Smears and science denial from the New York Times

Reposted from the Fabius Maximus Blog

By Larry Kummer, Editor / 6 March 2020

Summary: We’re ignorant about the world because we read the news. Here’s today’s example from the NY Times. The subject is the public policy debate about climate change, by a reporter deep into science denial. But it could be about COVID-19, our mad foreign wars, or many other subjects affecting the future of America. We cannot afford this low quality of news. But until we demand better, this is what we will get.

Sometimes a story perfectly captures the essence of a political movement, such as this in the New York Times (farcically still calling itself America’s “paper of record”): “A Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research” by Hiroko Tabuchi. It shows how “news” has become leftist propaganda. How smears have replaced debate. And how extremists’ denial of science has displaced the work of the climate science institutions, such as the IPCC and NOAA. This is why we are so ignorant about the world: we read the newspapers. Kip Hansen first flagged this.

Tabuchi names this “insider”: Indur M. Goklany, “a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary.”

She neglects to mention that his actual title is the not-so-grand “Assistant Director of Programs, Science and Technology Policy in the Office of Policy Analysis. Which in turn is one of the six units of the Office of Policy & Environmental Management, which is one of the seven offices of the Office of Policy, Management, and Budget. Which is one of the eleven units of the Office of the Secretary. Which is one of the 17 operating units of the Department of the Interior (10 Bureaus and 7 Offices). Which is one of the 15 cabinet-level agencies, which are the largest components (but not the only ones) of the Executive Branch.

Goklanly is a bureaucrat in the middle of a gigantic machine. It is absurd to call him an “insider.” And Tabuchi has barely begun her “reporting.”

Who is Indur M. Goklany?

Before reviewing Tabuchi’s story, look at the subject of it. Goklany was “present at the beginning”, representing the US at the negotiations that produced the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. He was one of the US government’s nine representatives with Working Group III of the IPCC’s First Assessment Report (1990). He has written three books and an impressively long and broad list of publications (including some in peer-reviewed journals, such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, and the Journal of Theoretical Biology). See them here. He has an H-index of 25 (impressive, since this isn’t his day job).

Looking at the indictment

Tabuchi claims that Goklany says many things. The body of her article gives neither quotes or examples. She does not mention any sources for her information or even describe the basis for her claims. She gives one quote.

“Samuel Myers, a principal research scientist at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment who has studied the effects of climate change on nutrition, said the language ‘takes very specific and isolated pieces of science, and tries to expand it in an extraordinarily misleading fashion.’”

Myers (bio here) is a Faculty Associate at Harvard, and appears to be a health care scientist doing research on the “consequences of large-scale environmental change to human nutrition and impact of food production systems on the environment.” That Myers disagrees with Goklany is interesting, but hardly definitive. Science is about disagreement.

More importantly, Myers does not say if he reviewed any of Goklany’s memos for the DOI, or if this refers to Goklany’s publications. This does not support for Tabuchi’s claims.

Tabuchi then transitions to a different article by the NYT that expresses their unhappiness that the President does things the NYT does not like with respect to climate change. That article does not mention Goklany.

Finally, some specifics.

Deep into the article, Tabuchi gives specifics. No dates, no titles, nothing that would allow a reader to find this offensive material.

“The misleading language appears in environmental studies and impact statements affecting major watersheds including the Klamath and Upper Deschutes river basins in California and Oregon, which provide critical habitat for spawning salmon and other wildlife.”

Tabuchi then quotes another person expressing dislike about Goklany’s statements. Did she attempt to find anyone who agreed with them? She then provides a photo of an excerpt from a document. Totally without context, since she does not mention its authors, date, title, or purpose.

“Ultimately, future conditions at any particular time or place cannot be known exactly, given the current scientific understanding of potential future conditions. Likewise, it is important to recognize that the risks and impacts are the result {sic} of collective changes at a given location. Warming and increased carbon dioxide may increase plant water use efficiency, lengthen the agricultural growing season, but may also have adverse effects on snowpack and water availability. These complex interactions underscore the importance of using a planning approach that identifies future risks to water resources systems based on a range of plausible future conditions, and working with stakeholders to evaluate options that minimize potential impacts in ways most suitable for all stakeholders involved.

This looks like standard due diligence boilerplate that is in most official reports (and should be in all of them). Since this is the core of her indictment, let’s examine it.

“Ultimately, future conditions at any particular time or place cannot be known exactly, given the current scientific understanding of potential future conditions.”

