Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why I Might Quit Reporting on Climate

Believe it or not, I was once a skeptic about man-caused climate change.

Back around 1998-99, I often wrote to an ultra-progressive, liberal list whose name was something like positive-living. (I have searched for a half-hour, but can't find it on Google.) As you might expect, many of the participant were anti-GM foods, anti-western society, and firmly believed in anthropogenic climate change.

I had some fun debating them. At that point I didn't buy the case for AGW. But, in truth, I didn't know anything about it.

That fall I moved from Gilford, NH to Ogunquit, ME, and I started to read a lot of books. I read The Heat is On by Ross Gelbspan, and Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming and several other books, and I learned what people were concerned about.

I started reading papers and talking to scientists and reporting on the topic, mostly for Scientific American: Soon & Baliunas, Michael Mann, and several other stories on Sci Am, other outlets, and my blog.

That was fun. But that was then.

The scientific case for anthropogenic climate change has been proven to the extent it needs to be --  i.e. that society needs to take it very, very seriously and that it ought to change its methods of energy production.

Being inherently selfish human beings, the world won't undertake this change, of course. But so what?

So what's left?

Really, I have little interest in reporting on Christopher Monckton's 466 questions to John Abraham, or even worse, his absurd, cowardly and utterly transparent demand that Abraham be disciplined by his institution. Monckton has clearly been proven wrong (and not just wrong, but now he has revealed himself as a clown) and is just in this for the celebrity. He will apparently do anything to keep his name in the press/blogs.

Sometimes I think that's all I should do -- respond with prejudice and keep my name in the links and build up the hits. Crash conferences and write demanding emails because you won't (or can't) do the legitimate, hard-core work that science requires.

But this is getting silly and tiring, almost as stupid as the travails of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston or whatever the Kardashian sluts do to keep in the news.

So what to do?

There are a lot of really important science news stories out there, it seems to me. The lack of regulation of new nanotechnologies. And especially what's coming to light about the role of environmental chemicals and their impact on our ecology and (probably) our very own species.

The enormous and embarrassing question in physics that the public has not yet grasped: scientists do not know what 95% of the Universe is made of. What could possibly be worse, from a scientific point of view? Or more interesting?

So while climate science is interesting, I'm not sure it's any longer that relevant, news-wise. It's a done deal. There's no longer any scientific basis for criticizing it, just personal gossip type stuff. Kind of desperate, and kind of boring.


Scruffy Dan said...

"So while climate science is interesting, I'm not sure it's any longer that relevant, news-wise."

That is probably mostly true (though real climate geeks would disagree as there is still stuff to learn), but I do think the topic of of climate change (amongst others) has brought to the forefront some rather large failings of the media.

That is interesting and worth covering IMO, and is an area where responsible journalists (which as far as I can tell you are one) can contribute immensely.

Of course you are right that Monckton's latest diatribe is boring from a scientific perspective. But despite that it has the potential to do some real harm (look at the Dan Johnson Tim Ball legal dispute for evidence).

I wish you luck with whatever path you chose.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for having admitted your defeat.

It would be great if the IPCC and others also realized that the climate fearmongering is no longer newsworthy.

Unfortunately, they still realize that it's worth for them to lie for financial reasons.

papertiger said...



You starting to get lonely yet, Dan?


"don't let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya"

Dano said...

Yes, I fully agree David. We have all we need to act. I also agree the environmental chemical burden is criminally underreported.



John Fleck said...

David -

I've been thinking along similar lines, but have come to a different conclusion.

Given our apparent inability to reduce greenhouse gases, societal impacts and adaptation reporting - in my case, water supply issues in the Southwestern US - becomes, I think, more important, and an area where journalism can play a useful role.

It's interesting to me that I find essentially no climate skeptics in the western water management community. They are very anxious to find ways to use climate projections (and to usefully incorporate genuine uncertainties) into their planning and management processes.

Christopher Mims said...

Oh, but you might miss out on covering various tipping points as we cross them within the span of your natural life! You won't get another chance like that for tens of thousands, maybe millions of years.

(Only half kidding.)

Unknown said...

Well, the actions being taken by people who care are pretty interesting. Check out what is happening this weekend.

A group of Moms are climbing Mt. Rainier to protest coal in Washington State.

More about this protest, here

Folks can follow their progress on Facebook

Anonymous said...

You sound like a bitter and sore LOSER.

You are not man enough or professional enough in this AGW scientific debate to just set the issue aside or concede the point.

You have to take cheap shots and reference sluts, etc.

When you grow up and want to debate and report on science like an adult someday...challenge & question both sides of the issues and report on heavy hitters like Anthony Watts at (rather than easy strawmen of your choice), then you might be worth your weight as a journalist.

Until then....GOOD RIDDANCE.


Anonymous said...

