Fuller isn’t open to persuasion, others who read your comment might be.
    Mark, I also agree with Michael and the others. And it’s my blog. So you will be polite or I will put you on moderation. If you don’t like this, find somewhere to comment where your style is welcome.
    Fuller’s response to this was write a post where he claimed that I wrote the rude comments I was objecting to.

    However you manage the comments on a blog, people will complain.  I get criticised for allowing impolite comments to appear on my blog.   Jon P (in comment 75) complains because I banned him for posting abusive comments.

    I don’t tone is irrelevant, but I think substance is more important.  You seem to be completely uninterested in the accuracy of new reports and only interested in the tone of blog posts and comments.  Are you incapable of addressing the substance of an argument?

    Finally, since you’ve accused me of being a “serial shouter”, perhaps you could point to an example of what you are complaining about.

  76. Lazar says:

    Pachauri & Monbiot vs. North & Booker & Bishop Hill, following the links in #53…
    Richard North and Christopher Booker claim
    “One subject the talkative Dr Pachauri remains silent on, however, is how much money he is paid for all these important posts, which must run into millions of dollars.”
    … why “must” ‘it’?
    Pachauri responds:

    ‘These are a pack of lies from people who are getting desperate. They want to go after the guy whose voice is being heard. I haven’t pocketed a single penny from my association with companies and institutes. All honoraria that I get goes to TERI and to its Light a Billion Lives campaign for reaching solar power to people without electricity. All my dealings are totally above board.”

    Booker walks back the “must” earn “millions” claim
    At the least, Dr Rajendra Pachauri’s IPCC position as the world’s “top climate official” has been earning a substantial income for Teri, the institute he runs.”
    George Monbiot points out that North and Booker have no evidence to support the “must” earn “millions” claim, and
    “KPMG studied all Pachauri’s financial records, accounts and tax returns, as well as TERI’s accounts, for the period 1 April 2008 ““ 31 December 2009. It found that any money paid as a result of the work that Pachauri had done for other organisations went not to him but to TERI. None of the money was paid back to him by TERI: he received only his annual salary, which is £45,000. […] Amazingly, the accounts also show that Pachauri transferred a lifetime achievement award he was given by the Environment Partnership Summit – 200,000 rupees – to TERI. In other words, he did not even keep money to which he was plainly entitled, let alone any money to which he was not.”
    Jullian Williams and Shub Niggurath writing at Bishop Hill respond
    “Why did he [Monbiot] persist in giving Pachauri the benefit of the doubt?”
    Williams and Niggurath are advocating for the Chinese legalist system. At least for the trial of ‘alarmists’.

  77. Keith Kloor says:

    David44 (70);

    Interesting story, indeed. Thanks for the link and know I haven’t covered this at all yet.

    Tim, I see you ignored my question to you in comment 60, in which I asked you for examples of where I make excuses for misleading journalism. That was your claim in comment 57. I’ve asked you to back it up. I’d like to see some examples.

  78. Tom Fuller says:

    Tim, everyone who follows this stuff knows what you do. You show up after everybody has had their fun and tell them at the end of the thread to be polite. Then two or three days later you go in and disemvowel the profanity. Usually after agreeing with it.

  79. Jon P says:


    Ah poor Tim. After numerous deletion of reasonable comments I say you are a CSP and you ban me. Everyone knows and experiences your pattern of tight control of your comments. You pick one or two people from the other side to comment. Only let some of their comments through and you and your horde just let loose with personal attacks and disenvoweling. You have as much relevance in the debate as me, which is about zero.

    Maybe you should quit and stop wasting your time and invest your energies into something positive and contribute to society as a whole rather than tightly controlling an echo chamber.

  80. Keith Kloor says:

    Okay, okay, unless Tim wants to get into it further with you guys here, let’s leave it at that.

  81. Jon P says:


    No problem Keith, thx for letting me say as much as I did.

