01 May 2012

The NYT Puts the Hit On

UPDATE 5/3: At Dot Earth Andy Revkin has this to say about the article discussed in this post:
The Lindzen focus is a distraction, to my mind. Anyone thinking that the erosion of Lindzen’s credibility will somehow build societal enthusiasm for cutting greenhouse gas emissions is probably overly optimistic.
Spot on.

The New York Times has an article today ostensibly about clouds but which is really an extended hit piece on Richard Lindzen, a professor at MIT, member of the US National Academy of Sciences and well known climate skeptic.

Below I have excerpted a laundry list of phrases in the article used to describe Lindzen:
  • Leading proponent of the view that clouds will save the day
  • Has drawn withering criticism
  • Errors in his papers
  • Proof is lacking
  • Obliged [politicians] by assuring them that they are running no risks by refusing to enact emissions limits
  • Contrarian scientist
  • Gone beyond any reasonable reading of the evidence to provide a dangerous alibi for inaction
  • Wrong science
  • [Not] intellectually honest at all
  • Contrarian scientist
  • Methods he had used to analyze data were flawed
  • His theory made assumptions that were inconsistent with known facts
  • Most mainstream researchers consider Dr. Lindzen’s theory discredited
  • He routinely misrepresents the work of other researchers
  • Dr. Lindzen offers little hint of how thin the published science supporting his position is
  • He makes what many colleagues see as an unwarranted leap of logic
  • Deeply unprofessional and irresponsible
This is "advocacy journalism" -- it is not reporting, as there is absolutely no news in the piece. Two years ago the Boston Globe did a very similar story on Lindzen for its Lifestyle section, which covered the same ground, but as a profile rather than as hit job.

Whatever one thinks about the climate change debate or Richard Lindzen, is it a good idea for the New York Times to engage in an over-the-top attack on a member of the National Academy of Sciences? Journalists, what do you think?


  1. Your dad also had posted a note on his blog about a paper on clouds. It compared the satellite measurement of cloud fraction to the predicted cloud fraction from GCM's. The models did not did a lousy job. http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/a-new-article-total-cloud-cover-from-satellite-observations-and-climate-models-by-probst-et-al-2012/ Personnay, I scaned the NY Times but read your dad's carefully. I think I learned a lot more that way.

  2. A telling quote from his NY Times profile

    I was covering genetics and biotechnology for The Washington Post at the time, so I was thinking I was going to study biology and educate myself in the field I was covering.

    That thing in front of the horse is called 'the cart'.

    In any case, Justin took a few courses in science on a one-year fellowship at MIT, so I can't imagine what problem you see in his demeaning the scientific work of a National Academy member.

    Quibbling about the writing; chemists really didn't prove the greenhouse effect in the 19th century; it was proposed at the very end of the century, and remained controversial well into the 20th.

  3. Hello Roger,

    Your position on this article, and your selection of quotes is perplexing. In fact, I think you are being disingenuous here, especially after your recent scathing piece on Justin Gillis.

    Many of the quotes you provide above do in fact have a basis in reality. Maybe you should listen more carefully to what Lindzen says on public radio or when he speaks to select audiences. Just one recent example, have you already forgotten about him accusing NASA of fudging the numbers based on, as it happens, a faulty graphic that he uncritically sourced from a fake skeptic blog?

    It will take me some time, but I am happy to provide supporting evidence to as many of the above quotes as is possible. You have listed "contrarian scientist" twice by the way.

    It strikes me odd that you elect to refer to a journalist calling a spade a spade and calling Lindzen on some of his antics as an example of alleged "activist journalism" or as an "over-the-top attack" on him or as a "hit job". Please stop being so melodramatic and engaging in hyperbole.

    Also, to many, the revelations in the article will come as news (disturbing and inconvenient news even to some). So the article is newsworthy.

    Finally, just because Lindzen is a member of the NAS, it doesn't mean that he is beyond critique or reproach for his missteps. The same applies to your dad, who is a fellow of the AGU.

  4. Look over the articles written by Justin Gillis. He's not a journalist he's a campaigner.

    Are you going to look at Mexico's alternative energy plans?

  5. -3-Albatross

    Thanks for your comment, let me try to make this simple ... for the purposes of our discussion, let me grant the truth of each one of the statements I excerpted. That is not the point of this post. I actually am not to interested in academic disputes between faculty members, I can see that live;-)

    More to the point ...

    Since when is it appropriate for a major newspaper to attack an individual scientist? Where is the news here?

    Can you give me another example of a major newspaper doing anything similar?

    Sure, you expect this sort of thing from Climate Progress or Real Climate, but seriously, the NYT?

    Anyway, I'd welcome another example of a similar hit job, from the NYT or other major media. Thanks!

  6. "That Professor Goddard, with his "chair" in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react -- to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.

    "But there are such things as intentional mistakes or oversights, and, as it happens, Jules Verne, who also knew a thing or two in assorted sciences -- and had, besides, a surprising amount of prophetic power -- deliberately seems to make the same mistake that Professor Goddard seems to make. For the Frenchman, having got his travelers to or toward the moon into the desperate fix riding a tiny satellite of the satellite, saved them from circling it forever by means of an explosion, rocket fashion, where an explosion would not have had in the slightest degree the effect of releasing them from their dreadful slavery. That was one of Verne's few scientific slips, or else it was a deliberate step aside from scientific accuracy, pardonable enough of him in a romancer, but its like is not so easily explained when made by a savant who isn't writing a novel of adventure."

    Lindzen is in good, I would say illustrious, company.

  7. I think the most remarkable thing in all this - in my 7 years since I started my blog (since retired) in the reading of hundreds of thousands of words in thousands of articles.
    Pielke the Younger may well be the closest commentator to Portia (the NYT people can google it).
    He / you was/were clearly on the side of what we would now term as alarmists.
    Certainly a sceptic of the sceptics and there was a lot of tension with your father.
    Now you are most often a critic of the alarmists.

