What to Make of The Guardian’s New Climate Change Series?

By Keith Kloor | March 7, 2015 8:58 am

In 2009, the New York Times launched  “a new, crack environmental reporting unit that will pull in eight specialized reporters from the Science, National, Metro, Foreign, and Business desks in a bid for richer, more prominent coverage,” as the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) detailed. It seemed like a smart, innovative approach: Environmental issues have become increasingly complex, with crosscutting scientific, economic, and political angles. Climate change, seen by many as the story of the century, is the poster child for this complexity.

So efforts “to push the story forward, to give it greater energy and focus,” as a NYT memo described at the time, were largely applauded by journalism watchers. Alas, the experiment didn’t pan out to the Times‘ liking; in 2013 the paper’s management abandoned the environment “pod.” The Times, of course, is still actively covering environmental stories, particularly climate change. Whether it is doing so with the kind of dedication and imperative it had declared in 2009 remains an open question. After the decision was made by the Times in 2013 to dismantle the special environment team, I agreed with Margaret Sullivan, the NYT Public editor, who wrote that “symbolically, this is bad news.” It signaled that environmental coverage was deemed not important enough to warrant greater resources and sustained focus.

Meanwhile, the Guardian, a leading newspaper in Britain, has in recent years signaled the opposite: It routinely features environmental stories on its digital homepage and has expansive online commentary and analysis from numerous green-oriented writers. (Compare that with the Times, which shuttered its lone environment blog months after dismantling the beat’s special unit.) And now, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s much admired outgoing editor-in-chief, has announced that between now and this summer, when he steps down, the paper will prominently feature on its home page articles on the “climate threat.” In reflecting on his 20-year tenure as the paper’s editor, he wondered about missed opportunities:

Very few regrets, I thought, except this one: that we had not done justice to this huge, overshadowing, overwhelming issue of how climate change will probably, within the lifetime of our children, cause untold havoc and stress to our species.

And so, in his remaining time, he decided “to harness the Guardian’s best resources to describe what is happening and what – if we do nothing – is almost certain to occur” if the world doesn’t kick its fossil fuel habit. This is an admirable initiative. Who can complain about a major newspaper putting the risks of climate change front and center every day for weeks and months?

Well, I sort of did. To be clear, I don’t object to man-made climate change being vigorously reported on and chronicled. When I was an editor of Audubon magazine in the 2000s, I worked with a great team of editors to put together two special issues on climate change. So I agree it’s a story of huge importance that should be covered in all its dimensions. Rusbridger, in his piece, explained why the Guardian was now embarking on a special climate change series:

For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming. We will leave the skeptics and deniers to waste their time challenging the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and economics.

I’m on board with that. Many so-called climate skeptics, I have concluded–at least the most vocal lot–are hostile to climate science for ideological and political reasons. They don’t debate in good faith. So I’m fine with leaving them out of the story. However, I do think there are numerous worthwhile unanswered scientific questions to journalistically pursue with respect to climate change. Still, for the purposes of the Guardian’s short-term objective, I think it’s reasonable to focus on the economic and political aspects of climate change. Here’s how Rusbridger defines that purview:

The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground.

Here’s where I start to have a problem. Rusbridger lays out a very narrow debate framed around certain assumptions that should not be taken at face value. For example, there are plenty of concerned climate scientists and analysts who don’t believe that the 2C target can be met, and some of them argue persuasively that this indicator is not only unrealistic, but also impractical and unhelpful as a means to reduce carbon emissions. This argument triggered varied responses captured last year in a Guardian article.

At the very least, it seems that this discussion seems worth continuing. But that apparently won’t be happening at the Guardian, since the editor has taken the 2C target as an article of faith.

Then there is the other main objective of the Guardian’s renewed climate change focus: How to prevent the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves from being used by countries and energy companies. “We need to keep them in the ground,” Rusbridger writes.

Fine. Let’s pivot off that assumption. But the starting point, Rusbridger says, will be the writings of two climate activist/authors–Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. At this point, it seemed obvious to me that the tenor and scope of the special attention Guardian was giving to climate change had an advocacy feel to it.

I mentioned this online to Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and Director of the NASA  Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS),who had applauded the Guardian editorial by Rusbridger. I have a lot of respect for Schmidt. We had a cordial Twitter exchange that glancingly touched on journalism norms, science communication, and the Guardian’s illustrious history. At one point, a few others jumped in to express their irritation at the way I characterized the Guardian manifesto. They objected to my labeling it as “advocacy” journalism with a “slant.” I replied that I thought those characteristics were self-evident, but agreed that I should reserve final judgement of the Guardian’s special series on climate change until it had ran its course.

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  • Graham Strouts

    From the first Rusbridger quote:

    “We will leave the skeptics and deniers to waste their time challenging
    the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and
    economics.”

    False. The “skeptics” issues have always been on the basis that the science is being misrepresented to promote a particular policy agenda. The action in the climate debate has never been about the actual scientific consensus which really does not go much beyond CO2 is a warming gas- and has *always* been about the politics and the economics.
    The rest of your piece actually confirms this – you discuss different interpretations of the science and different political positions, Klein et al.
    But this is what the debate has *always* been about. Klein and most hard-left enviros use the non-sequitor “climate change is real. Therefore you must do what we say.”
    In many places elsewhere Keith you yourself would be called a “denier” here.