  82. Tim Lambert says:

    Keith. Here.  Let me repeat my last comment there:

    You say “A debate over climate science was not the focus of the story”.  What? The focus of the story was Dyson’s views on climate science.  I counted the number of paragraphs that mentioned climate science and they comprised more than half of the number of paragraphs in the articles.
    You claim there is some standard of accuracy that such a piece is required to meet, but Dawidoff includes numerous inaccurate claims that Dyson makes about the science.  In the interview you linked, Dawidoff makes it clear that he doesn’t even think it’s his job to figure out whether what Dyson says is true or not.  Seems to me Dawidoff is doing stenography, not journalism.
    But you think the problem is Joe Romm because he is mean to journalists about the crappy job they are doing communicating climate science.

  83. Tim Lambert says:

    Tom Fuller, any remaining person who thinks you are honest can check the thread I quoted from and see that the comments I quoted were numbers 31, 43 and 183 out of 298 and are not “at the end of thread” as you claim.  They can also check for themselves whether I agreed with the profanity as you falsely claimed.

  84. Keith Kloor says:

    Tim, you should reread that thread (not that it would matter) and see how I tried to explain the difference between narrative non-fiction profiles and a general news story. At any rate, let’s go back to the opening paragraph of that NYT mag Dyson story:

    FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson has quietly resided in Prince­ton, N.J., on the wooded former farmland that is home to his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study, this country’s most rarefied community of scholars. Lately, however, since coming “out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned,” as Dyson sometimes puts it, there has been noise all around him. Chat rooms, Web threads, editors’ letter boxes and Dyson’s own e-mail queue resonate with a thermal current of invective in which Dyson has discovered himself variously described as “a pompous twit,” “a blowhard,” “a cesspool of misinformation,” “an old coot riding into the sunset” and, perhaps inevitably, “a mad scientist.” Dyson had proposed that whatever inflammations the climate was experiencing might be a good thing because carbon dioxide helps plants of all kinds grow. Then he added the caveat that if CO2 levels soared too high, they could be soothed by the mass cultivation of specially bred “carbon-eating trees,” whereupon the University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner looked through the thick grove of honorary degrees Dyson has been awarded “” there are 21 from universities like Georgetown, Princeton and Oxford “” and suggested that “perhaps trees can also be designed so that they can give directions to lost hikers.” Dyson’s son, George, a technology historian, says his father’s views have cooled friendships, while many others have concluded that time has cost Dyson something else. There is the suspicion that, at age 85, a great scientist of the 20th century is no longer just far out, he is far gone “” out of his beautiful mind.

    Here we see that the controversy and well-documented response to Dyson’s views is immediately established. The writer did his job. He’s telling the reader that this brilliant scientist is holding such contrary views that lots of people think he might be out of his mind. What more do you want?

    Again, I’ll reiterate: the main problem that you and others (such as Romm) have with this profile is that it was written at all–and that it appeared in a prominent outlet.

    Tim, if you want someone to hit you over the head with a sledgehammer, you got Romm. He’s great at that. If you want someone to give you the same information but provides it in a way that let’s you make up your mind, then you read profiles like this one on Dyson.

    But anyway, this is your big shining example? C’mon, surely you can do better than that?

  85. Jon P says:


    You did not make your case to support your statement that Fuller thinks all climate scientists are frauds. Your regulars did attack Tom after a lot of patience on his part. You never did answer any of his questions. Yes Tom said “Here are commnets from Lambert and his crew.” But since you and your posters always hold others (Watts etc) accountable for what their posters sat, fair is fair.
    I agree with Tim everyone read the whole thread from all the links Tim posted and get a feel what it is like to be attacked for disagreeing with Tim and his gang. Get a feel for how lucky you will be to be the contraian to tear to pieces that day, if you are lucky enough to get chosen. Be forewarned that once the attack, um I mean “debate” begins, all your responses may not make it through.

  86. Hi Lazar
    I see that you have been laboring over our Bishop Hill post. Want to know why things got started? Comments were deleted. Tim, you deleted and delayed my comments about Amazongate, and the consequent digging that we did at EURef led to the dead cartoon website from 1998 that said about half of the Amazon will fold over and disappear. Let’s keep doing this.
    Once again, you read what you want to read and string together your version of the narrative. We conclude nothing about Pachauri in our post, nor is it about him at all.