I can totally understand your dismay at reporting climate change news. You only have to see the Anonymous postings here.
The science side has a compelling yet not total understanding of the issue. The other side is just rhetoric and hypocritical. It is truly a sad display of humanity where they accuse one side of so many things. Yet they are far worst in their logic, evidence and discourse.

If I were skeptical of climate science I would be polite and stick to the points where the science is still fuzzy. Yet the denialists are just that, denialists, and spew all kinds of nonsense.

Yes so if normal matter accounts for less than 5% of the Universe, is it possible that dark matter has its own chemistry? Who knows but it would be fun if it were the case.

Dano said...

Anon @12:41 PM: David is not considering quitting because he is a-skeered of the mindless drivel spewed by the likes of you. Just to be clear.

I think John has an interesting angle, reporting on adaptation measures. Different scale - and perhaps more digestible/manageable at the individual level.



William M. Connolley said...

I still read your stuff. And your kitten is cute :-).

I partly agree with you. Taking Monckton apart is dull; there has to be more. I still find a surprising amount of interesting stuff; somehow things have picked up over a year ago. I'm not sure why. So, I think you should only keep doing it if it interests you.

What JF says (and how his blog has started going) is interesting: John is now in a niche, really (I hope he doesn't mind that; I'd expect him to agree). It is a fairly big niche, and for his area of the world I think a very important one. But it is just one sub-aspect of climate change.

Bob Armstrong said...

You'll quit blogging warmist non-science ; the globe will continue to track 1/21 the temperature of the sun with an almost undetectable change in our spectrum and therefore temperature due to our adding a bit of available carbon to the biosphere ; but the world will be a little greener .

Tom Servo said...

"Climate Science" isn't relevant any more because it's a total fraud and thus there is no need to actually do anything - there never was.

However, reporting the extent of the fraud is still very relevant - but Appell obviously doesn't have the stones for that. So, run away and hide, and just pretend that it never happened!!!

James Evans said...

Oh ok, is this how the ego retreats from this shambles? I was wondering how it would work.

When the AGW scaremongers are in the ascendent then you report what's going on like a great saviour of the planet. You understand the issues and, thank goodness, you're there to tell us what's what.

When it turns out that the lead proponents of AGW have some serious question-marks regarding their integrity, then you're suddenly bored of the subject and don't want to report it.


Oh and BTW, this nonsense about scientists not knowing what 95% of the universe is made of: In other words, when scientists look through their telescopes, the observations don't match the theory. So what do they do? Change the theory? No. They question the observations. "Most of the universe must be invisible." It would be funny if it wasn't so puerile.

Bogusnews said...

Chris Monckton has been clearly shown to be wrong and a clown by Abrahams?

I find that an extraordinary comment, especially since you seem to actually believe it.

I've read through his response (and can't seem to see anything back from Abraham's) and have reached the opposite conclusion. If you are have reached the stage where you seem apparently comfortable with complete misinformation and character assassination then perhaps it is time for you to hang up your gloves and find another fight.

Anonymous said...

You're quitting because your side lost.

Anonymous said...

So while climate science is interesting, I'm not sure it's any longer that relevant, news-wise. It's a done deal. There's no longer any scientific basis for criticizing it, just personal gossip type stuff. Kind of desperate, and kind of boring.

What a complete escape from confronting the substance of the issue, well done!

Climate science became interesting to a lot of us at about the same time as activists made a move for our wallets.

For that reason alone, dear David, the topic still is and will remain "relevant, news-wise", whether you like it or not.

But since you mention it, would you kindly run by us, just one more time, the actual evidence of a dangerous human interference in the Earth's climate? In your own words, please.

Since the evidence now is apparently "overwhelming" this should be easy for you.

NOTE to everyone else: Listen to the overwhelming silence.

Richard Treadgold,
Climate Conversation Group.
Google us

David Appell said...

Richard Treadgold wrote:
> But since you mention it, would
> you kindly run by us, just one
> more time, the actual evidence of
> a dangerous human interference in
> the Earth's climate?


IPCC 4AR WG1 Ch 9 FAQ 9.2 Fig 1, p. 703 (bottom three graphs) .

Dano said...

Maybe David bores of responding to the likes of the geniuses near the bottom of the thread. That's all they have left is geniuses, so might as well move on.

But I'm still thinking on Mr Fleck's argument and I think its a good one.



(word verif agrees - apallygo)

Unknown said...

The following quote is from Andrew Revkin (Dot Earth, 1 Dec. 2008). I do not always agree with him, but I feel the following message is more apt than my own words to explain the perspective I want to promote.

"Climate change is not the story of our time. Climate change is a subset of the story of our time, which is that we are coming of age on a finite planet and only just now recognizing that it is finite. So how we mesh infinite aspirations of a species that's been on this explosive trajectory - not just of population growth but of consumptive appetite - how can we make a transition to a sort of stabilized and still prosperous relationship with the Earth and each other is the story of our time."