  8. Another eaten by blogger from Albatross:

    "Hello Roger,

    I'm sorry but you are arm waving here and flinging mud in the hopes that some of it sticks. Or maybe you are just feeding your fake skeptic readers fodder. Who knows what your game plan is...

    "Since when is it appropriate for a major newspaper to attack an individual scientist? "

    There you go with the hyperbole again, and you are making a strawman argument. Since when it considered an "attack" or a "hit job" for a journalist to point out someone's transgressions, by a scientist or not? This might be your biased perspective, but it is not at all consistent with reality. Also, there is nothing, IMO, wrong with a newspaper drawing attention to the actions of a corrupt politician, business person, or even a scientist who has engaged in questionable or unethical actions so long as there is sufficient evidence to support the claims. There is abundant evidence that Lindzen is guilty of some questionable behaviour, including questionable and dubious science--even you do not seem to dispute that fact.

    You ask "Can you give me another example of a major newspaper doing anything similar?"
    Surely you jest Roger? Maybe you should have done some research of your own before asking that question. Where does one even begin to answer such a ridiculous question? First, you seem to be applying a double standard. Where was your outrage when the Washington Post recently published two open letters (of which one of the signatories was Lindzen) in which they made disparaging and unsubstantiated allegations against their peers, including several other fallacious or misleading statements?

    Second, you have also seem to have forgotten about how the Fox network has a propensity to slander and defame reputable climate scientists. I am more than prepared to back that up with some links.

    Third, there are also examples from the Daily Mail and the Telegraph in the UK making misleading and misinformed and even false statements about credible/respected climate scientists. There are other examples from the Canadian and Australian mainstream print media too-- for example, the National Post in Canada is (rightly) being sued for libel by Dr. Weaver for making numerous false, defamatory and libelous statements about him. Again, I can provide links.

    What is your argument going to be now? Well, just because they did it does not make it right? Or they are not mainstream enough. Me thinks thou protest far too much.

    You also claim "Sure, you expect this sort of thing from Climate Progress or Real Climate, but seriously, the NYT?" That is a cheap shot and a poor attempt by you to defame the climate scientists at RC-- scientists who have all to frequently (and unjustly) been the victims of defamatory and slanderous assertions by certain elements in the business friendly media.

    In closing, you seem very confused at the difference between making false and unsubstantiated accusations by the media against reputable climate scientists, and making defensible and substantiated statements of fact as Gillis has done."

  9. -8-Albatross

    Thanks ... my question to you stands unanswered:

    "Can you give me another example of a major newspaper doing anything similar?"

    Based on your reply, can I assume that you answer is that you are unaware of any such precedent?


  10. Hello Roger,

    I respectfully ask you to please not play games here. Having to repeat statements, as you are requesting me to do, becomes tiresome.

    Please read my post again and do some of your own research. I gave you a very explicit example of Mr. Terence Corcoran from the National Post repeatedly "attacking" Dr. Andrew Weaver. I also gave you the specific example of the Washington Post that implicated Lindzen and his associates defaming climate scientists.

    Let me remind you that you also asked "I'd welcome another example of a similar hit job, from the NYT or other major media". Note you said "other major media", I gave the example of Fox News.

    You ask "Based on your reply, can I assume that you answer is that you are unaware of any such precedent?"
    Quite the strawman there. Ignore what I say to the contrary and then attempt to argue a strawman.

    Sadly, what is not without precedent is the unfortunate tendency for certain media outlets and journalists to engage on a vendetta against respected climate scientists and the discipline as a whole. What does not receive nearly enough attention in the mainstream media is the propensity of fake skeptics like Lindzen to repeatedly misinform, distort and to even go so far as to falsely accuse his peers of engaging in scientific misconduct.

  11. There's another, and far more basic, problem with the article, and that's the assertion that clouds are somehow the last desperate gasp of climate skeptics. Water vapor is, and has always been, the major uncertainty in AGW. No serious scientist in the last half century has disputed the direct greenhouse effect of CO2. The water feedback, on the other hand, has always been uncertain, and continues to be. To claim that something can be between 2F and 8F but absolutely can't be 1F or 0F strains the credulity of any serious scientist.

  12. Correction. When it was the Wall Street Journal who recently published the letter by Lindzen et al, not the Washington Post. My apologies.

  13. -10-Albatross

    Opinion columns and letters to the editor are not news stories, sorry.

  14. One key sentence in the NYT story lacks a link.

    Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

    Note that "polls" is plural. I know that there is one polls where 97% of working climate scientists agree that the earth has warmed over the last 50 years. That's a far cry from thinking it's a serious risk.

    Can someone fill me in on what these other polls say? Do they all really say 97%?

    By the way, anything less than the exact wording of the questions would not be very informative.

  15. Hello Roger,

    You can choose to believe (on your blog at least) that the mainstream media pushing misinformation by Lindzen and Singer et al is not newsworthy or does not refute your naive question. But that of course does not change the reality; additionally it is an attempt by you to shift the goal posts.

    Regardless, you have not acknowledged the goings on at the National Post, the Financial Post and Fox news, to mention but a few. There is also this rather shameful example from the Daily Mail and the examples discussed herein. Or how about this article by James Delingpole in The Telegraph in which he slanders and defames Dr. Muller and climate scientists? I quote:

    ""The planet has been warming," says a new study of temperature records, conducted by Berkeley professor Richard Muller. I wonder what he'll be telling us next: that night follows day? That water is wet? That great white sharks have nasty pointy teeth? That sheep go "baaaa"?"

    "Here's the money quote from a ramblingly disingenuous piece he wrote in The Wall Street Journal..."

    "And you can trust me: I'm not a climate scientist. What I am is someone eminently more qualified to deconstruct the semantic skullduggery going on here: a student of language, rhetoric and grade one bullshit."