  87. Lazar says:

    “We conclude nothing about Pachauri in our post”
    “Pachauri’s crude attempts did not work”
    “Pachauri had to acknowledge the IPCC’s error”
    “Perhaps, as a result of this exposure, the Carnegie Corporation of New York decided to release no further funds to TERI”

  88. David44 says:

    Keith Kloor Says:
    September 21st, 2010 at 9:58 am
    David44 (70);
    Interesting story, indeed. Thanks for the link and know I haven’t covered this at all yet.
    Since you liked that one, Keith, and your last word is “yet”, here’s another in the hope that it might further pique your interest in developing your own post.  It might be titled “Now You Know”.
    From the article:
    “The issue isn’t about the science, thorium reactors have already ran successfully, its people who have to become informed and apply the pressure needed to overcome the special interests in the political arena where the regulatory barrier has the potential of thorium corralled and stopped.  It’s your planet, economy and family ““ can we all stay uninformed, silent and bleeding our financial resources for the benefit of the special interests only because we don’t know?  Nope ““ now you know.”

  89. David44 says:

    … not responsible for the grammer:
    “… thorium reactors have already ran [sic] successfully…”

  90. Keith(86)
    I went back to the thread on the profile and read the comments.  While you do declare that news articles and magazine profiles are different (4 and 2), you never say what the difference is.
    Similarly, while you say that the standards of truth are equal, you don’t say what they are (4)
    “To make it simpler: there is a huge difference between a long-form magazine story and a standard newspaper article. And there are equal standards of accuracy for both.”
    So, since it’s been brought up, I’ll invite you to talk at some greater length, perhaps a full post, as to what the standards of truth are in journalism, in general, and how they (might) differ between different sorts of writing.
    No knock on journalism there.  The fact is, as best I’ve seen, every field has its own definitions and standards of truth, and its own means of reaching for it.  My wife is a lawyer, so she and I have a fair number of discussions about the differences between law and science in establishing truth.  My mathematician friends have a different notion.  My journalist friends in college had a still-different idea.

  91. Keith Kloor says:

    Robert, as it happens, I’ve been meaning to take this up for a while. My sense is that critics of climate change coverage lump all media get lumped together. But I have no time today and would like to put much more thought into this. So yes, I’ll soon take up your suggestion and try to see if I can draw out the dinstinctions between journalism genres that I’ve been alluding to, and why they matter when judging how climate change-related information is presented.

  92. Marlowe Johnson says:

    “But anyway, this is your big shining example? C’mon, surely you can do better than that?’
    How about the Laughlin piece you posted about last week?  I’ve yet to see you call them out for it…

  93. JohnP (87)
    I looked back to the article, as you suggested.  Not going to wade through the whole comment section.  Fuller’s statement, which was correctly quoted by Lambert, was
    <a href=””>6. I believe that a generation of climate scientists have tried to make global warming a political football, and have exaggerated or distorted the truth to push politicians into acting more robustly, and too instill a fear-driven sense of urgency in the general public.</a>
    There’s no qualifier ‘some’, or ‘a few’ in there.  It is “a generation”.  Strikes my ear as a statement about everybody in the field — for ‘a generation’.  Don’t know if he means the 3-5 year generation for turnover of half the scientific literature, or the 20-30 years of reproduction.  Myself, I’d be hard pressed to make any universal statement about ‘a generation of climate scientists’, regardless of generation length.  Such a statement would have to include, among thousands of others, Lindzen, Curry, and Hansen.
    So, what have they all been doing?
    “…have tried to make global warming a political football…”
    No, not a statement of fraud, I agree.  Not a true statement either.  Some have, but, then, they also haven’t all tried to make the <i>same</i> football out of it.
    “…and have exaggerated or distorted the truth …”
    A little redundant, as exaggeration is a type of distortion.  But it’s pretty clear here that ‘honest’ is not a fair description of the people.  ‘distort the truth’ is usually a description for dishonest or deceptive practice.  Fraudulent, even.

    “…to push politicians into acting more robustly, and too instill a fear-driven sense of urgency in the general public.”
    I think that ‘too’ should be a to?
    Anyhow, 3rd definition of fraud at the <a href=””>something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage</a>
    Fuller’s statement satisfies both ends of even the more restrictive second version.  Both that trickery is involved, and it is being done to gain an advantage (i.e., getting politicians and public to act as desired).
    Since Tom is commenting here, or at least was recently, perhaps he can provide a link to where he elaborated what he really does mean.  As it stands, though, the statement is indeed a blanket condemnation of every climate scientist ‘for a generation’.  disclaimer: depending on how the generation is sliced, and how one defines ‘climate scientist’, I’m one of those people he’s accusing.

