The James Lovelock Bashers

By Keith Kloor | April 25, 2012 9:35 pm

It’s a testament to James Lovelock’s standing in the science world that one phone conversation can trigger a media tidal wave.

In case you’re just tuning in to the news, Lovelock has rejected his own prophecy on global warming, which he previously believed would soon kill off most of humanity and “leave the few survivors living a Stone Age existence.”

Now Lovelock is saying that he a got bit ahead of himself on that climate apocalypse stuff. According to MSNBC:

He [Lovelock] said he still thought that climate change was happening, but that its effects would be felt farther in the future than he previously thought.

“We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit,” he said.

The upshot of all this is that Lovelock has chastised himself and others for being overly “alarmist” (in his case, that would be an understatement).

The reaction to Lovelock’s walkback has raised many eyebrows. A few are lauding him, as Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle does here:

I’m sure some people will take this opportunity to attack Lovelock, and climate science in general. That is wrong-headed and as misguided as blind alarmism.  Alarmism is no worse than the climate-change-is-a-hoax mentality. Lovelock has done a real service here by putting a dent in the attacks of the world-is-ending-now mentality of climate change activists.

As you may recall I have lamented the fact that in the present-day climate advocacy wars, reality is often the first casualty. In stepping back from his over-the-top alarmism, Lovelock has struck a blow for science and for reality.

Actually, the people who are bashing (more like ridiculing) him–get out your irony meter–are some of the biggest climate alarmists–the ones who endlessly warn of “hell and high water” and “civilization-threatening climate disruption,” unless there is immediate action on climate change.

Why would climate activists be badmouthing Lovelock? This headline from Media Matters goes a long way in explaining why:

Lovelock gives conservatives another reason to drop climate science

In other words, by saying that climate change is not the doomsday threat he thought it was–far from it–Lovelock is giving ammunition to the climate activist enemy. So that’s why Joe Romm, elbows out, asserts that Lovelock

has now overshot in the other direction of climate science confusion and just keeps peddling nonsense.

Funny, but when I go back and read the articles on Lovelock when he was in full apocalyptic mode, I’m not seeing his colleagues wave him off as a nonsense peddler. In a long 2006 Washington Post profile, Lovelock says:

Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return.

If you read the whole WaPo article, you won’t walk away with the impression that scientists are rolling their eyes at Lovelock. In fact, the reporter says:

What’s perhaps as intriguing are the top scientists who decline to dismiss Lovelock’s warning. Lovelock may be an outlier, but he’s not drifting far from shore. Sir David King, science adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, saluted Lovelock’s book and proclaimed global warming a far more serious threat than terrorism. Sir Brian Heap, a Cambridge University biologist and past foreign secretary of the Royal Society, says Lovelock’s views are tightly argued, if perhaps too gloomy.

Let’s move on to another respectful profile (from 2007), this one in Rolling Stone by Jeff Goodell:

If such predictions were coming from anyone else, you would laugh them off as the ravings of an old man projecting his own impending death onto the world around him. But Lovelock is not so easily dismissed…Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur, credits Lovelock with inspiring him to pledge billions of dollars to fight global warming. “Jim is a brilliant scientist who has been right about many things in the past,” Branson says. “If he’s feeling gloomy about the future, it’s important for mankind to pay attention.”

And there’s the rub. If Lovelock isn’t feeling so gloomy anymore, which is what his statements to MSBC suggest, then that’s not a message that climate activists want taken seriously.

What’s amusing about all this business is that the fear-mongering language and imagery of climate doom is pretty much standard fare for the climate activist community–and has been for some time. So it’s a bit rich of some activists to now trash Lovelock because he’s decided he went overboard with his own claims about climate catastrophe. I’d take his critics more seriously if they reigned in their own exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric.

  • FredT

    Your thesis might hold some water if in fact no scientists had criticised his statements at the time, but they did. And no-one – not Al Gore, not Joe Romm, not Ed Begley Jr or whoever you think of as the principal spokespersons (who is Sir Brian Heap?) have gone with the ‘breeding pairs in the Arctic’ nonsense or anything similar.Try Connolley, Annan, RealClimate or Romm for instance.Perhaps it would be wise to rein in your desire to score  points against your rivals before you editorialize. Lovelock was wrong in 2006, and in ascribing his opinions then to anyone else, he is wrong now.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    thanks for this revealing post keith.

  • grypo

    “If Lovelock isn’t feeling so gloomy anymore, which is what his to MSBC suggest”

    That’s certainly puts a nice shine on what Lovelock says. Hahaha.

    “we were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now.”

    Um, no.

    Just as the same group of Kloors hypocrits said way back when, you are again wrong, doc.

  • Keith Kloor

    FredT,

    I’m not sure what you think my thesis is. I certainly believe that Lovelock went extreme with his doomsday claims. No argument there.

    As for the criticism from fellow scientists, well, I tried finding it in news stories of Lovelock from a few years back, not blog posts. Maybe they were just being polite? (I read the RC post, and that sure was polite.)