    "Morano also, incidentally, has links to all those scientists – Pielke Snr, Lubos Motl, et al – pouring cold water on Muller's ludicrous claims."

    "What is going on is exactly the kind of utterly reprehensible dishonesty and trickery I anatomise more thoroughly in Watermelons. The Warmists lost the battle over "the science" long ago...."

    "Richard Muller has crassly fudged this distinction to make a point which has nothing to do with science and everything to do with gutter politics."

    I could do this all night Roger, there are many more examples, it is just a question of finding the time to find and post them. You asked the question, it was answered. By trying to disappear that, or shift the goal posts, you are not doing yourself or your credibility any favours.

    I realize that by failing to think this through you have dug yourself in a deep hole and it may be uncomfortable for you to now eat crow (as your dad had to do earlier this week), but one would hope that is what a self-proclaimed honest broker as you would do.

  16. -15-Albatross

    Thanks ...

    Again, you have focused on opinion (Adam, Delingpole), not news. And the Daily Mail? In comparison to the NYT?? ;-)

    Keep trying! Thanks ...

  17. Hello Roger,

    Well, you do keep shifting the goal posts Roger and have now descended into arguing semantics so as to try and save face.

    "And the Daily Mail? In comparison to the NYT?? ;-)"
    Additionally, according to the World Association of Newspapers the Daily Mail has a circulation of over two million, the third largest circulation of any English language newspaper. By comparison, the NYT has a circulation of just over 1 million. You have again failed to do your research before typing ;)

    Two words, National Post. You can read (but I doubt you will) the statement of claim by Dr. Weaver. That includes multiple inconvenient examples that you keep ignoring ;) That you continue to do so is very telling.

    Regarding, "Keep trying! Thanks ..."
    Feel free to continue deluding your self if you have to.... ;)

    Good night.

    PS: I have not referred to "Adam" on this thread. Only you have.
    PPS: I'm glad we agree that Delingpole writes opinion and not facts. Although I suspect many of your readers cheer him on regardless, and perhaps even you and your dad in private?

  18. Hello Roger,

    Oh, I see now who you were referring to when you said "Adam", you meant Dr. David Adam from The Guardian. Actually, that piece was not an opinion piece. From the link I provided,

    "This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 16.47 GMT on Monday 11 January 2010. A version appeared on p8 of the Main section section of the Guardian on Tuesday 12 January 2010."

    So you are incorrect when you say "you have focused on opinion (Adam, Delingpole), not news"
    Nowhere, to my knowledge, is it stated that Adam's article was an opinion piece, and nor does The Guardian cite it as such. In fact, his article appeared in a section titled "UK news".

    FYI, Adam has a PhD in chemical engineering and has worked for the journal Nature.

  19. Roger,

    Congratulations on the new troll!

    Albatross, could you explain what you mean by "fake skeptic?"

    This sort of "news" is all the rage these days. The WSJ's James Taranto had a running gag about the AP's "Accountability Journalism," which was a cover for pushing opinion pieces as straight news. Of course, the worst are the so-called fact check columns.

    If anything, I'd say that news has gotten back to its original partisan ways (did it ever really leave?). The only difference is that we're no longer fooling ourselves into believing that the reporters are giving us some sort of neutral objective version of the news. And subtlety has been expelled.

    The WSJ is interesting, as left vs right studies seem to find that their news reporting is more liberal than others, while their opinion and editorial pieces are much more conservative.

  20. It seems like someone should point out that Andrew Weaver is the guy who coined the phrase Abrupt Climate Change, that his theory, based entirely on climate models, forecasted the abrupt halt to the gulf stream due to multiple feedbacks of "fresh water" changing the salt content of the North Atlantic.
    Movie buffs might recall Weaver's science as illustrated in The Day After Tomorrow. And later in a cartoon segment from Al Gore's AIT.

    First of all Weaver forgets that fresh water run off is where the salt originates, dissolved by rainwaters slight acidity and transported to recharge the ocean.

    Second the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (his term for the Gulf Stream) is driven by wind and the gravitational pull of the rotating Earth. It does not halt for greenhouse gasses or care about climate model outputs.

    It is absolutely insensitive to temperature changes.

    Unless exhaustively documented truth is no longer a defense against quasi governmental harassment libel suits, Weaver would have lost.

    He doesn't know a goddam thing about the climate, and that's provable.

  21. @16. Roger, The Daily Mail has twice the circulation of the NYT. If the NYT is a major newspaper, so is The Daily Mail.

  22. It seems to me that the predictions of catastrophe are getting milder while the attacks on climate skeptics are getting harsher.

    "In the high projection, some polar regions could heat up by 20 or 25 degrees Fahrenheit — more than enough, over centuries or longer, to melt the Greenland ice sheet, raising sea level by a catastrophic 20 feet or more. Vast changes in rainfall, heat waves and other weather patterns would most likely accompany such a large warming."

    So, "over centuries or longer". The ones who were trying hard to worry about the year 2100 are now trying even harder to worry about 2200 and later. We already have the technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. And we don't think it will become easier and cheaper in 200 years?

  23. A few quick comments ...

    I'm not interested in debating the relative equivalency of NYT and DM .. The National Enquirer has a circulation just a bit less than the NYT. I hold the NYT to a bit higher standard, others may not.

    Papertiger, please be civil.

    Thanks all!

  24. Roger:
    The Gillis article is appalling. I agree with you that it is a hit piece. The article totally fails to address in any reasonable way the substance and limitations of Lindzen's recent papers. It is badly written demogoguery. I am still stunned by the following gem: "Scientists use sophisticated computer programs to forecast future climate, but the computers are not yet powerful enough to predict the behavior of individual clouds across the whole earth over a century, which forces the researchers to use rough approximations." This is wierdly incoherent.

