Revkin’s NYT article disputes the ‘severe weather is climate’ meme, but balance problems remain

I criticized Andrew Revkin yesterday for lack of an irony detector. Today I’ll point out that he’s got a well balanced article on the new meme being pushed in the alarmosphere by the McKibbenites and the ThinkProgressers that keep trying to argue that the weather is getting more severe due to “climate change”, which of course is unsubstantiated by the data at hand and likely due more to technology and reporting increases.

From Dot Earth: Varied Views on Extreme Weather in a Warming Climate

I was pleased to see Kerry Emanuel say this, and for Andy to cover it:

I see overstatements on all sides. Extreme weather begets extreme views. On the Russian heat wave, Marty is citing a single paper that claims it had nothing to do with climate change, but there are other papers that purport to demonstrate that events of that magnitude are now three times more likely than before the industrial era.

This is a collision between the fledgling application of the science of extremes and the inexperience we all have in conveying what we do know about this to the public. A complicating factor is the human psychological need to ascribe every unusual event to a cause. Our Puritan forebears ascribed them to sin, while in the 80’s is was fashionable to blame unusual weather on El Niño. Global warming is the latest whipping boy. But even conveying our level of ignorance is hard: Marty’s quotation of Harold Brooks makes it sound as though he is saying that the recent uptick in severe weather had nothing to do with climate change. The truth is that we do not know whether it did or did not; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Revkin adds:

Regular readers of my work will not be surprised that I align with Emanuel.


I had started out writing this post with the idea that Mr. Revkin was more balanced than I thought, but the article sat in que for awhile as I needed to attend to other things. During that time, a new video from Revkin came to light.

While I applaud this article, I still wonder though, just how balanced Andrew Revkin is in his reporting. For example, here he mixes his university teaching with the politics of climate, by having RealClimate.org founder Gavin Schmidt address his students.

As we know, RealClimate.org is funded by Fenton Communications, a political organization.

One wonders why Andy has never bothered (that I’m aware of) to offer his students the opportunity to hear what a skeptical scientist has to say, such as Dr. Roy Spencer or Dr. Richard Lindzen.

Andy likes to put forth the idea that he’s balanced, for example when he says things like this:

Regular readers of my work will not be surprised that I align with Emanuel.

and from yesterday’s story on WUWT:

I’ve been pretty quick to question anyone trying to cast climate science as a “party loyalty” kind of issue.

But if he’s only offering his students one side of the debate from a politically funded blog, it seems to me he really can’t make broad claims of balance with accuracy. If you look at all of his videos here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/anrevk#g/u

You’ll also find a video interview with James Hansen and Sir John Beddington, both vocal proponents for climate alarm, but not a single skeptical scientist rates an interview in his video channel that I can find.

How about it Andy? Are you ready to show a skeptical scientist and lend your considerable media clout to making it known worldwide?

UPDATE: From comments -

One batch of my students at UCSB’s Bren School spent 90 minutes getting to know Marc Morano via Skype for their class project. I’ll be posting that video at some point (Marc gave permission).

REPLY: Good to know, and thank you. I’ll add this to the body of the post when available. – Anthony

About these ads

34 thoughts on “Revkin’s NYT article disputes the ‘severe weather is climate’ meme, but balance problems remain

  1. How about it Andy? Are you ready to show a skeptical scientist and lend your considerable media clout to making it known worldwide?
    —————————————-
    He won’t simply because he will be afraid that he will lose his warmista buddys.

  2. To Whom It May Concern:

    In the build-up to the Rio conference in June, we all are encouraged to “connect the dots” between CO2 in the atmosphere and incidents of extreme weather around the world. The claim is that rising CO2 is causing global warming, and that global warming causes more extreme weather (floods, droughts, heat waves, cold snaps, hurricanes, tornados, etc.). This claim has been repeated so often that many people accept it without any examination of the logic and facts supporting it.

    First, it should be noted that all statistical measures of extreme weather show that such incidents have not been increasing with the rise in temperature apparently observed in the last part of the 20th century. Our awareness of such events is greatly heightened by modern media and hype, but in fact warming has not produced more extreme weather.

    The claim is also contrary to global warming theory, which asserts that temperatures should rise more in polar and mid-tropical regions than near the equator. Since storms are the result of temperature differences, greater warming of cold regions should reduce frequency and severity of storms, and in fact that has been the observation.

    Now that the warming has halted since 1998, we may well see cooler, rather than warmer temperatures in the future. In that event, the arctic may well become colder, and extreme weather increase as a result. But the change will be due to global cooling, not warming, and will be in spite of any increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. So, warming does not drive extreme weather, either in theory or in fact—that connection is disproved.