    Lovelock may indeed have gone to the other extreme with his latest pronouncements on climate change. My larger point of the post is that most of what appears in the public discourse is dramatic fear-mongering (see the link to Hume.) And that some of those who are calling out Lovelock now are similarly alarmist in their rhetoric, just not to the crazy extent that Lovelock previously was.

    Marlowe,

    Your cryptic comment aside, whatever keeps you reading…

  • grypo

    I clicked on the Media Matters story.

    “saying that climate change is not the doomsday threat he thought it was”“far from it”“Lovelock is giving ammunition to the climate activist enemy”

    Seriously? Is that what you read from that story? The entire thing was criticism for ‘the doomsday threat’.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    your biases –tribal penchant for cherry picking, misrepresentation, and lack of evidence to support your ‘narrative’ are shining through…

  • Keith Kloor

      Marlowe (6)

    You’re so sweet. How about an actual rebuttal?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    it’s late. you’ll have to wait until the morning for substance ;-)

  • Marlowe Johnson

    in the meantime could you provide some *evidence* to support the assertions you made in the previous thread? 

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    Give some credit to William Connolley and James Annan, please. They did not pull their punches on Lovelock back in 2006. “Full of alarmist nonsense,” quoth Annan, adding that Lovelock’s alarmism was as abusurd and overwrought as Michael Crichton’s denialism. Connolley was a bit more measured, saying, “He may be right; he may be not. He certainly doesn’t back it up with any evidence. … All in all I’m inclined to file this under ‘irresponsible journalism’.”RealClimate, as is its wont, dissected Lovelock from a more scientific point of view in a review by David Archer that resists short excerpts, but the following is typical: “The argument for approaching doom is made by analogy. (Again I feel compelled to editorialize. Argument by analogy is a powerful rhetorical tool, at which Lovelock is a master. Reasoning by analogy however is not a reliable divining rod for scientific discovery.[)]“Archer concludes, “No one, not Lovelock or anyone else, has proposed a specific,
    quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, all out, blow the doors
    off, civilization ending catastrophe. Mr. Lovelock has a feeling in his
    gut that something terrible is going to happen. He could be right, but
    for what it’s worth, there aren’t any models that explode as
    catastrophically as this. “So as I see it, you’re missing the mark when you say Lovelock’s colleagues didn’t hold his feet to the fire back then. You’re conflating uncritical journalistic reception with uncritical scientific reception.Your colleagues, Keith, the press corps, may have uncritically swallowed Lovelock’s eschatology hook, line, and sinker; but Lovelock’s scientific colleagues called it out for the pseudoscientific alarmism that it was.But as much fun as it is to talk about Lovelock’s nonsense and who was first to call it out, let’s not forget his scientific brilliance. Many of us are still very grateful to him for inventing electron capture detectors; for noticing the persistence of CFCs in the environment, which inspired Rowland and Molina to figure out what they did in the stratosphere; and for the systems way of looking at the world that Gaia gave us—even those of us who never believed it literally but took it as a very useful metaphor.

  • Steve Mennie

    “…if they reigned in their own exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric.”  Now there’s some exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric for ya….

  • Jarmo

    Lovelock’s greatest sin is to admit that he was wrong. He was one of the voices that created alarm, said things that no climate scientist could get away with – and got them printed in the MSM. The next best thing to a real catastrophy.

    This Guardian review is from his glory days says it all:

    For two decades, James Lovelock was seen by many of his scientific peers as an eccentric loner who had ruined his otherwise solid reputation as an inventor and pioneering environmental chemist by insisting that the earth was “alive”, not very well, and living under the name of Gaia. But as global warming has moved up the agenda, he has increasingly appeared to be a prophet who deserves every honour the human race can bestow.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/feb/21/james-lovelock-gaia-book-review

  • BBD

    Once again, the problem is time-scale. Lovelock’s alarmism seems to derive from projecting ~4C onto the early C21st.

    The mainstream position (per AR4 WG1) is that *transient* climate response is ~2C for 2xCO2. 550 ppmv CO2 is feasible sometime during the second half of the century. So the ‘non-alarmist’ scenario is ~2C towards the end of the century.

    *But* this is to ignore carbon cycle feedbacks and to assume that emissions stabilise at 550ppmv. It is also to ignore the fact that the climate still has about ~1C to go before it reaches equilibrium. Warming will continue during the C22nd even if emissions are stabilised at 550ppmv this century.

    Even so, let’s say it’s still ~2C by toward the end of the century. That’s *global average* temperature. Let’s not forget about how this cashes out in terms of regional effects (polar amplification; continental climate summer extremes etc). Only the terminally ill-informed actually think that this will be a net benefit to existing ecology and humanity at large. Especially the billions living marginal lives.

    One could say that Lovelock is an irrelevance. One could say that accusing the ‘alarmists’ of ‘alarmism’ is short-sighted and complacent. One could argue that encouraging contrarians in this fashion is a dangerous game.

    Witness the eagerness with which the nay-sayers are brandishing Lovelock’s reconsideration as a banner beneath which they can misrepresent and distract from the facts.