True. While global forecasts from models have some degree of accuracy (albeit still debated), regional forecasts remain problematic. There is much less validation of their skill.

“Likewise, it is important to recognize that the risks and impacts are the result {sic} of collective changes at a given location. Warming and increased carbon dioxide may increase plant water use efficiency, lengthen the agricultural growing season, but may also have adverse effects on snowpack and water availability.”

True. Climate changes create positive and negative effects, and both must be considered to produce accurate forecasts.

“These complex interactions underscore the importance of using a planning approach that identifies future risks to water resources systems based on a range of plausible future conditions, and working with stakeholders to evaluate options that minimize potential impacts in ways most suitable for all stakeholders involved.”

This is the consensus advice of reports by the IPCC and major climate agencies for at least two decades, as expressed in countless reports. She gives more of what she considers horrific evidence.

“The new documents show that, as early as September 2017, Mr. Goklany, newly appointed to the office of the deputy secretary, started directing scientists to add climate uncertainty language in agency reports.”

Tabuchi should read the reports of the IPCC. Every finding is expressed with a statement of confidence/uncertainty: very low, low, medium, high, and very high. That is a wise policy and good science. It has worked well for the IPCC

That Tabuchi finds these statements objectionable shows that she is deeply ignorant about the three decades of work by the IPCC and major climate agencies – or is a big-time science denier.

Office politics! Policy differences!

Tabuchi then reveals that some people in the Department did not like Goklany’s promotion. As if that is extraordinary. Not only are promotions often greeted by whines, this is especially so where the politics are fractious. People are policy. Promotions that advance one set of policies are often described as evil and ignorant by those who oppose those policies. That is life.

She then quotes many people who want aggressive policy action on climate change. They express dislike for Goklany’s adoption of policies standard for reports by the IPCC and in other fields (i.e., giving clear statements of uncertainty). That might not help their cause!

Conclusions

Nothing in Tabuchi’s articles support her claims of “climate denial” by Goklany. Rather, her own evidence shows that the aspects of it she quotes are in the best tradition of the IPCC and general good practice by government reports – and that the objections she quotes are based on policy differences. This is a disgraceful example of modern journalism. The NYT should issue a full retraction. But they probably won’t because their objective is propaganda – not journalism. This is why 38% of Americans had confidence in newspapers back in 1983 but only 23% today.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see an inspiring story about the young women who flew biplanes in WWI and lived in a barn: Ballad of the Unknown Pilot.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change, and especially these …

  1. The Extinction Rebellion’s hysteria vs. climate science.
  2. Climate activists attack climate science.
  3. After 30 years of failed climate politics, let’s try science! – A proposal to break the policy gridlock.
  4. The guilty ones preventing good policy about climate change.
  5. Toxic climate propaganda is poisoning US public policy.
  6. An obvious solution to the climate policy crisis.
  7. A demo showing our broken climate policy debate.
  8. Climate denial caused the losses from Australia’s fires.
Activists don’t want you to read these

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change

Available at Amazon.

55 thoughts on “Smears and science denial from the New York Times

  1. This is just an excellent article. I love that the concept of “denial” is finally being placed into a proper perspective. The way language is used matters.

    • Denial is the forcible non acceptance of a particular condition or state.

      I am not in denial. You guys are.

      Signed,
      A Jute, which means I am one of the original Danes. The rest of you are the damn migrants.

      • Dear Jute,
        My remarks were intended to commend Mr Kummer for juxtaposing the NYT article within his own, and demonstrating who is truly in denial. As to your definition of denial, for my part I can’t concur on the ‘forcible’ part of it. As we say where I come from, it is cunning and baffling. Original or not may you one day be Great.

      • David,

        “Denial is the forcible non acceptance of a particular condition or state.”

        I don’t understand what that sentence means, as it does not appear to have an actor. Who forces who?

        I can’t force myself. So I assume you mean that “denial is somebody forcing another to not accept a particular condition or state.” Which does not seem to make sense in the context of the climate policy debate.

        • David may be acting out against the poor education he received from an inferior government education.

          Studying the language we use communicate apparently is no longer part of the curriculum in many public school districts.

  2. Clearly, what Hiroko Tabuchi and the New York Times seem to object to in the article is that Indur Goklany refrains from using the demagogic language of climate hysteria. This is all.

    • NYTimes, CNN, MSNBC, the rantings of the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton, what difference does it make? If you read something in the newspaper or on the internet, see it on TV, or hear in a podcast, your reaction must be:

      “That is very interesting, I wonder if it is true.”