    It is also not proven that rising CO2 causes global warming. In the last 15 years, CO2 has continued to rise, while temperature measures have been flat. Historically, ice cores show that changes in CO2 follow temperature changes, and not the other way around.

    The dots do not connect as claimed.

  3. Most of the big warmistas are “evolving” out of “climate change” to “energy solutions” and similar in order to keep the money flowing. It’s the smart move. With IPCC 5AR coming up, there will be no way not to engage critics on the importance of “positive feedbacks” in United Nations IPCC science. Plus people are catching on in general to the tricks of the trade.

    All the focus on things other than temperatures, like polar bears, glaciers, extreme weather, are symptoms of the problem that thermometers aren’t giving the warmistas what they want. I think the PR boys and girls are pushing these memes more to keep the flock under control, rather than to convince someone new.

  4. Andy knows only too well just how miserly the funding for climate scepticism is, despite claims to the contrary by many of his comfortably-off, consensus bed-fellows.
    It would take a very strong character to give up their current-level of remuneration by changing sides in the present ‘climate’ and having to rely on fickle and sporadic contributions from a ‘Tip-Jar’
    In a ‘dog eat dog’ world where it’s ‘everyman for himself’ your activities are to be applauded if not universally admired.

  5. For Andy

    Change in the weather
    Is known to be extreme,
    Oh but what’s the sense in changin’
    Horses in midstream ?

  6. Given that there has been little if any real warming for well over a decade, than extreme weather events should have leveled out over that period. Hence any claim that we are seeing extreme events in this century that were not apparent at the end of the previous can not be attributed to global warming.

  7. “He won’t simply because he will be afraid that he will lose his warmista buddys.”

    Actually, it is partly, or totally, out of his control now. In 2010 his postings were moved to the “Opinion” section of the New York Times. Therefore, maintenance of the quality of the New York Times branding is very much at issue. The New York Times brand NEVER corrects itself openly. A consistent line is always taken, all the while–very ironically–claiming higher regards to truth and facts. The editors will guard the branding dogmatically.

  8. cms says:
    May 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Given that there has been little if any real warming for well over a decade, than extreme weather events should have leveled out over that period. Hence any claim that we are seeing extreme events in this century that were not apparent at the end of the previous can not be attributed to global warming.

    ====================================================================
    Sorry to rain on your parade, but that is not an effective rebuttal, it is a strawman.

    The warmist argument is not that the rate of warming causes extreme weather, Neither do they compare to “the end of the previous” century.

    Their argument is additional warmth that causes extreme weather. They state that it is warmer this decade than it was in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. In fact they go further and claim that it warmer than EVER this century so far, so there has been more extreme weather in this century.

    If you want to effectively refute their actual argument, you should use Ron C’s valid points above

  9. cms says:
    “Given that there has been little if any real warming for well over a decade, than extreme weather events should have leveled out over that period. Hence any claim that we are seeing extreme events in this century that were not apparent at the end of the previous can not be attributed to global warming.”

    You would think so. But given the metamorphoses of “global warming” to “climate change” to “climate disruption” (and possibly soon to “extreme weather events”), I’m sure that we’ll see a plethora of peer-reviewed papers explaining how the warming that has already occurred has exceeeded a tipping point that results in more “extreme weather” events.

    The media will be happy to play along, because fear sells. You never see stories with headlines like: “Absolutely average weather for the last nine months.” Should something like that occur, the new meme headline would read: “New extreme-weather-event record set for non-extreme events.”

  10. “A complicating factor is the human psychological need to ascribe every unusual event to a cause. Our Puritan forebears ascribed them to sin, while in the 80’s is was fashionable to blame unusual weather on El Niño. Global warming is the latest whipping boy.”

    This is nice to hear. Here’s Rahmstorf in Nature:

    “The ostensibly large number of recent extreme weather events has triggered intensive discussions, both in- and outside the scientific community, on whether they are related to global warming. Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme — notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes — there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase.”

    http://sciences.blogs.liberation.fr/files/10-ans-dextremes-climatiques.pdf

    And Al Gore…he’s officially in the dustbin of history?…like the Puritans looking for sin under every bed?

    Progress

  11. The way to do good propaganda and not get caught is to know that what is really important is not what you say, but what you do not say. So long as you present only one side, you can claim you are not lying, and be sort of correct, while actually making it all one big lie. Throw in other actions, like not overtly touting one political side or making big political contributions (things that are more about the appearence of bias than the reality) and you can keep up a constant steam of propaganda all day. The MSM uses this method daily.