  • hunter

    There is in effect a fork in the road. Those who condemn Lovelock and the others who have backed away from the climate doom scenarios are the true believers in AGW.  True believers are not amenable to reason. They will continue to reject any and all evidence that the world is not in fact facing a climate catastrophe. Those who see this as an important statement by one of the founders of the modern AGW movement are amenable to reason and can over time engage constructively. This has happened with every apocalyptic movement.

  • BBD

    hunter

    Thanks for a perfect illustration of my last paragraph at # 13

  • Marlowe Johnson

    well as usual Jonathan Gilligan says it better than I can. Steve Mennie and BBD also get nods of approval, especially this bit:

    “One could say that Lovelock is an irrelevance. One could say that accusing the “˜alarmists’ of “˜alarmism’ is short-sighted and complacent. One could argue that encouraging contrarians in this fashion is a dangerous game.

    Witness the eagerness with which the nay-sayers are brandishing Lovelock’s reconsideration as a banner beneath which they can misrepresent and distract from the facts.”

  • Keith Kloor

    Jonathan,

    I think you make a number of excellent points, but I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the press swallowed whole Lovelock’s catastrophism. When a figure of his stature weighs in an issue like global warming, the press is going to write about it. Now you can can take issue with the way that was done, but in the cases I cited, well, I thought the profiles I quoted from and linked to were pretty good. They took the measure of his career in its entirety, said that he was out of the scientific mainstream, and yet…that he wasn’t exactly being dismissed out of hand. And that some notable luminaries were taking him seriously. 

    That was one one point of my post. The second point is that I found it hypocritical of some habitual alarmists and serial exaggerators to call out Lovelock.

    The third point is that climate doom–tuned down a few notches below Lovelock’s prior catastrophism–is the stock and trade of climate activists.   

     

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe,

    What you partisans don’t get is that journalists don’t (or at least aren’t supposed) to write looking over their shoulder, wondering how what they write will be perceived by one particular camp’s political enemies. 

    Hence the tiresome charge in the past from the likes of Michael Tobis that certain articles or blog posts are not helpful to the cause.

    Just because the Morano wing is going to make hay of Lovelock’s recant doesn’t mean I should censor myself.

    This is the essential problem climate partisans have with me–and especially Andy Revkin, who has been at this longer than me and has a more prominent perch. Our job is not to stay on message for the climate concerned community or to shy away from being critical of it, for for fear that such criticism may be perceived as being “not helpful.”

    You have enough green media types who are more interested in an echo chamber to counter the echo chamber of the climate skeptic sphere. You know where to find them when you want comfort food.

  • http://sallan.org Sallan Foundation

    I’m with Jonathan Gilligan on this one.  And for the record, whatever Lovelock’s pronouncements-du-jour, let’s keep the need for climate change adaption action on the table.  For instance http://bit.ly/kHOu0c

  • Matt B

    @ 10 J Gilligan:adding that Lovelock’s alarmism was as abusurd and overwrought as Michael Crichton’s denialism.
    Here is a summary from a Crichton interview on his view of the climate, from http://www.jonesreport.com/articles/031007_crichton.html :Crichton asserts that a) the earth is getting warmer, b) CO2 is up by 30% but is not the primary driver of temperature increase, c) the sun is the primary driver, d) the temperature increase is not a catastrophe. What exactly is “absurd and overwrought” about Crichton’s viewpoint?
     

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I never warmed to the Gaia metaphor, so I was never impressed or upset by Lovelock’s writings about global warming. Good to know he’s following his conscience of course, but having not had much faith in him previously, I don’t think too much should be made of this now.

  • hunter

    BBD,I am sorry you have chosen to follow the irrational fork in the road. Some of your ideas have merit.

  • hunter

    MattB,For the irrational extremists in the climate community, any deviation from the apocalyptic dogma is “overwrought and absurd”.

  • BBD

    Sallan Foundation @ 19

    let’s keep the need for climate change adaption action on the table.

    Absolutely agreed. We’re going to need to do it, so careful thought now is essential.

  • NewYorkJ

    Kudos to FredT (#1).  Saves the rest of us time in addressing this real steaming pile from Keith.—Lovelock had been in the category “global warming is so bad there’s nothing we can do at this point”.  Now he believes we should reduce fossil fuels.  During his alarmist days, mainstream scientists were rightly criticizing him for his “few breeding pairs” rhetoric.  Now he’s rightfully being criticized for implying other notable individuals shared his same visions.  ”We were supposed to be halfway to a frying world now”.  There is a “we were wrong” rather than a more appropriate “I was wrong” angle to Lovelock’s quotes, which MediaMatters is on top of.  Essentially, Lovelock is not taking full responsibility for his words.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    It most certainly was not just Lovelock. He had plent of company.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @26evidence?

  • grypo

    It appears to me that everything happening the way it should.

    No one who now criticizes Lovelock ever took his previous climate warnings seriously. There’s nothing wrong logically with the way the way in which it was handled. It reduces Keith’s argument to his opinion that “some of those who are calling out Lovelock now are similarly alarmist in their rhetoric, just not to the crazy extent that Lovelock previously was.”