      Trusting your fellow man and believing what he says are social virtues, but you never want have someone say to you after the house of cards has collapsed:

      “And you believed them?”

  3. Reminds me of the old Mark Twain quote: If you don’t read the newspapers you’re uninformed. If you read the newspapers you’re misinformed.

    This is nothing less than another AGW Cultist/NYT propaganda piece.

    • Severian,

      Thanks for sharing that great Mark Twain quote!

      There is a difference between then and now. Until after WWII in the US, newspapers were boldly partisan. For a fun look at them, see “His Girl Friday” (1940), showing the strengths and weaknesses of that model.

      Now newspapers like the NYT are boldly partisan – but pretend to be neutral, a “newspaper of record.” It’s their hypocrisy which is detestable, imo.

      • At least the NYT is honest about their political strategy. Their operating strategy is in their motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.

        Thanks to the NYT and their MSM accomplices, our Democracy is on life support…and the attending physicians are all Climate Activists. What could go wrong?

  4. are we talking about the same IPCC that put policies in place that guaranteed China would increase their emissions many times over?…and we pay China to do that?

    …why, yes we are…..and they did

  5. From the article: “This is a disgraceful example of modern journalism.”

    It’s not honest journalism, it’s pure propaganda. They obviously are not trying to get the facts correct.

    The Leftwing Media is one big propaganda machine pushing the leftist agenda. Unfortunately, scolding them probably won’t change their behavior. But it never hurts to shine the light of truth on the subjects they distort for the others out in the wider world.

  6. by a reporter deep into science denial

    I hope it would be finally realized there are no “reporters/journalists” in the lame-stream media, and haven’t been for a long time. They are apparatchiks for the DNC (Dopacrapic National Corruption) & the liberal marxists. Just referring to them as reporters gives them credit that they haven’t deserved for a long time.

  7. I would recommend this article to all my NYTimes reading acquaintances but it would have no impact as their brainwashing is complete and they would view Kummer’s excellent analysis of Tabuchi’s yellow journalism, as right wing propaganda.

    Sadly, Tabuchi is preaching to the choir, and the NYTimes is the church elder that dictates the content of the sermons on Network and Cable new broadcasts. They use to orchestrate the conference call but it is all done using social media today. Its how we got to this sorry Orwellian state to begin with and the left wants its Department of Big Broth…aahhh Justice back. Along with the CIA, DHS and all the baby bureaucracy like Goklany’s Interior. They can’t direct the congregates and run a country without control of the Puppet Politicians. Dam that Trump.

  8. “our mad foreign wars”

    Nothing like completely discrediting yourself in your first sentence.

    According to the left, there is never any reason to oppose those who want to destroy the US.

    • Do you think going to war in Vietnam was a good idea too? Because the commies were coming for you?

      Sorry, that was all a lie that we were told. Why would you believe the politicians who take us to war?

      • If we hadn’t fought in Vietnam, all of Southeast Asia would have become communist.

        Anyone who doesn’t believe “the commies” were out to expand everywhere is either deliberately delusional or has never studied actual history.

        • True. Could have perhaps been dealt with much quicker and harsher. Perhaps President Truman should have heeded General Douglas MacArthur advice and confronted China directly before he was ‘relieved’ from the Korean War. Even more applicable should have been taking Winston Churchill’s Operation Unthinkable to fruition, about taking out Stalin and the USSR communism, even if it took a mini nuke like Hiroshima in 1945/46. Look that one up. Plus we should have fractured China’s Communism before Chairman Mao Zedong made it to Peking in 1949. If this perverted global socialism and communism had been rooted out at the end of WW2, we would have never had the problems we had so far, and the problems yet to come. Maybe I am being extreme, but sometimes you have take extreme measures to root out evil. It ain’t over til it’s over.

      • > Because the commies were coming for you?

        Comunism is an ideology developed in western modern world.

        Comies are not foreign concept that needs to ‘come for you’, they are here all the time and always will be.

        It can be compared to cancer cells. Every human body contains cancer cells trying to take over and kill you, but healthy body is able to defend itself. Cancer cells are not foreign objects, like bacteria or viruses, they are home-grown.

        First outburst of the illness was during the French revolution. Then the illness was actively injected by Germans in Russia, and took Russia down. Then Germans got ill (national socialism is, as any socialism, a left-wing revolutionary ideology), and get cured by firebombing.

  9. 10000 Maniacs. “If blood and lust are the candy we give them what they want” That should be the mast head of the NYT. Drool bucket wearing pseudo intellectuals blissfully submerged in their profound ignorance. Other than that I really like them. 🙂

  10. “…which provide critical habitat for spawning salmon and other wildlife.”