    If you really want to appear “fair and balanced”, throw in an occasional view from the other side, carefully choosing a spoksperson from that side who has the weakest and most unconvincing argument you can find. You can also throw in “right wing views” where you carefully choose those views said to be “right wing” but actually pretty extreme far fringe stuff (or just choose a spoksman who says it in a way that offends people, or just quote a rare offensive comment). You can also not present the other side by labeling them all as “extreme” or “fringe” and thus you can claim you are leaving them out because you are so “fair and balanced” that you would never include such “extreme” views. You can also, say, present one person as being “right wing” or some such who is actually from their far left fringe, thus you are actually presenting two people from the same side while claiming they belong to opposite sides (pretty easy to do these days of, say, “big government conservatives”, kind of a contradiction in terms). In these ways you can present yourself as balanced while actually being totally unbalanced and one sided.

    Here is one for you, the argument called A B A B C C C. First, you have A and B arguing from different sides, making sure both are a bit weak, the one you want to dissuade people from beleiving should have an exceptionally weak argument. Make sure that A is arguing on your side however, for those who are lazy and only read the first part of the article and sometimes the last paragraph. After A and B argue weakly for a while, bring in “The Expert” (making sure to point that out) to present “The Definitive Word” on the subject. In reality, you are not being fair or balanced and it is really just the old “argument from authority”, but most people can’t spot illogic (also known as BS) anymore, since it is practically the only kind of arguments they hear nowadays.

    Now just throw in a few pictures of (carniverious and dangerous) cute polar bears (being pictures, they cannot be said to belies exactly, so you don’t get caught) and you have effective propaganda.

  12. Revkin won’t do it. He has too much to lose in access and too much peer pressure bearing down for him to ever leave the reservation. Hey, if you had a chance to regularly jet around the world to exotic locations in order to chronicle do-gooderness you’d take it, wouldn’t you? Better to have your intestinal fortitude questioned than to lose the goodies.

  13. Warmists must think we all suffer from amnesia.

    George Monbiot (Zoo keeper) – Guardian –
    Britain’s cold snap does not prove climate science wrong
    This is called weather, and, believe it or not, it is not always predictable and it changes quite often. It is not the same as climate, and single events are not the same as trends. Is this really so hard to understand?”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/jan/06/cold-snap-climate-sceptics

    Now what does George Monbiot have to say about the weather and climate? Hansen now says the European heatwave (weather) is climate changing. The IPCC and the WMO hve informed me that 30 years or more is the generally accepted period for climate studies. So, WTF is it?

  14. this says everything about CAGW Gatekeeper Revkin. WUWT on 2 May had a thread: BREAKING: “Death threats” against Australian climate scientists turn out to be nothing but hype and hot air, so on May 3 Revkin dug up a month-old Mann interview with a student which included the following:

    3 May: NYT Dot Earth: Andrew C. Revkin: A Student’s Conversation With Michael Mann on Climate Science and Climate Wars
    Casey Doyle, a student at Warren Wilson College who writes for the Swannanoa Journal, the publication of the school’s Environmental Leadership Center, had the opportunity to speak with the climate scientist Michael Mann when he visited the campus to speak about his book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.” …
    Q. I understand that you have received threats due to your reporting on climate data. Who or what is the threat?
    A. Many climate scientists have received hundreds, and probably now even thousands of threatening emails… attacking us, or using very nasty language to criticize us… Some emails, letters, and phone messages that have been left on my office phone contain thinly veiled threats of violence, death threats. I had an envelope sent to my work address that contained a white powder, obviously it was intended to make we think I had been exposed to anthrax. The FBI had to send that off to the regional lab to test it, and it turns out it was just cornmeal, but using the mail to intimidate in that way is a felony… I’m not sure if they were ever able to track down the person who was responsible, but there are dozens of climate scientists who had been subjected to threats of violence and death threats…. Anytime that the findings of science have come into conflict with the interests of certain industries there has been a fairly nasty effort to try and intimidate the scientists through whatever means possible, and I’ve seen some of the worst aspects of that myself.

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/a-students-conversation-with-michael-mann-on-climate-science-and-climate-wars/

    3 April Michael Mann presents at Warren Wilson College

    and now even the Aussie “gun” story turns out to be not only irrelevant cos it happened AFTER the scientists had been moved, but also because, as the person involved says:

    10 May: CatallaxyFiles: Update I: John Coochey in comments below.
    I feel I can throw some light on this matter as I am undoubtedly the person who is alleged to have shown my gun licence to people at the dinner. That is not accurate. At the mediocre dinner on the first day I was approached by Dr Maxine Cooper, then the Commissioner for the environment, who recognized me as someone involved in the kangaroo culling program in the ACT which occurs each winter. After politely asking if she could sit next to me she asked me how I had gone in the recent licence test which is challenging. I told her I had topped it with a perfect score and showed her my current culling licence, not gun licence, to prove it. The conversation around the table then drifted around the benefits of eating game meat v the poor fare on offer.