    This of course assumes that there is but one way to express alarm-ism, and as Keith has been called an alarmist many times, he should know this is factually incorrect.

    The Goldilocks narrative becomes ever more elusive! Unless we think in threes.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2012/04/23/connect-the-apocalypse/#comment-107160

  • hunter

    Tom,The irony of Marlowe’s efforts to dodge reality is rich beyond compare. If mental gymanstics were an Olympic sport, Marlowe would be on a box of wheaties showing off his gold medals.

  • Tom Scharf

    Marlowe, your constant queries for “proof” of alarmism grow tiresome and foolhardy.  Nobody is going to take your bait, the same as no one will try to prove to you that color green exists.  You are demeaning yourself to the level of troll here, you can do better.GIYF  

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    I am stunned.Lovelock was wrong in 2006. He was called out for it at the time by mainstream climate scientists. This is not up for debate.Yet, Keith says: “Funny, but when I go back and read the articles on Lovelock when he was in full apocalyptic mode, I’m not seeing his colleagues wave him off as a nonsense peddler.”I guess Keith didn’t look very hard. Keith then says (emphasis mine): “If you read the whole WaPo article, you won’t walk away with the impression that scientists are rolling their eyes at Lovelock. In fact, the reporter says”[WaPo]: “What’s perhaps as intriguing are the top scientists who decline to
    dismiss Lovelock’s warning. Lovelock may be an outlier, but he’s not
    drifting far from shore. Sir David King, science adviser to Prime
    Minister Tony Blair, saluted Lovelock’s book and proclaimed global
    warming a far more serious threat than terrorism. Sir Brian Heap, a
    Cambridge University biologist and past foreign secretary of the Royal
    Society, says Lovelock’s views are tightly argued, if perhaps too
    gloomy
    .”So, Lovelock is plainly categorized as going too far beyond the scientific mainstream. Far enough outside that even given his enormous reputation, he’s explicitly called out as an outlier (something that back in 2006 was quite a feat for WaPo). The two (!) scientists who are cited in the article as “declining to dismiss his warning” are only noted as “saluting his book” and mustering the tepid praise of calling his views “tightly argued” and then noting that those views were overstated (“too gloomy”). Seriously? Seriously?I realize that Lovelock’s 180 is irressitable to the “third way/breakthrough” narrative (“let’s not talk about the whole standing-at-the-precipice-of-a mass-extinction-event and the long term consequences of failing to rein in emissions stuff, it’s totes depressing”) favored here. But come on. This is just sad.A non-partisan would probably recognize that Lovelock went awry by going beyond what is justified by the actual scientific evidence back in 2006. A non-partisan would probably recognize that he’s doing the same thing now. A non-partisan would probably recognize that the problem seems to be with Lovelock, or at least with abandoning science. A non-partisan probably wouldn’t draw the conclusion that the people rightly criticizing him then (“Lovelock is certainly wrong”) and now are the problem. But it’s become increasingly clear that the same people who like to accuse everyone else of being partisans are very much partisans themselves.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Jesus the formatting in the comments software is abysmal.I give up.

  • Tom Scharf

    Beyond the political ramifications, Lovelock followed his own scientific method here. He presented himself with a falsifiable hypothesis on climate doom, monitored the evidence as it came in, and when it didn’t match his hypothesis,  he changed his mind.  Admirable in a convoluted way.  Not to be repetitive, but the recent lack of warming over the past few decades should give many scientists reason to believe the carbon sensitivity is lower than postulated.  However over at RC, the most I could get was that the “past decade has failed to allow us to narrow the range of carbon sensitivity”, which I thought was a bit convoluted. 

  • Keith Kloor

     TB,

    You and Marlowe are becoming repetitive trolls. Sorry, but my post has nothing to do with your strawman.

  • Jarmo

    #27,

    For example, do you remember how the UN scientists claimed in 2005 that in 2010 we would have 50 million climate refugees?

    Also Hansen, with his prophesies that Earth will turn into Venus if fossil fuels are burned. When Al Gore made his 20 foot sea level rise claim “in the near future”, people started wondering. Well, Hansen claims in a 2011 paper that sea level could rise 5 meters by 2100. That’s equal to melting 70 % of GIS

    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-01-03/hansen-still-argues-5m-21st-c-sea-level-rise-possible 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    #27, why would you ask for evidence that you will promptly ignore? You live in a fact-free world where Keith Kloor is criminally irresponsible and I am a denier. I don’t know when you lost touch with reality, but it’s painful to watch.

    “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” Maurice Strong

    “The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization…Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine.” Keith Farnish

    “We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.” David Graber

    “Failing to warn the citizens of a looming weapon of mass destruction- and that’s what global warming is- in order to protect oil company profits, well, that fits for me the definition of treason.” Bill Maher

    “Chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to [should] be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature” James Hansen

    “…every time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned.” George Monbiot

    “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards (global warming skeptics) — some sort of climate Nuremberg.” David Roberts

    “˜Global warming’ will kill most of us, and turn the rest of us into cannibals.” Ted Turner

    “Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of “eco-refugees,” threatening political chaos.” Noel Brown

  • Marlowe Johnson

    there are many things that i find galling about this particular post. now before i begin let me say that sometimes keith produces good stuff, but this is definitely not one of those times.