    It wasn’t always the case.
    Senators Boxer and Feinstein along with Rep. Pelosi redirected waters that were going to the Central CA Valley that allowing the growth of food for humans to the coast.

    Farms that were in operation for 100 years were lost.


  11. “The body of her article gives neither quotes or examples. She does not mention any sources for her information or even describe the basis for her claims”

    this is not a factual statement. The articles gives both sources (emails obtained from FIA) and quotes Goklany from both his emails and speeches…as as well quotes from other department employees carrying out his directives regarding language.

    please explain this discrepancy.

  12. Slowly but surely reality is bringing the climate scam crashing down around the Climate Hustlers. Decades of propaganda campaigns and multi-milliondollar dis-information ad buys and newspaper hucksterism can’t stop what the next 20 years will bring.
    It won’t happen in one fell swoop. The climate Gas lighting will die a death of a thousand cuts of truth.

    Like this:
    “It’s pretty much everywhere’: Iditarod mushers should prepare for deep snow, race officials say”

    “Iditarod race director Mark Nordman said the theme for this year’s sled dog race may be “patience” as teams navigate deep snow along much of the trail.”

    “In addition to snow over the next nearly 1,000 miles, Iditarod mushers will also likely encounter below-freezing temperatures, said Nordman, who has worked with the race for more than three decades.

    “I’ve seen this amount of snow over all my years with it in different areas, but it just seems like it’s pretty much everywhere,” he said.”
    Nordman said trail breakers on snowmachines have been busy this year cutting a trail through the snow, creating a trench for teams to travel on. A photograph of one of the trail breakers shows him standing in chest-deep snow in the area of the notorious Happy River steps between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass.

    “I think it’s just like if you were to get six feet of snow and you had to shovel a path to your house, that’s what we’re looking at right now,” Nordman said.”

    source: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/03/05/its-pretty-much-everywhere-iditarod-mushers-should-prepare-for-snow-and-lots-of-it-say-race-officials/

    Of course I know this is just one season’s weather in Alaska. But it also might signal that the Arctic has finally turned the corner, and headed back down for the next 20-30 years. That combined with a more likely prevalence of cooling La Nina’s for the tropical Pacific, and the climate scam may have finally run its course as nature shows she’s in charge, and not the pseudoscience of the IPCC’s climate model projections based on human biases. And whatever warmth we do get from anthropogenic-sourced CO2, it will be a welcome buffer against what could be several decades of crop-destroying, life threatening cold.

    • Joel:
      “It’s pretty much everywhere’: Iditarod mushers should prepare for deep snow, race officials say””

      Tell that to Muscovites.
      But of course it’s just Russian “steam pipes” (sarc).
      If you don’t know, they have recorded an average winter temperature above zero for the first time on record at 2.5C above the last record winter warmth and 7.5C above average.

      https://desdemonadespair.net/2020/03/winter-2019-2020-warmest-on-record-in-moscow-first-winter-to-average-above-freezing-temperature-milestones-set-across-europe-and-north-america-german-ice-wine-harvest-fails-for-f.html

      • Latitude matters.
        Anchorage, the southern start of the Iditarod, is about 61N.
        Moscow is about 55.5N
        The Arctic Polar Vortex has stayed mostly locked up this NH winter, Dec-Jan-Feb. It was just a few years ago Obama’s Fake-Science Advisor John Holdren was crowing about Polar Vortex excursions and their associated “wavy jet stream” (a meridonal flow) patterns. He was embracing a few studies that those were signs of Climate Change, and his way to explain why much of the Eastern US was freezing under repeated polar plunges.

        We can be sure of one thing when climate change believers invoke Climate Change to explain every possible observation/outcome, that is, it’s not science. It is a religion.

        • A faith, perhaps, deference to mortal gods, specifically a conflation of logical domains, and a noticeably Pro-Choice, selective, opportunistic religion.

        • “ Latitude matters”
          No it doesn’t where anomalies are concerned.

          The science comes from the IPCC, not from any “advisor”, fake or otherwise.
          Yes, the PV has been strong and unmoving this year, leading to a +ve AO/NAO throughout and so deep meridional excursions have not occurred.
          Just weather.
          But none the less, we have seen warmer temps (averaged hemispherically) than would have been the case for the same weather 30 years ago.

          And a religion requires no evidence.
          That is what science provides, evidence.
          That many here don’t believe the evidence is where “religion” comes in.