  25. -24-Bernie

    Indeed, that sentence jumped out to me as well. The article, and accompanying blog post, seem to argue that if only the deniers were finally defeated, emisssions would be capped. Nonsense.

  26. 11. The Right Wing Professor...

    I thought along similar lines. In addition to clouds and water vapour in general, there are many other unresolved questions. Ocean heat uptake and the unreconciled global energy budget (i.e. "missing heat")is another important example. The assertion that clouds are a last bastion of sceptics is unsupportable.

    Beyond some broad generalities, the future impact of co2 emissions is very uncertain. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a "fake sceptic" in my book. This would include both "deniers" and "alarmists".

  27. Hello Roger,

    You say "I'm not interested in debating the relative equivalency of NYT and DM"

    May I remind you that you brought up that issue. I simply checked your assertion.

    Sad that Apparently according to some of your readers, anyone who dares to challenge you is a "troll". Nice.

    The point though is that the article by Gillis is not unprecedented, from from it . Are you going to now finally acknowledge that fact, as well as the indefensible goings on at the National Post and Daily Mail, for example?

    Do you not agree that journalists should be much more diligent in exposing/highlighting the bad behaviour and factually incorrect claims made by "skeptics" and those who deny the theory of AGW? The media (rightly) covered the Himalayan gaff, so why not cover the multitude of gaffs made by high profile "skeptics" such as Lindzen?

    Roger, using your logic and methodology from the OP, this article by Adam about Dr. Phil Jones would be considered by you to be a "hit piece", an "over-the-top attack" or "advocacy journalism". Where was your incredulity and outrage on 15 February 2010? Some select quotes from the Adam article:

    --he did not follow correct procedures over a key scientific paper
    --"not acceptable" that records underpinning a 1990 global warming study have been lost
    --not best practice
    --he did not know this
    --considered suicide over the controversy
    --stood down as director of the Climatic Research Unit

    I find your bias and one-sided skepticism astounding Roger. Apparently the apple does not fall far from the tree...

  28. -27-Albatross

    Thanks, but please, no need for snide insults, let's just converse.

    Ultimately, it appears that on this issue we will have to agree to disagree.

    1. I do not accept that Adam's piece is a "hit piece" -- it was a news story about the unfolding UEA emails (indeed your own excerpts bear this out)

    2. I do not see the NYT and DM as equivalent, sorry

    3. I do not believe that journalists should be in the business of trying to discredit scientists who are not on their political side

    In the end, we have both had our say, and apparently no minds were changed. No worries.

    Thanks for engaging ...

  29. -27- Albatross,

    I challenge Roger all the time, as do others whom I would not classify as trolls. You're the one who is trying to defend the article presented by Roger with logical fallacies and name calling.

    Your perception of Roger's bias and one-sided skepticism just shows that you haven't read much of Roger's work, and it shows.

  30. I agree with Roger - the NYT article was advocacy, not journalism. Plain and simple it makes Lindzen look like a lone crank, which will confirm the expectations of many NYT readers who are already die hard alarmists. Is this how we want one of the worlds leading news organizations handling this issue?

    Maybe I need to read the article again but I didn't see any mention of other "Skeptics" that have been involved in cloud research like Kirby at CERN and Hans Svensmark (who was the first one to come up with the sun/cosmic ray/cloud connection). The journalist writing the article may be ignorant of these other scientists work, but leaving it out creates a seriously false impression. This fact alone is bad journalism. A good journalist would have done enough digging to find out that Lindzen was not some wacked out loner and at least mentioned others investigating related science (even if he is currently holding a minority view). It's also interesting how we close with a quote from Emanuel trumpeting the end of civilization line of Al Gore. A statement carefully chosen to lead NY Times readers down the correct path?

  31. -30-reasonabledoubtclimate

    Thanks, good point.

    I just did a Google Scholar search on clouds + "climate change" since 2010, and got 16,900 results.

    A search on clouds + "climate change" + Lindzen gets 305 results.

  32. Roger,
    The Times piece is an execrable exercise in character assassination, but I for one quit expecting "objective journalism" on the topic a long time ago. If anything, such a piece demonstrates the desperation felt among the CAGW cult, who read polling data which finds that most people don't believe the hockey schtick, or just don't care one way or the other.

  33. Blooger does not like Albatross for some reason, keeps losing his comments (I resist a comment at this point;-) Here is his final offering, Albatross, thanks for stopping by!

    "Hello Roger,

    You say "I do not accept", you say "I do not believe", sorry, but that does not sound like someone who is engaging with an open mind.

    Also, you see to to be running away after being presented with evidence that refutes your position. Why are you so reluctant to discuss the goings on at the National Post? It would be very unfortunate if you did not find the vendetta that Corcoran and some of his colleagues mounted against Weaver very troubling and very much a "hit job" (in fact, there were multiple "hit jobs"). Especially after reading your point three above.

    You seem to have (intentionally?) missed the point of me providing Adam's article on Jones. But I can't be bothered to waste more time stating the obvious, the point will not be lost of those perusing this thread with an open mind.

    You might choose to believe that The Daily Mail and the NYC are not equivalent, but you are now in the realm of opinion, not facts, and the facts do not support your belief. Regardless, the point is moot and irrelevant, because in your post @5 above you request an example from a "major newspaper". Or do you now wish to now argue that a paper with a circulation of over 2 million is not a "major newspaper"?

    "I do not believe that journalists should be in the business of trying to discredit scientists who are not on their political side."
    This is another strawman argument made by you, and one that you have provided no evidence whatsoever to support that allegation, other than your skewed interpretation of the facts.

    But regardless, in light of your third point above, I do hope to now see you go on the record and condemn the campaign by the National Post to discredit Dr. Andrew Weaver; it is well known that the National Post are very sympathetic to the right-wing. What do you say?