    As an exercise in ‘thinking like your enemy’, i’m going to show how a different story can be constructed using the same sources that keith links to and/or quotes:

    If there was any doubt that controversy and cult of personality sells newspapers and the perils of shallow analysis, look no further than the latest coverage of James “breeding pairs” Lovelock, who apparently has seen the errors of his ways…or not:

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time”¦ it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

    Twelve years is a reasonable time? Really? Don’t think so. Here’s what Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K.’s respected Met Office Hadley Centre has to say:

    this was a short-term trend that could be within the natural range of variation and it would need to continue for another 10 years or so before it could be considered evidence that something was missing from climate models.

    Even Joe Romm thought he was being crazy way back when:

    I don’t agree with Lovelock’s projected impacts this century (it won’t be THAT severe that fast and humans are more resilient than he believes) nor do I agree it is too late to avoid the worst

    …and hasn’t learned from his mistakes:

    until he actually reads the scientific literature, his thoughts on climate will continue to have, well, no basis in science.

    Now does that mean that everything is hunky dory and that there is no reason for alarm? Nope. Sorry.  Here’s what that radical organization, otherwise known as the International Energy Association has to say:

    “we are on an even more dangerous track, to an increase of 6°C.”

    So how much wiggle room do we have? Some it seems, but not much:

    Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permitted to 2035 in the 450 Scenario are already locked-in by existing capital stock, including power stations, buildings and factories. Without further action by 2017, the energy-related infrastructure then in place would generate all the CO2 emissions allowed in the 450 Scenario up to 2035. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.

    Makes you wonder if the alarmists have a point, doesn’t it?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    No, Marlowe, it doesn’t. Alarmists have a thousand points. Many of them are valid. Many of them are hysterical. All of them are twisted by you. But have another drink. It might improve your mood. It might improve your writing.

  • Tom Scharf

    I stand corrected, Mr. Fuller took Marlowe’s bait.  I’m sure the addition of obvious facts will make a huge difference to Marlowe’s view on this subject.  We might be able to harness Marlowe’s logic inversions into a perpetual motion machine and solve the global energy problem.

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe,

    That’s a perfectly acceptable rendering using the same sources. That’s the slant you chose and it is a legitimate one.

    Just because you don’t like the angle I took doesn’t make my interpretation false or illegitimate. I already explained in #4 what the main points I was making with this post. You don’t have to like them. But I believe there is a basis for them, which I laid out in my post.

    What you and others who think similarly like you need to really grasp is that there are some of us in the media who choose not to write as if we’re messengers. On that note, consider:

     ”I think some people, like Joe Romm, would like us to send a bugler in a coat of mail around with the paper every morning playing taps and proclaiming that climate change is a problem.”

    Guess who said that? Justin Gillis of the NYT.  No doubt you approve of much of what he’s been writing the past few years. 

    Guess what? Like I said to you in another comment upthread, you have your many climate buglers who play taps everyday and beat others over the head who don’t follow along.

    It should be apparent by now that I’m not marching to your tune. I realize that bothers you. You’ll have to make your peace with it, or just hang out with the buglers that are to your liking.


  • BBD

    Thingsbreak, NYJ and others

    To force the formatting to work:

    Type your comment, including bold, italic etc.

    Click the blue < > button next to the red cross to open the html view.

    Place the cursor where you want paragraph breaks [after the </p> tag]

    Hit return twice.

    Submit when done.

  • grypo

    Justin Gillis is also an Alarmist Activist Yellow Journailst.  Looks like we may need to add to our layers of alarmism!http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/04/interview-with-activist-journalist.html 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    We need new labels. Denier, activist, alarmist. They are not describing anything useful.

    People writing on this issue can write about what they wish. People are free to wish they wrote about something else and can criticize. But the first rule of criticism is “Grant the artist his choice of subject.”

  • Keith Kloor

     @42 But not alarmist enough for Joe Romm, as Gillis indicated in his CJR interview. BTW, Roger is way out of line for calling Gillis a “yellow” journalist.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    The first quote I put in my list by Maurice Strong turns out to be bogus. He was describing the plot of a novel he wanted to write. Sorry, all.

  • BBD

    Tom @ 36I can’t be bothered to go through them all, but I know the Monbiot quote is deliberately out of context. See here:“There was one proposal in Sir Rod Eddington’s report to the Treasury
    with which, when I first read it, I wholeheartedly agreed. He insists
    that “the transport sector, including aviation, should meet its full
    environmental costs”. Quite right too: every time someone dies as a
    result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged
    out of his office and drowned. Reading on, I realised that this is not
    exactly what he had in mind.”


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/dec/05/comment.politics
    As anyone who isn’t being wilfully stupid can see, this comment was ironic.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Keith,The ‘angle’ you chose to take says far more about your need to push a particular narrative and score partisan points than it does about anything else. Your repeated claim that I, and others who criticize the arguments you put forward are simply blinded ideological partisans is a cheap, childish, rhetorical tactic that is wearing a little thin. You need to up your game.