          • “No it doesn’t where anomalies are concerned.”

            I’ve seen stupid statements before, but you are working on a world record here.

            Are you actually trying to argue that if polar vortex changes, then none of the anomalies will change?

          • “But none the less, we have seen warmer temps (averaged hemispherically)”

            That’s the whole problem. Stop averaging intensive properties.

  13. The way “journalism” is practiced today one should be surprised when they actually name their “inside source”.

  14. Speaking of “misleading language,” the original NYT article states, “… millions of acres of farms in California’s agriculturally important Central Valley are supplied, in part, by the Klamath, …” According to Wipedia, “Despite its plentiful flow in California, the Klamath does not supply significant amounts of water to irrigators and municipal users in central and southern portions of the state.” So much for Tabuchi’s credibility.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klamath_River

      • Jeff,
        Wiki has its problems. However, what I quoted is what I expected to find because I spent something like 50 years living in California and I am familiar with northern California and in particular the Klamath and Trinity rivers. I was just providing something with a little more authority than “Because I say so.”

  15. I would like to know what {sic} means in this article? Normally it means Spelling Is Correct, but there is no spelling error in the quote. Presumable the hatchet lady has some other error in mind, but for the life of me, I can’t find any error in the statement.

    • “I would like to know what {sic} means in this article?”

      “sic” means an error faithfully reproduced. If you have an original news article for example and you cite it and the part you cite has a misspelling in it then you would add [sic] next to the misspelled word, rather than correcting the spelling and changing the original news article.

      You probably know that, and are asking how the “sic” above in the text of the article fits that category and I have to say I don’t know because I don’t see an error in the sentence in which it is used.

    • It is not necessarily a misspelled word. It can also denote a odd or erroneous phrasing or poor grammar.
      It denotes the phrase “intentionally so written”.
      Yeah, I do not see any spelling or grammatical errors either.

    • In order to say specifically, I would have to read it, which I will not do.
      But I can tell you the subject has come up many times on this site, and even a few times recently.
      The general sentiment is, that they are mentally ill, self important, poorly educated, illogical and overly emotional, as opposed to informed and suitably skeptical, to be a scientist, and in general worried about nothing and being sure that their delusions are reality.
      Other’s have marveled at how so many people are such good liars, they come to believe their own lies.

      • I guess that was kind of my point Nicholas. If they are so full of angst that they can barely function then how can they make decisions that affect policy and thereby all of us.

        I am looking forward to a time when scientists can once again practice truth and science.

        • “If they are so full of angst that they can barely function then how can they make decisions that affect policy and thereby all of us.”

          You know, if I were in that kind of mental state over a scientific question, the first thing I would do would be to look at the science to see if it is telling me the truth or not, whether I really have to worry or not.

          Obviously, these scientists did not do this basic, simple step, because if they had, they would realize just how shakey the ground is upon which rests the CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) speculation.

          You don’t even have to be a scientist to realize that what you are seeing from the whole of alarmist climate science is rampant speculation and not one fact establishing that CO2 is affecting the Earth’s atmosphere adversely, or even to the point of being detectable.

          These people are driving themselves nuts based on what someone else says. They are not thinking for themselves. It’s very easy to distinguish speculation from evidence. Yet these people don’t seem to be able to do this. Rather, they accept claims that scare them to death without challenge.

          What if CAGW was all a delusion? Wouldn’t that be lovely? It is! Wake up and look around!

          Can you imagine someone quivering in the corner over this CO2 boogeyman?

          I hate to say it, but it appears a large proportion of the human population is very easily led into believing almost anything, without challenge. That’s why it is so insidious that the Left has control of our national news medias, who presume to speak for society, and who many think do speak for society. And that’s where they go wrong.

          • Tom Abbott

            “”I hate to say it, but it appears a large proportion of the human population is very easily led into believing almost anything, without challenge.””

            It is what it appears.

            To make believe is easy. It´s done before a bit smaller scale in Germany by Joseph Goebbels “Guide to propaganda”. Today we have whole world open with internet and social media. Propaganda is everywhere all the time, every day, year after year. It works because no one ask questions. People are nuts because they don´t think. Thinking is so old fashion today. And when people stop thinking the door is open to propaganda.

            Check Yuri Bezmenov in youtube, where he explain how easy it is.

  16. Mods, I have a couple or three of comments from earlier today in moderation.
    Thank you,

  17. I don’t think we can call the IPCC a climate science institution. It’s entire existence is for the purpose of blaming humans for climate change.

Comments are closed.