    Finally, odd that you believe that this exchange is about changing minds. I thought it was about getting the facts right and answering your question, and perhaps hoping that a self-proclaimed honest broker would behave as such and admit error. It is very unfortunate that you cannot bring yourself to do that Roger.


  34. Roger,

    "Blooger does not like Albatross for some reason, keeps losing his comments"

    It must be my large wingspan, too big for the intertubes ;)


    PS: Does it not make you cringe Roger when your readers/supporters post things like "CAGW cult" and "hockey schtick"? I hope so.

  35. Roger,

    I forgot to thank you for posting my posts. Thanks a bunch!

  36. -34-Albatross

    Thanks ... actually I cringe when people write of my own work: "self-proclaimed honest broker" when I have said quite the opposite ;-) Individuals are not well served to play the role of "honest brokers" . . .

  37. Dick has had a quarter century in which to persuade his colleagues that he is right, and they are wrong on the overall impact of clouds on radiative equilibrium.

    He has failed to do so. and his continuing inability to win converts, either in the NAS, or literally down the hall at MIT speaks for itself.

    Much as climate hype remains a bipartisan problem, Dick's shift in rhetorical emphasis, from claiming that something can't happen, to maintaining that it won't be catastrophic, cannot overcome the sad fact that a continuous drip of peer review has reduced him from interesting outlier to predictable bore in the space of the last decade.

  38. Why, Roger, it was only a few weeks ago that the Grey Lady repented of her partisan sins and assert that, from now on she would print only unassailably unbiased pieces.

    How dare you suggest otherwise!

  39. Ultimately the lack of tropospheric warming, the lack of stratospheric cooling and the "missing heat" in the ocean will have to be noticed by the press. The "team" will adjust the obs, blame aerosols and and talk lies about the capabilities of models but the observations already prove Lindzen correct.

    Scientific consensus was never an easy ship to turn though. Those who have spent half their career teaching apocalyptic fairy tales find it difficult to accept they were wrong.

    The contrarains who predicted the financial crisis were just as vilified and just as correct.

  40. 38,

    That's one of the funniest things I've ever read. Dick's colleagues swallowed the bizarre piece of garbage by Charles Monnett on polar bears. Any people brain-dead stupid enough to accept that study aren't going to add much credibility as evaluators of quality science.

    Oh, and they are the same bunch of colleagues who accepted the hockey stick. In fact, they accepted it without even bothering to check it. Overturning decades of knowledge from a wealth of different academic disciplines on the 'strength' of one study which didn't address why all that knowledge was wrong. And which turned out to be incompetent in the extreme. Yep, those colleagues sure know quality when they see it.

    And Rahmstorf's "worse than we thought" fiasco -- they sure fell for that silly trash. That making up pretend data for the future to 'smooth' into the real data of the past sure is a useful scientific trick. Just oozes credibility. The colleagues loved it.

    And the Steig joke, Jones' UHI study with fraudulent data, and Briffa's magic six sigma tree. Gotta admit, the quality of the important studies embraced by those colleagues really stands out.

    If only Lindzen was the kind of quality scientist who could produce data showing extraordinary warming in the Arctic without the need for actual temperature measurements. Now that's the way to impress the colleagues!

    You are right about one thing -- Lindzen sure isn't producing the kind of work that those colleagues find appealing.

  41. The predictions of AGW have failed the test of time. Warming was much greater during the 1930's than in the 1975-1999 period, and the cooling of the past 15 years defies the climate models. While CO2 increased at a higher rate than models predicted, warming has increased at half of the lowest model predicted rate. In fact, warming has continued at the same rate for the past 300 years. The lack of sea level rise acceleration also fails the test of time. The current rate of rise would have to immediately increase by a factor of seven times and remain at that level for 87 years to satisfy the model predictions. Or increase by a factor of 28 to meet Al Gore's and James Hansen's predictions.
    Who's right? Who's wrong?
    Time will tell.

  42. 19. MattL said...

    Albatross, could you explain what you mean by "fake skeptic?"

    Albatross didn't answer your question. I can't speak for him, of course, but I can add some possibly relevant information.
    I first encountered the term 'fake sceptic' from Tamino's blog, in the entry: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/skeptics-real-or-fake/
    I understood that he coined the term.
    Since then, he has used it repeatedly, and is now using it in circumstances where others on his side use 'denier'. This is a usage that leaves me nonplussed. At least in abandoning 'denier' he is being less contemptible than those who insist on the term, yet how much credit can you give one who is still looking to insult those who disagree with him?

  43. Having listened to some of Prof Lindzen's speeches and read some of his more populist articles, this attack on him leaves out 2 things. First, it omits one of his favourite words "feedbacks". Second it leaves out the scale of the difference. Lindzen claims agreement with mainstream scientists that a doubling of CO2, on its own, would raise temperatures by around 1.2 celsius. Whereas Lindzen claims evidence that cloud "feedbacks" more than halve the impact, the consensus of climate models such positive feedbacks of up to three times - with wide variation. The evidence supporting this is patchy, a message implicitly admitted in the article. The lack of substantiation in this key area is crucial. If makes the extreme warming claims uncertain. If one the looks at the expected economic costs of “doing nothing” (like the Stern Review) this uncertainty in the projections should carry a risk weighting.

  44. It is interesting that "Albatross" appears to have accepted as gospel truth all the elements of Andrew Weaver's statement of claim against Terence Corcoran and the National Post; however (to the best of my knowledge), they have not yet been proven in court.

    To my mind, anyone who would proclaim (as Weaver did in 2007) that AR4 would show that climate change is a "barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles" is someone whose claims of defamation(and/or statements thereof)should be taken with a very hefty grain of salt - if not very healthy dose of skepticism.

    I also find it somewhat ironic that part of the "remedy" Weaver seeks is that the NP “assist” him in “obtaining the removal of electronic copies” of the alleged defamatory statements.