    You could have used this episode to reflect on some of the unhelpful tendencies within the mainstream press. For example: the tendency that the media has of creating controversy by giving unqualified ‘experts’ a podium to push their uninformed POV. Or perhaps the tendency of the media to miss the point entirely – which in this case would be Lovelock didn’t have a fucking clue 7 years ago about climate change, and he still doesn’t.– and instead resort to difference-splitting, ‘goldilocks’ narratives.

    Instead, you attempt to shoehorn this episode into your ‘pox on both their houses, both sides are hypocrites and i’m in the sensible middle’ narrative. Well guess what? This particular episode doesn’t support that particular narrative.

    “you won’t walk away with the impression that scientists are rolling their eyes at Lovelock.”

    Jonathan has already pointed out that this particular claim is wrong. You try and change the goalposts by saying that you were talking about what the media was saying, not actual scientists.

    “The second point is that I found it hypocritical of some habitual alarmists and serial exaggerators to call out Lovelock.” 

    This particular argument raises an interesting ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ situation. If Romm doesn’t call out Lovelock, then you accuse him of not ‘reigning in’ the bad actors in his tribe. OTOH, if he does criticize Lovelock, he’s a hypocrite. Nice trap.

    Your final point, that climate ‘activists’ will be upset with Lovelock because he’s off the ‘doom and gloom’ message is supported by a link to a Mike Hulme content-free op-ed from 2007. That’s right. 2007. Very appropriate and compelling.

  • Keith Kloor

    Every day the media–particularly environmental media– echo alarmist claims made on food, health, diet, the environment, you name it! 

    Lovelock story is no different. An MSNBC reporter spoke to him over the phone, reported on something that is newsy (he’s changed his mind!) And everybody else chows down on it.

    As for those “unhelpful tendencies” in the press, well as I said, they are on display everyday. You just choose not to like this particular display.  Consider that this might also say something about you.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    yes god forbid that I pine for a press that is amotivated by truth seeking rather than profit seeking. How silly of me.

  • Matt B

    @ 49 Marlowe:

    yes god forbid that I pine for a press that is amotivated by truth seeking rather than profit seeking.

    Ah, the age-old aspiration for truth; I always loved the exchange in “Trial Before Pilate” in JC Superstar: 

    JesusIt’s you who say I am,I look for truthAnd find that I get damned

    PilateBut what is truth?Is truth unchanging law?We both have truthsAre mine the same as yours?

  • NewYorkJ

    Goodness, Keith (#34).  Why is it so hard for you to admit you were wrong?  Rather than calling those who critique your obviously wrong statements as “trolls”, how about you consider retracting those statements. Perhaps then you can focus on what you think your “main points” are. Or are you just trying to be provocative for the sake of it, like a troll would?

    To add to the evidence, Tim Lambert, had a piece on Lovelock years ago.

     http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/01/global_warming_alarmism.php

    See also Stoat’s post today.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Keith, in what way do I possibly qualify as a troll, other than that you don’t like what I am saying?

    None of the factual claims I am making are false. My comments are expressed within the bounds of civility that are otherwise accepted from other posters. The comments are extremely on topic. I am not posting them to provoke a response but rather to express my sincerely held point of view.

    It’s your blog. You’re free to write about whatever you want, and to push whatever narrative you want. But you have a comments section, and at least pay lip service to the idea that you desire others’ perspectives on your posts. At least be consistent in how you run it.

    By what criteria are you labeling me a “troll”?

  • NewYorkJ

    Thanks, BBD.

    Jarmo (#35): When Al Gore made his 20 foot sea level rise claim “in the near future”, people started wondering. 

    When I Google this, I find many unreliable sources (Monckton, Telegraph, etc.) all claiming he stated this “in the near future” in An Inconvenient Truth.  Here is the transcript of the movie.  Can you point it out?  I cannot find the quote “near future” in the transcript.

    http://www.hokeg.dyndns.org/AITruth.htm Jarmo: Well, Hansen claims in a 2011 paper that sea level could rise 5 meters by 2100.  

    “Could” is not “will” or “likely”.  Hansen notes this scenario of slowly rising sea levels followed by rapid acceleration in the 2nd half of the decade can’t be ruled out, given the uncertainties.

    Sea level rise, despite its potential importance, is one of the least well understood impacts 
    of human-made climate change.  The difficulty stems from the fact that ice sheet disintegration is a complex non-linear phenomenon that is inherently difficult to simulate, as well as from the absence of a good paleoclimate analogue for the rapidly increasing human-made climate forcing.  Here we try to glean information from several different sources.Gee, how “alarmist”.

