24 September 2009

Joe Romm: Lukewarmer

Every once in a while amid Joe Romm's name-calling and doomsaying, he says a bit too much. In this case Chip Knappenberger takes Joe to task for offering up a very weak bet on future global temperature change for the 2010s. Remarkably, the terms of Joe's bet fall below the range projected by 87% of the IPCC models, indicating that Joe thinks that the IPCC has overestimated warming, which is inconsistent with Joe's frequent statements to the contrary. Nothing like some numbers to cut through the verbiage.

Here is what Chip has to say:
So, instead of [Joe Romm] offering up something on the namby-pamby side of things (which seems to run counter to his character), he ought to put something strong and confident out on the table—at least a bet that the 2010s will minimally average 0.25°C above the past decade’s average temperature, but even more impressive would be 0.30° or 0.35°C.

Come to think of it, if he really believes the “doubled” warming projections from the MIT study that his is so keen on touting, he ought to man-up and proffer a 0.50°C average temperature rise during the next decade as a reasonable 50-50 value. That would certainly cement his reputation as a true believer.

Offering anything less, would indicate that Joe really isn’t all that convinced that global warming is going to progress at rate leading to “unmitigated catastrophe.” Offering to bet on a 0.15°C rise is more like something I would put up (if I were the betting sort)!

So is Romm a closet “lukewarmer?” Or is he starting to become a bit worried that global warming is being a bit overblown? He has already reversed course to endorse a very weak climate bill (Waxman-Markey, what James Hansen called a “monstrosity”) as “the only game in town.” Perhaps he is unwittenly softening his physical science view as reality too.

So here’s a challenge to Joe (‘I’m-right-you’re-wrong’) Romm: will you offer a global warming alarmism bet instead of a ‘global lukewarming’ one? Will you walk your scary talk?

Romm has painted himself into a corner (and not for the first time). Will he escape with silence or bluster? Or will he actually walk his talk? The climate corner of the blogosphere awaits his monumental decision. Meantime, it is just a bit embarassing to be caught out as being so inconsistent.


  1. Sent in by email:


    Both you and Chip are placing the 'emphasis on the wrong syllable'.

    With business as usual, a trend of +1.5ºC/century is still an
    "unmitigated catastrophe" – only it will take a bit longer.

    Despite Joe's occasional bungling, his message has consistently been
    that we have to change the way we're doing business.

    And although you seem to often 'hide' it, that appears to be your
    position, as well.

    Len Ornstein


  2. Len--
    But Joe criticize Roger and calls him a "delayer/ denier" even though Roger a) believes in action and b) just doesn't seem to think Joe's vision of warming on the uber-high end of any projections by anyone anywhere are necessarily correct.

    I honestly can't see what point (whether rhetorical or other) Joe was trying to make with this bet. What we do know is he is willing to take the high side of a bet with a lower bound well below the multi-model mean trend projected by the IPCC. This is supposed to show Andy Revkin how wrong he was about... what?

  3. Three thoughts Len,

    First, if predictions of climate sensitivity (which according to mainstream scientific opinion we have "nailed") are off by a factor of 2 or 4, what kind of confidence should we have in a climate policy that is based on predictions of societal and technological evolution, about which mainstream science has no consensus outside of acknowledging the general difficulty of predicting such things?

    Second, six degrees by 2100 is a sufficiently serious threat over a sufficiently short time horizon that it is plausible that (despite the uncertainties) a failure to act now could have grave consequences.

    Six degrees by 2400 is an utterly insignificant threat because we can not even begin to imagine the condition of the human race (if there is one) in such a distant future. Certainly wait and see is a reasonable approach in such a scenario.

    Finally, a trend four times as small is more than four times less serious for several reasons:

    1. A slower rate of change makes adaptation (by both humans and the environment) significantly less traumatic.

    2. Greenhouse forcing is logarithmic. One fourth as much warming by 2100 does not mean it will take four times as long. It means that the total amount of warming that will happen (all things being equals is one fourth as large). And of course the consequences of climate change are a non-linear function of the change in temperature.

    3. One fourth as much total warming does not mean one fourth as much anthropogenic warming. If there were only 1.5 degrees of warming by the end of the century, natural climate variability might plausibly represent a far more significant portion of that warming than is likely to be the case if temperatures increase by six degrees (In which case natural variability can reasonably be discounted as a material contributor.)

  4. ya know with all the CO2 that is being taxed and capped and sequestered in Euro land how come none of the warmers are claiming victory with our cooling?

  5. Hi,

    Here are the comments that Joe Romm doesn't want you to see! :-) (He deleted them from his blog.)

    "So the planet can warm, say, 0.2°C next decade — just as it warmed 0.2°C this decade, using NASA’s data, which is probably the best — and still warm 5°C this century, if we don’t act quickly to reverse emissions trends. That said, I am expecting the planet to warm more than 0.2°C next decade, particularly if there is not a major volcano."

    "Yes, the planet CAN warm 5°C in the century, even after only warming less than 0.5°C in the first 20 years of the century. Just Tim Jeter CAN raise his lifetime batting average 10 points in the remainder of his career. But the question is, WILL that happen? If you don’t quote odds, you’re essentially not making any claim.

    The NASA GISS global land and sea anomaly will most likely be 0.51 deg C for 2000-2009.

    What is your prediction for the *most likely* temperature anomaly each decade from 2000 to 2100 (i.e., the temperature anomaly for which there is a 50 percent chance of the actual rise being less, and a 50 percent chance of the temperature anomaly being more)?

    Decade.........NASA GISS Anomaly (deg. C)

    2000 – 2009.......0.51
    2010 – 2019.......????
    2020 – 2029.......????
    2030 – 2039.......????
    2040 – 2049.......????
    2050 – 2059.......????
    2060 – 2069.......????
    2070 – 2079.......????
    2080 – 2089.......????
    2090 – 2099.......????

    I've always wondered if Joe Romm really believed any of his scary predictions. Apparently not.