    Yet, Weaver, himself (albeit via counsel who, if I’m not mistaken, is duty-bound to act on his client’s instructions), has chosen not only to draw attention to his suit (by widely circulating a Press Release), but also to ensure that the alleged defamations are further (if not more widely) circulated by virtue of his choice to make them public – and electronically available to all and sundry!

    In short, in order to detract from the shameful and shameless advocacy and smear job on the part of the NYT, "Albatross" appears to hang his camparison "argument" on some very shaky ground.

    See: http://hro001.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/weavers-curious-notnots-and-novel-remedy/

    [and Weaver's more recent advocacy antics:]


  45. The NY Times is going to have to move Justin Gillis to the Opinion section....like Revkin, he can't seem to write straight news when it comes to climate issues--throws all his journalistic training out the window every time.

  46. @43,

    "yet how much credit can you give one who is still looking to insult those who disagree with him?"

    You mean like Roger Pielke Jr. accusing Justin Gillis of "advocacy journalism" and a "hit job"? That is insulting. Or Roger engaging in innuendo and slander summarised here, and here, but two examples.

    Or perhaps you forgot about when Lindzen recently falsely accusing Hansen and his colleagues of data fraud (he did later apologize, but the offending slide has still not been removed or corrected), or accusing Rees and Cicerone of being implicated in a conspiracy and "exploitation of authority". Or Lindzen trying to draw parallels between Lysenkoism and mainstream climate science in the Wall Street Journal,

    ....but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

    That is truly beyond the pale, offensive and extremely insulting. But Lindzen is not finished yet,

    "Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet. Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them."

    More insults and innuendo from Lindzen, and again drawing parallels between climate scientists and Lysenko.

    So based on those examples "skeptics" here, using their very own criteria, should afford Lindzen and Pielke Jr. no credibility.

  47. And so begins the contrarian echo chamber--Ryan Maue Tweets,

    "@RogerPielkeJr Roger, did Gillis walk down the hall to interview Lindzen or just his detractors? Hit piece yesterday, puff piece today."

    And this misleading and insulting post on Gillis by Roger Jr. is happily trumpeted by Marc Morano (with Justin's email displayed of course).

  48. Via Twitter a reader nominates this 1988 NYT article as offering a precedent to the piece discussed in this post:


    A good candidate indeed, but hardly the hit job done on Lindzen -- no vitriol, no ad homs, no loaded language. But in some respects comparable, I'd agree.

    So let's say once every 25 years in the NYT? Not a very common practice.

  49. Albatross, your views are irrelevant. AGW has failed the test of time. Observations do not support the climate models. When a model can't predict, it has failed its reason to exist. Vilification of Dr. Lindzen won't make the models any better, and his historical allusions are apt, since "those who won't learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

  50. Hello Roger @48,

    So now "major media" and "major newspaper (see your post @5) becomes just the NYT. Interesting.

    As for "no vitriol, no ad homs, no loaded language."

    Come on, you are being hypocritical and disingenuous when you accuse others of using loaded language and making ad homs Roger. You are throwing stones in a glass house.

  51. Hi Roger-

    This is Dan Chavas, grad student at MIT, we met during your visit/seminar last year. Your view of this article is quite in contrast to the reaction of myself and most others I've chatted with around here -- many of us found the article to be quite comprehensive, accurate, and rather level-headed, particularly when compared to the typical mainstream climate science article.

    In the end, the article left me with the impression that Prof. Lindzen's iris hypothesis has not been disproven and could indeed turn out to be correct, but at the moment it lacks much evidence in the scientific literature, which is accurate. Though the article focuses in some sense on personalities, it also gives due treatment to the scientific theories that are being debated, and does so quite astutely in my opinion.


  52. -52-Dan C

    Yes, of course I do remember, it was a nice visit, thanks again.

    Perhaps you could point to the part of the article that left this impression: "Prof. Lindzen's iris hypothesis has not been disproven and could indeed turn out to be correct."

    It left me with the impression that he is a politically motivated crank who has been thoroughly discredited ...

    And in the interests of full disclosure, it may be useful to share who your academic advisor is ;-)

    Thanks again for dropping by!

  53. Hi Roger,

    "It left me with the impression that he is a politically motivated crank who has been thoroughly discredited ... "

    Ah, so you do understand then ;)

    Whoever Dan's supervisor is is irrelevant Roger.

    I'll try one more time to solicit a response from you about Corcoran and the National Post. If this goes unanswered, I have little choice to assume that you are either indifferent to their unethical and mendacious behaviour or support them libelling Weaver. This is relevant, because it is an example from mainstream media (with strong partisan political leanings) mounting an "attack" on a scientist.

  54. Hi Dan @57,

    "In the end, the article left me with the impression that Prof. Lindzen's iris hypothesis has not been disproven and could indeed turn out to be correct, but at the moment it lacks much evidence in the scientific literature, which is accurate."

    Even if his hypothesis is correct, and the odds at this point are very slim, evidence suggests that the net feedback might be positive not negative (e.g., Chambers et al. 2002; Rapp et al. 2005). Regardless, even if it is negative it will certainly not even close to being large enough to offset almost 4 Wm-2 forcing from doubling CO2 (e.g., Fu et al. 2001,2002; Lin et al. 2002; Dessler 2010).

    [H/T to Dana at SkS]

  55. The problem Roger is that you think the NYTimes is a "major newspaper". In fact is partisan hack sheet, and has been so for many years. They attack every thing and every one that the leftists want to attack. It has been years since they have been a reliable source of information. I say this even though I am a daily, dead tree edition subscriber.

    BTW, the article first above linked was egregious even by their non-existent standards. But, you need to lower your expectations.

  56. Hello Roger,

    I have read your articles in the National Post for several years now. They have always been very informative.

    How do you feel that all this AGW crap is finally coming to an apt end?

    I have awaited this time of growing public revulsion for this garbage for 9 years now. Sorry I was a late starter.