  • Howard

    Quoted from the Gaia Wikipenia intro:”The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.
    The scientific investigation of the Gaia hypothesis focuses on observing how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms contribute to the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other factors of habitability in a preferred homeostasis.”Lovelock has confirmed that there is no need to worry, Gaia will protect us.  Why he doubted *Her* in the first place is beyond me.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Thingsbreak, your problem is that NewYorkJ and Marlowe actually are trolls and you tend to show up late, side with them uncritically because of tribal loyalty and can be just as snarky as they are (or me, for that matter) when it suits you. Little wonder you can get mistaken for a troll.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @55 Tom Fuller: Thingsbreak, your problem is that NewYorkJ and Marlowe actually are trolls and you tend to show up late, side with them uncritically because of tribal loyalty and can be just as snarky as they are (or me, for that matter) when it suits you. Little wonder you can get mistaken for a troll.

    Tom, in what alternate universe did any of the above take place?

    Reread my comment. You and Keith could both do well to stop letting your imaginary version of me blind you to what I actually say and do.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Umm, Thingsbreak, Keith’s post is April 25. Your first comment is 12:38, April 26 and is number 30 on the thread. You show up late.You side with Marlow and NewYorkJ, looking at one comment alone–that Lovelock is an outlier, while ignoring the rest of the same sentence–’he’s not too far from shore’. As you’ll note above, a lot of people were making end of days type comments, even excusing Maurice Strong for the wrongly attributed quote above. IIRC, James Hansen might have said one or two things as well.You could have reacted with a more reasonable interpretation–that while Lovelock was by no means alone, there were a good number of people who pointed out that he had proceeded beyond the limits of what was known–or indeed knowable. Instead you went along with the crowd and helped further the impression that everybody dismissed Lovelock way back when.They didn’t. At times it seemed like people were competing for apocalyptic headlines. One doesn’t need to rely on Google for this–human memory serves.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @56

    “ But it’s become increasingly clear that the same people who like to accuse everyone else of being partisans are very much partisans themselves.”

    earns you a kiss of death from our gracious non-partisan host.

    i’d suggest that one of the hallmarks of a partisan is their refusal to ever acknowledge any significant error of judgement. At best they’ll say that they were misunderstood or could have been clearer in expressing their sentiment.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Marlowe, your last sentences in 58 are the clearest description of alarmist attitudes that I have seen written by either side. You do realize that, don’t you?

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Your first comment is… number 30 on the thread. You show up late.

    There are 58 comments in this thread. I commented less than 24 hours of the first comment. I commented almost immediately after I read it. By what criteria am I “showing up late”? Because I wasn’t within the first 5 posts? The first 10? Oh, please.

    You side with Marlow and NewYorkJ

    I didn’t read anyone’s comments before I wrote my own. I was responding to Keith directly, not “siding with” anyone else. The fact that you assume that I was speaks volumes about your own preconceptions.

    looking at one comment alone

    This is of course false.

    You could have reacted with a more reasonable interpretation

    And who gets to define “reasonable”? Again, your phrasing speaks volumes.

    that while Lovelock was by no means alone

    Given that he/his critics are the subject of the post, I was supposed to go hunting for “others” who may have been equally as wrong as Lovelock why? Red herring.

    Lovelock was wrong then, because he ignored the science. He is wrong now, because he’s ignoring the science. People in mainstream climate science were calling him out then. Rather than recognize that maybe the problem is *Lovelock*, instead we are told that it’s really the faceless alarmists who are really deserving of mockery.

    It’s almost as though the facts are secondary to the narrative.

    But that can’t possibly be, because it’s people like me who are the real partisans, right? For not being the first comment on a blog post. And “siding with” comments I didn’t even read.

    Or something.

  • NewYorkJ

    While I don’t normally like to feed Tom Fuller, I’m sort of puzzled by what showing up late on a thread has to do with being perceived as a “troll”.  On the contrary, trolls often show up early and often to derail threads, but that is hardly a defining attribute.  And what is “alarmist” about Marlowe’s last sentence in #58?

  • Jonathan Gilligan

    Keith (#17): You’re right. I was hyperbolic and unfair to the press accounts. They did relate views mainstream scientists, such as Archer, had about Lovelock’s views.I’m disappointed to see this thread reduced to trying to score debating points (“first you said this; now you say that; you’re inconsistent!”) and arguing about the character of the people participating instead of discussing ideas.Part of this, Keith, comes I think from your couching your post in terms of “fear mongering.”  When you use words like “fear mongering” and apply them with a broad brush to  the whole “climate activist community” you wave a red flag and suggest that that everyone who talks about catastrophic risks is a cynical liar who’s trying to gratuitously terrify the public by invoking catastrophes he doesn’t believe in or by exaggerating his certainty about stuff he knows is on shaky ground. It’s not surprising that this gets an angry response from the honest people who sincerely do lose sleep over the prospect of catastrophic climate change.Some climate activists are sincere in their alarmism. They’re not fear mongering; they’re afraid. Do they not have a place at the table?

  • Keith Kloor

    Jonathan,

    Part of the reason the thread has evolved downward is that some folks have mischaracterized my post.

    Some of these people I will grant you are sincerely concerned about climate change but they often take issue with the thrust of a given post and make broad brush accusations. These are people who, I’ve concluded, are not interested in a good faith debate. (In fairness, depending on the post, these types of people are represented on the polar ends of the climate spectrum.)