  94. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Grumbine, as you are the only one who has felt that my accusation covered every individual in a generation, let me hasten to reassure you that that was not my intention.

  95. Tom Fuller says:

    I’d be happy to explore this further, but perhaps this isn’t the forum. I don’t want this thread, blog or discussion to be about me.

  96. Keith (95)
    I’ll look forward to that article.
    But the more important one regards what the standards of truth are.  I can see, for instance, the argument that the article on Dyson was journalistically true.  i.e., Dyson really does believe all the things that the reporter said he did, and talks about them in the way described, and so forth.  Also that there are people who have reacted to him as described in the opening paragraph.  As you describe here, that one paragraph out of a far longer article is sufficient reality-check on the scientific statements that followed — for purposes of journalism, in that particular journalistic context.  One of the more interesting parts of discussions with my wife is when we get to the part about why the standards should be as they are.
    A research project occurs to me, and I’ll invite a journalist or someone of that general bent to follow up.  One part of the media, for instance, is opinion columns/shows/etc..  Obviously a different standard of truth applies there than in the news articles.  In the narrower scale, what fraction of climate change coverage in the Wall Street Journal appears in opinion columns vs. news articles?  (iterate over other major outlets as desired).
    On the larger scale, what fraction of climate change coverage appears in a context you would agree that it was valid for me to complain about a reporter quoting “so-and-so believes that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas” and not following up with something like “this is considered absurd by almost everybody who has studied the topic in the last 100 years” ?

  97. Tom: You may email me at bobg AT radix DOT net
    Since that’s a publicly-known address, it may take a bit for me to see it in the spam-catcher folder.

  98. Keith Kloor says:

    Very interesting discussion, Robert. The op-ed angle to this is definitely worth including. I can remember a time when William Safire would drive people as nuts as George Will does today. For me, what bothered me more was when he would shoehorn partisan digs in his Sunday On Language column. That ticked me off because it didn’t have the context of an-op ed. Occasionally, letter writers to the Times would call out Safire on this.

    I’d like to continue the discussion but I gotta run out for the afternoon. Meanwhile, much fodder for that future post…

  99. Marlowe Johnson says:

    “I don’t want this thread, blog or discussion to be about me.”
    Surely you jest Tom 😛 .

  100. Tom Fuller says:

    Not at all, Marlowe. I got dragged into this one.

  101. Keith (100)
    No problem.  It’s a blog, not a chat room.  I just found myself with exceptional time to comment.
    To whet some appetites on that research project, I did a simple check at google on the Wall Street Journal. “climate change”
    turned up 8760 articles.
    excluding “More in opinion”, which seems a more reliable term to use than “top stories in opinion” dropped that total to 1060.
    Fewer than 1 in 8 articles in WSJ about climate change appear to be outside of the op/ed pages.

  102. Shub says:

    Slim pickings eh Lazar?
    The points that you list are meaningless distractions – random sentences pulled out, to prove your context barren high school-debate points. If these are called “conclusions” by you, we are full of “conclusions” indeed.
    By the way, this does remind me, about someone who called a scientist who opposed the IPCC as performing “schoolboy science”. That moment must have been the watermark of elegance and high conduct for the IPCC. 🙂

  103. Lazar says:

    “are meaningless distractions”
    Twist and turn and keep digging, Shub.
    “we are full of “conclusions” indeed”
    “conclusions” isn’t quite the word I’d use there…

  104. What are you talking about Lazar? Our article is about Monbiot, and his outpost’s conduct with respect to the comments they recieve; especially after actively soliciting for them. 

    Your game is the same always. You will never explain yourself, but you will expect the opposite party to respond to imagined criticism and questions. You expend very little effort with your words and concepts, but you try to insinuate something the other party’s own words.

    I don’t understand what you got out what I said. You have to sit down, resist your urge to copy-paste and put out your thoughts into words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.