    The NYT cannot even find a CEO. And with readers disappearing everyday, it won't be long before management makes profound changes or the Gray Lady just languishes to a forgotten corpse by the streetside.

    The NYT chose which line to champion years ago, and with desertions growing daily from the AGW camp it still looks like it will hold to the last. Good!

    Really enjoy your work.

    Gary Marshall

  57. don't worry next week the NYT will be doing a hit on Gleick.

  58. Hi Roger,

    Yes for full disclosure my advisor is Kerry Emanuel, though I don't really discuss climate change science/politics with him much at all. My views on climate science are drawn from many years of my own thinking and reading on this topic.

    Here is how I viewed the article progression:
    1) Clouds are the last major uncertainty, and Prof. Lindzen is the primary proponent that clouds will largely offset global warming

    “one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed”
    " difficulty that researchers have had in predicting how clouds will change”
    “Clouds really are the biggest uncertainty”
    “Richard Lindzen… the leading proponent… he has been making seminal contributions to climate science since the 1960s“
    [brief intro to iris hypothesis]

    2) Prof. Lindzen’s idea has been strongly criticized, but is politically convenient for those who don’t want to worry about GHG emissions. However, given his stature in the field, his lack of transparency about the dearth of scientific evidence supporting his idea forces one to question his motives

    “His idea has drawn withering criticism from other scientists”
    “However, politicians looking for reasons not to tackle climate change have embraced Dr. Lindzen”
    “While the scientific majority acknowledges that the lingering uncertainty about clouds plays into the hands of skeptics like Dr. Lindzen, they say that he has gone beyond any reasonable reading of the evidence to provide a dangerous alibi for inaction.”

    3) Discussion of how clouds affect the system and climate sensitivity

    4) Discussion of attempts to understand how clouds will change
    “The questions that scientists still need to answer are voluminous. For instance, they want a better idea of how clouds form at a microscopic scale, how their behavior varies under different atmospheric conditions, and how sensitive they are to higher temperatures.”

    5) Return to the Iris effect

    6) Discussion of how this hypothesis lacks evidence, and thus has drawn significant criticism.
    Notes his “difficulty establishing his case in the scientific literature” for which he “blames groupthink among climate scientists”

    7) Discussion of societal implications – his views and the mainstream response
    “If I’m right, we’ll have saved money” by avoiding measures to limit emissions, Dr. Lindzen said in the interview. “If I’m wrong, we’ll know it in 50 years and can do something.”
    Mainstream response:
    “But that could take decades, scientists say, and if the answer turns out to be that catastrophe looms”
    “he makes what many of his colleagues see as an unwarranted leap of logic”

    The article correctly identifies that 1) clouds in the climate system are still highly uncertain; 2) clouds could possibly “save us”; 3) Prof. Lindzen is a proponent of this hypothesis; 4) this hypothesis currently lacks much evidence; 5) obtaining sufficient evidence to prove/disprove this hypothesis will likely take a long time; 6) Lacking this evidence, a leap of logic is required to argue with any certainty that GHG emissions will not significantly affect our climate; 7) When a scientist makes such a leap of logic – particularly given Prof. Lindzen’s prominence as a brilliant scientist and a seminal contributor to our field – one is prone to question his/her motives.

    Perhaps this is indeed colored by my involvement in the matter, but in my opinion this is a pretty accurate characterization of the situation. I would love for Prof. Lindzen to be right and for clouds to offset greenhouse gas-induced global warming, but the evidence just isn’t there right now.


  59. Quick follow-up to my last comment:
    To bring this back to the original point of your post--if the article accurately portrays the situation (which in my view it does), is it really a "hit job"?

  60. -59, 60-Dan C

    Thanks much!

    Question for you, based on your reading of the science:

    Do you believe that there is "one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed" and that argument is based on the work of Lindzen?

    My view -- I don't think that either part of that construction is an accurate representation of either the science or the politics.

    I see the article as elevating Lindzen to the level of scientific/political strawman and then knocking him down. (And quite unfairly, I see your summary of the article ignored all of the bullet points that I highlighted;-)

    Ultimately, we may just agree to disagree.


  61. The history of geoscience is littered with defunct theories that once enjoyed consensus. Opinion polls are not useful in geoscience.

    I remember reading much criticisms of scientists concerning the theory that continents move. A letter by an American scientist was published in the journal Science referring to Wegener's theory of continental drift as "Teutonic pseudoscience".

    Earlier a commentator said that he could more easily believe that Harvard professors would lie than that rocks could fall from the sky.

    One can find in any history book how scientists were reviled and worse for believing that the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun or that the Earth is a spheroid.

    So why would anyone be surprised that skeptical scientists are vilified in the media. It was ever thus.

    Scientific theories have usually held sway until their promoters retire or pass on. For climate science, I expect that we have another 10 years or more before we will know enough about the science to decide whether the feedback mechanism is positive or negative. But since most feedbacks are negative, I know where I will be placing my bets.

  62. -61-Roger

    Do I believe there is "one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed" and that argument is based on the work of Lindzen?
    Perhaps yes, it's probably the lone relatively simple mechanism that could offset warming due to GHG emissions. There could be more complicated mechanisms at play that we are currently less aware of though.

    Actually I see now in comment 5 you addressed this point (sorry I hadn't taken the time to read through them all, I should have). I think maybe to me as a climate scientist the science component stands out, which I viewed as accurate. However, from your perspective (and perhaps most of the public's) the personal narrative stands out, which is more as you described it.

    I'll have to think more about this. Thanks for the stimulating discussion :)


  63. I read this as a hatchet job as well.

    While reading the article, I found several things that irked me. Instead of focussing on the facts, it seems to be a bit of a piling-on against the Lindzen nemesis in an attempt to reduce his influence. Some comments where Lindzen admits some errors were placed in a negative light context meant to discredit him. We all make errors - those of us who are responsible admit and correct them. I've always been skeptical of those who are far too sure of themselves and admit no error.