    As for certain terms, I try to be as prudent as possible, but I feel there is ample evidence for what I would call “fear mongering.” Just as their ample evidence of climate “denialism.” There are always going to be people who have their buttons pushed at something or other.

    I try to write in a way that avoids gratuitous labeling, but I’m also not an academic who parses every phrase or writes in vanilla language. 

    By now, I’ve made clear what the main points of this post (hypocrisy being the main one) are. If people want to argue about something else, that is their right. But they shouldn’t expect me to to play that game.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @59

    is english your first language?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “I try to write in a way that avoids gratuitous labeling”

    now JG might suffer from BV’s character tic which precludes him from saying ‘liar liar pants on fire’ but as you know I don’t :)

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Mr. Gilligan, if you make it back to this thread, I have a question.

     You seem disappointed that this thread degenerated into debating points. 

    A long time ago I was disappointed by that, too. But really, what more would you expect on a comment thread to a weblog, where most of the commenters are anonymous and are split 50-50 on an issue that has become so polarized that demonization of the opposition would actually be a step up for for many here? (Not all.)

    For better or worse, this has become a battleground. There are snipers, minefields, trenches and barbed wire. There are even casualties–many have dropped out of the comment wars. I miss CB Dunkerson–and even Dano!

    I don’t know. Maybe WWF (the other one) is a better metaphor. But I don’t know what commenters can bring to the party besides debate. Some of us like to pretend we’re researching this stuff, always asking for citations and sources. But that’s just trying to catch out the other guy.

    In the years I’ve been following climate weblogs, I have never seen anybody change their opinion. Not even modify it.

    So until we figure out what it is we want from blog commentary, debate will have to do.

  • huxley

    I first read James Lovelock in Stewart Brand’s CoEvolution Quarterly back in the seventies. As the various apocalypses described therein failed to materialize I gave up on much of the environmental movement. Nonetheless I give Brand and Lovelock credit for the integrity to change their minds and go public as more information became available to them. I find that encouraging.People often do change their opinions, but the time frame is usually years or decades and rarely visible in online debate.

  • huxley

    Wow. What a terrible comment editor!

  • huxley

    There is no getting around the partisan booing and cheering and agitating in online debate. However, speaking for myself, there is also a certain amount of information discovery and position tweaking when I read and participate in such debate that I find useful. I assume this is true for others too.

  • laursaurus

    “You have enough green media types who are more interested in an echo chamber to counter the echo chamber of the climate skeptic sphere. You know where to find them when you want comfort food.”This is the most succinct summary of why this is my favorite climate change blog. It is an oasis of reasonable analysis that I truly appreciate. You might want to paraphrase this into a mission statement or a bullet point in the “about” section (I haven’t read it in awhile.) Plus everyone is permitted to spout their thoughts, no matter how extreme with fair warning when they become abusive. Nobody is mysteriously snipped or put on moderation unless they push their venom. The dialogue is lively and  more productive than the echo chambers can possibly produce.  Revkin does a good job, too. C-a-S is great snap-shot of everything interesting happening in the world of climate change news. As a layperson, my eyes glaze over at RC and Climate, etc. I didn’t imagine someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum could actually publish the CC blog I would enjoy the most. Is Marlowe becoming dhogza lite? BBD is becoming a one topic commenter, like amac and the Tiljander proxies.Some people are becoming very predictable. But not Keith!On another topic, science is about analyzing the evidence. Not about electing politicians. They will always cherry-pick the facts that support their ideology. Some of us really do want to know the truth more than they want people to agree with them. I’d rather know the truth, than expect everyone to attend the same church I do.

  • laursaurus

    Darn it! I suck at HTML code!Pretend there are paragraphs in my last post!…

  • BBD

    BBD is becoming a one topic commenter

    E pluribus unum :-)

  • Sashka

    I’m afraid I fail to appreciate what the excitement is all about.

    The guy who was so mad that it was too much even for Romm suddenly got back to his senses at the tender age of 92.

    Like he ever mattered.

  • harrywr2

    Lovelock gives conservatives another reason to drop climate scienceI think Lovelock’s position change buys more time to find ‘workable’ ways to decarbonize. Until ‘energy storage’ is worked out getting to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions is ‘magical thinking’.  The alarmist position tends to be like a scene from the Titanic…there isn’t any way to turn the boat in time. So we might as well all go down to the lounge and have a drink and enjoy whatever time we have left.

  • grypo

    “BTW, Roger is way out of line for calling Gillis a “yellow” journalist.”

    He’s on the prowl again tho. Is this “advocacy journalism”

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/05/nyt-puts-hit-on.html

    Jr. does ask for journalist opinions.

  • Steven Sullivan

    “Lovelock’s views are tightly argued, if perhaps too gloomy.”

    LOL.  KK, in Britain, that *is* ‘rolling your eyes’.

    Seriously, Richard Branson, and two scientists from the UK (one of whom doesn’t exactly cheerlead for the guy)?  That’s your evidence that other scientists generally agree with Lovelock’s climate views?

    From where I stand (academic biology for a couple of decades now), at last since the whole Gaia thing, Lovelock has *always* been considered a bit ‘off the reservation’;

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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