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/2012/05/10/the-dog-ate-my-death-threats-ii/

  15. As a rough guide, a journalist who catches flack from both sides — as Revkin regularly does — is doing something right.

  16. pdtillman says:
    May 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm
    As a rough guide, a journalist who catches flack from both sides — as Revkin regularly does — is doing something right.

    Or doing everything wrong…

  17. One batch of my students at UCSB’s Bren School spent 90 minutes getting to know Marc Morano via Skype for their class project. I’ll be posting that video at some point (Marc gave permission).

    REPLY: Good to know, and thank you. I’ll add this to the body of the post when available. – Anthony

  18. Andy Revkin (@Revkin) says:
    May 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    One batch of my students at UCSB’s Bren School spent 90 minutes getting to know Marc Morano via Skype for their class project. I’ll be posting that video at some point (Marc gave permission).

    A move in the right direction but how about, for example, Spencer or Linzen next time.

  19. The climate certainly is changing at Aviemore in Scotland according to today’s entry in the winter sports website ………………
    Last Updated on: 12/05/2012 13:54
    Top Station Weather, Westerly 15 mph, Temp 1C, bright and sunny now.
    AVALANCHE DANGER ON THE HEAD AND CORONATION WALLS…PLEASE STAY CLEAR
    We have had well over a foot of fresh snow over the last 18 – 24 hrs,

    Heavy snow in mid May and more forecast by the MET through clenched teeth for next week?
    It’s getting COOLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Oh! And did I mention the drought is officially over?

  20. “but there are other papers that purport to demonstrate that events of that magnitude are now three times more likely than before the industrial era.”
    —————————————————————————————

    …Before the industrial era? Like pre-1750 during the Little Ice Age?

    What exactly are we/is he arguing about? Is this intended to illuminate about natural climate change, human induced climate change, or greenhouse gas effects? At first glance it appears to be a pretty misleading conflation between them.

  21. Andy Revkin (@Revkin) says:
    May 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm
    One batch of my students at UCSB’s Bren School spent 90 minutes getting to know Marc Morano via Skype for their class project. I’ll be posting that video at some point (Marc gave permission).

    This is a weak defense. A class project of some students does not cover the territory of guest presenter in the class to all the students.

  22. Kerry Emanuel: [H]e is saying that the recent uptick in severe weather had nothing to do with climate change. The truth is that we do not know whether it did or did not; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    One could as plausibly argue that severe weather is caused by space aliens, since absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    Emanuel has evidently joined Trenberth’s view that the authority of the IPCC reverses the onus of proof. It doesn’t: the onus of proof is impervious to authority. A pile of assertions without evidence cannot “level the playing field,” no matter how high the pile.
    The debate over AGW is entirely over the validity of the evidence offered by the alarmists. If that evidence doesn’t logically imply the conclusion they draw, then the only rational response is to ignore their assertion of AGW — i.e., to carry on as though the assertion had not been made. It is not the task of skeptics to prove anything. A rational person does not ask for evidence of absence.

  23. biff33,

    Excellent comment. It can’t be pointed out often enough that neither computer models nor IPCC ‘authority’ are “evidence”. Evidence is composed of testable, verifiable data. And although AGW may exist to some degree, there is no evidence connecting X human emissions to Y temperature increase [or decline]. Thus, AGW is a conjecture.

    The onus for the AGW conjecture is entirely on those proposing that conjecture. Skeptics cannot prove a negative. Skeptics have nothing to prove. The burden is entirely on those putting forth the conjecture that increases in anthropogenic CO2 are causing global temperature increases. But there is zero evidence supporting that conjecture. That’s why computer models are so important to the alarmist argument. They confer an aura of legitimacy, in a field otherwise lacking empirical, testable evidence.

  24. @Ron C.

    “The dots do not connect as claimed.”

    There is only 1 dot: CO2 has risen. You can’t connect dots if there is only one.

  25. One would have to present much more evidence than I have seen to date, before I would accept the increase in severe weather meme. Speaking anecdotally, I see severe weather decreasing over the last 60 years. There are a lot more built up areas now and no storm goes unreported. The young must understand, the severe weather they have experienced, has been happening all the time. It was just as scary 60 years ago… probably worse. If we cool, y’all will see what severe weather can do! GK

  26. Smokey says:
    May 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

    The onus for the AGW conjecture is entirely on those proposing that conjecture. Skeptics cannot prove a negative. Skeptics have nothing to prove. The burden is entirely on those putting forth the conjecture that increases in anthropogenic CO2 are causing global temperature increases. But there is zero evidence supporting that conjecture. That’s why computer models are so important to the alarmist argument. They confer an aura of legitimacy, in a field otherwise lacking empirical, testable evidence.