    The title "Clouds' Effect on Climate Change is the Last Bastion of Dissenters" really just serves to build a strawman. It'd be more accurate to say that observations in nature contradict alarmist models with respect to how the climate system behaves. The fact that they don't account for clouds correctly isn't the skeptics' problem - it's the modellers. I'm not sure why climate science is some kind of Bizarro World where folks involved keep trying to move the null hypothesis to the other side of the argument.

    It's pretty interesting that a grad student from the the same MIT professor (Kerry Emanuel) who publically dumped on Lindzen as being 'unprofessional' and 'irresponsible' would show up here, but welcome Dan.

    I'm of an opposing opinion to your supervisor. I think it's the mark of a courageous, responsible professional to take on a field with such embarassing pathological groupthink and demonstrated ability to redefine what peer review is.

  64. Joe Romm characterizes this article much as I do (though, of course, he likes the hit job;-). he says"

    "the New York Times publishes a front-page piece eviscerating Dr. Richard Lindzen and his “discredited” theory"

  65. The climate scientist quoted in Revkin's post does a wonderful job of demonstrating that clouds are (1) complicated and (2) crucial. And like most real scientists in an active field would, but very few activists would, he makes it clear this is a dynamic area of research with both hopeful leads and considerable uncertainty.

    As a piece of science writing, Revkin's piece is as good as Gillis's is bad.

  66. Some of the commenters here might benefit by reading this excellent Post over at WUWT:


  67. The worst thing about the climate "debate" is that so many people on both sides are not content with arguing that someone is wrong. They seem to need to believe that anyone they disagree with is dishonest or even evil. I for one am sick and tired of all the name-calling and demonization. (That applies to a lot of other subjects, too, but climate has been one of the worst for a long time now.)

  68. @Dan C.

    Forget the Iris effect. In his latest paper Lindzen calculated a metric that the models don't replicate.

    It may or may not be important, but I don't get a "warm and fuzzy" about the models' ability to predict the future.

    It may be one against many, but I wouldn't count the one out.

    BTW... there's more than one predictable metric that the models don't replicate adequately IMHO.

    Thanks, AJ

  69. BTW... I love Josh's rebuttal to the cartoon in the headline:


    I'm sure Roger Jr. would agree!

  70. Roger,

    Sometimes it's funny when someone from the other side of the debate essentially proves your point for you. Good ol' Joe Romm.

    Hilarious. I guess some people just like to argue that a duck isn't a duck.

  71. It is puzzling that Dan Chavas, a PhD student in the field, should regard the Gillis article as
    "comprehensive, accurate, and rather level-headed".

    Does Dan think that that the claim in the title that clouds are the 'last bastion' for the skeptics is accurate?
    [I am reminded of the Life of Brian sketch: "Apart from the clouds, apart from the water vapour feedback, apart from the missing heat, apart from the lack of stratospheric cooling, apart from the lack of warming over the last decade, apart from the lack of SLR acceleration, apart from the dishonesty of climate scientists revealed by climategate, apart from the IPCC errors, what have the skeptics got?"]

    And what about the claim that "polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk" noted in #14. Is that accurate Dan? Or is it a complete fabrication?

    I suggest that Dan visits other areas of the Green Building at his university in order to get a more balanced education.

  72. Hi Roger,

    Any thoughts on this Heartland hit job?

    Given that you have continually ignored the National Post issue, despite being given several opportunities to condemn their despicable actions, you have left readers no choice other than to conclude that you approve of the systematic hit jobs carried out by the right-wing National Post on climate scientists, including Dr. Weaver.

    One has to now wonder whether you will remain mum on the Heartland billboards too and feel compelled to blog about that...

  73. -73-Albatross

    You are welcome to continue to comment here, but if you'd like interaction with others, I'd recommend brushing up a bit on blog etiquette.

    FYI, some comments on the insanely stupid Heartland ad campaign here:


  74. Albatross, you are over the line. I'd ask that you take a breath before posting. Even so, you may want to submit your next comment here directly:


    And even there, should you continue to make up lies about groups that you wish to accuse me of being associated with, those comments will be deleted as well.


  75. Just to further confuse us Gillis has also written here:

    That "the single most interesting paper" on clouds actually concludes a net negative feedback as predicted by Lindzen. Perhaps it is even the much maligned (here but not in the academic press) "iris effect"

    So the hitjob was because Lindzen could easily be correct and Gillis knows it. And if small, benign warming is generally perceived as credible that would of course affect anti fossil fuel policies which is the issue of most concern to activists.

    Dan C clearly has not read this new paper mentioned in the link either or perhaps he would be less scathing about Lindzens work.

  76. The NYT article seems pretty straightforward to me. It don't see the "hit job" that you refer to.

    If Lindzen is objectively incorrect (as the evidence indicates) then it's worth pointing this out in the context of a discussion on climate science and its policy implications. After all Lindzen has far more influence on public "understanding" of science than his "scientific" pronouncements merit. Seems to me that the NYT article is correct in stating that clouds are the last resort of climate science misrepresentation. It would be remiss not to discuss this objectively,

    It's rare, and rather disgraceful, that a scientist goes to the extent of publishing knowingly false analysis. But that's exactly what Dr. Lindzen did in his 2009 Geophys. Res. Lett. paper. I don't think one can give Lindzen a free pass on pronouncements on contemporary climate science just because of his distinguished career in atmospheric physics.

    To reproduce a couple of the stinky knickers off your "laundry list", I would have though it was very much news that a supposed influential scientist would:

    use flawed methods to analyze data.


    routinely misrepresents the work of other researchers

  77. As Richard has turned into something of the town bore on the subject in recent decades, journalistic vexation is to be expected.