    Careful, there. The role of the Null Hypothesis is to be the default, assumed, causal explanation, and hence must first be disqualified before alternate hypotheses are considered. So, for example, you see statements that results are inconsistent with the Null Hypothesis at the .05 or .01 level. Only then do you get to sort out which “alternate” makes sense.

    So, in a way, disproving the H0 is “proving a negative”.

    This is what Climate Science warmists must do before considering AGW: establish that a pattern falls outside the variance of natural processes excluding one or more of their favored independent variables. Only then there would be some case for considering their influence important.

  27. He is not balanced but he does let me post. As for comments on Hansen’s article, I have no idea why you think Kerry Emanuel is anybody you can trust. The other person commenting was Martin Hoerling and I give Revkin full credit for that. Kerry got the last word in, started nitpicking on what Hoerling had said and totally ignored Hansen’s paper. But Hoerling systematically demolished the outrageous claims in Hansen’s op-ed. Here are some of them: Hansen claimed that within the next several decades the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought. Hoerling pointed out that there was no projection of “semi-permanent drought” in this time frame over the expansive region of Central Great Plains. Vision of a Midwest Dustbowl is a scary one and Hansen is obviously intent on instilling fear rather than reason with this claim. Then the article asserts further that “The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather…” How could anyone tell? But Hoerling fortunately is up on climate and tells us that this is simply patently false. Next Hansen claims that extremely hot summers have increased noticeably and attributes heat waves in Texas and Russia to global warming. Hoerling does not agree and points out that scientific studies of the Russian and Texas heat waves indicate this claim to be false. Finally, here is the aim of Hansen’s lesson: “The science of the situation is clear – it’s time for the politics to follow.”

  28. Hansen adjustments: shouldn’t he also make adjustments for weather satellites, modern communications etc. that only increase our knowledge of weather events? If he did he would have to downplay the ‘anomalies’ he says are caused by CAGW, he can’t adjust the past. If he followed his own adjustments theories he’d have to eliminate countless tornadoes, heat waves etc. Just who does he think he’s fooling? It’s the same with sun spots, the increase in telescope qualities and size has surely caused the modern era to observe more spots than Galileo? Shouldn’t Hansen increase the past counts to reflect the increase in sightings due to technology improvements? When you start making adjustments you need to adjust everything, not just temperatures. The new results are simply one persons guess. In which case no guesses should be made. Why hasn’t Hansen made is ‘formulas’ available for scrutiny, if he’s so smart what does he have to lose? For all we know he’s made a tiny simple mistake somewhere that could be corrected, or maybe has has justice for his rantings. One of my main concerns is that they keep changing their forecasts, and that the perception of reality is worse than reality unless the facts come out, and this doesn’t mean models!

  29. Brain H says The Null Hypothesis is the default. I agree

    The null hypothesis is that climate is nature at work. Those who believe otherwise must present proof of AGW above and beyond natural variability.
    What does the null hypothesis mean quantitatively? Looking at HADCRUT3 since 1860, we find 60-yr. cycles where GMT rises at a rate of 0.1C/decade for at least 3 decades in each instance. These cycles are overlaid on a longer-term rise of 0.4C/century since the Little Ice Age. The cycles appear before there is any proposed attribution to CO2 effect.

    Thus the record shows that a sustained increase in GMT of 0.14C/decade is normal and natural. Add 0.01C/decade for the uncertainty of a chaotic system, and we can propose a threshold of 0.15C/decade. If there is a persistent increase in GMT over that amount, then we can say that natural variability has been exceeded by an unnatural forcing.

    Two notes:
    1) It is clear that ENSO oscillations can produce rises above the threshold over a 1-3 year period, often resulting in a step-change followed by a GMT plateau. Thus the rise must persist for 5-10 years to be considered abnormal.
    2) I see that HADCRU are making “adjustments” to the record, and they are systematically reducing older temperatures, and increasing more recent ones. If they cause either the 60-yr. or longer-term trends to increase, the threshold will have to also increase accordingly.

  30. Ron C. says:
    May 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Brain H says The Null Hypothesis is the default. I agree

    Ron;
    Glad you were so impressed with my observation, but I NEVER call myself “Brain H”.

Comments are closed.