    • Stu

      He was called one (a denier) just two posts up.

  • S Street

    And the “political” angle is represented by unreconstructed communist Naomi Klein.

  • Steve Crook

    Loins are being girded for the Paris binge and this is a move to provide publicity for the big bash. The BBC also appears to be ramping up climate related news, and as the unofficial arm of GMG it would be expected to contribute.

    It might be expensive, but the GMG appears to have a cunning tax avoidance scheme in the Caymans, they may feel they have money to burn. Of course the BBC gets to spend my money however it likes regardless of how I feel about it.

    Either way, it’s only going to appeal to the converted…

  • tushdi

    Lindzen “Absurd … demonizing a chemical molecule CO2 essential to life”

  • Tom Yulsman

    Keith: Those who object to your labeling of what the Guardian is doing as “advocacy” evidently didn’t read Rusbridger’s column, and are either clueless about the Guardian overall, or willingly blind to it. “Advocacy” is the very word HE used in his column to describe what the Guardian does:

    “This summer I am stepping down after 20 years of editing the Guardian. Over Christmas I tried to anticipate whether I would have any regrets once I no longer had the leadership of this extraordinary agent of reporting, argument, investigation, questioning and ADVOCACY.” [Emphasis added.]

    There’s nothing wrong with this as long as a publication isn’t trying to hide it’s advocacy behind a veil of fake neutrality. I found it refreshing that Rusbridger was so clear and transparent.

    That said, we should be asking just what it is they are advocating for, and whether their zeal blinds them to nuance and the full truth. After reading your post, as well as the piece in Nature criticizing the 2 degree C target, I’m concluding that this is a real risk inherent in the Guardian’s approach.

  • ronaldmsonntag

    I want less griping about politics and supposed biases and more discussion about specific and provable facts. And, I take the 95% certainty as scientific probability for the purpose of this discussion. For example, in your article above you toss off as advocacy to use the 2C limit because that will (with 95% certainty) already be surpassed. If I start a discussion by claiming if you jump off a cliff, Gravity will drag you down to your death, does that make me an advocate for Gravity? You are confusing advocacy with factually. None of the warnings about climate change are negated by blowing past the 2C mark. They are, for the most part ENFORCED. So, your complaint is, as someone said in this thread, taking the most used tact of climate deniers – sowing the seeds of doubt even when facts are unassailable.

  • mememine

    Climate change’s criminal exaggeration of vague science is a war crime waiting in the wings for history to judge.

    Joe Biden saying a CO2 crisis is 100% proven like gravity is, would explain why the last 34 yrs. of science’s 99% certainty has failed in achieving climate action to save the planet.

    *Is science also 99% sure the planet isn’t flat?

    • Mike Richardson

      Yeah, we need to give that other 1% some fair time. The earth really could be flat. Again, I think this is a bot. Also, probably the post below from tushdi. I’d really like to know who’s behind these.

  • RogerSweeny

    “Many so-called climate skeptics, I have concluded–at least the most
    vocal lot–are hostile to climate science for ideological and political
    reasons.”

    How do you feel about Matt Ridley, who describes himself as “a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future.”

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/my-life-as-a-climate-lukewarmer.aspx

  • OWilson

    Ah, the Guardian.

    I’m sure we are all interested in full disclosure, at least we were a couple days ago with poor old Willy Soon.

    From The Telegraph U.K.

    “The Guardian and Left-wing mass murderers: a love story

    Here’s the Guardian in 1919, getting an interview with Lenin. The Guardian finds him “pleasant” and “refreshing”. This, of course, is the same pleasant refreshing Lenin who, alongside the humorous, delightful Stalin and the wryly charming KGB pleasantly refreshed 30 million Russians into their graves, in a decades-long campaign of torture, starvation, imprisonment, slave labour and brutal purges.

    But maybe that was a one-off? After all, anyone can be taken in by a dictator with a really nifty goatee.

    Well, no. Here in 2007 is Guardian writer Neil Clark hurling rose petals at agreeable, kitten-saving Slobodan Milosevic. Yes, that Slobodan Milosevic – the one who, six years before Clark’s article, was brought to The Hague, accused of savage war crimes and racialised slaughter.

    According to the Guardian’s Neil Clark, however, Milosevic was just a victim of nasty western neo-liberal discrimination. I’m not joking. These are Clark’s very own words in The Guardian, after Slobo’s death in prison: “Milosevic was mourned not just in Serbia, but throughout the world: in China, Africa, Asia and South America, as a hero of the anti-imperialist, anti-globalist struggle.”

    The Guardian’s refreshingly pleasant tolerance of unusual journalists does not begin and end with Clark. They are also happy to hire enemy spies who work constantly to undermine Britain, in fact, I understand they positively prefer it. For instance, in the 1930s their Chinese correspondent was Agnes Smedley, an enthusiast for all things communist, and a big, big fan of that affable Chairman Mao. Trouble is, in 2005, it was proved she was actually a secret agent working for the Soviet Union and Comintern.

    The pleasant experience with Smedley was such a refreshing success the Guardian later went on to hire Richard Gott, a public-school Marxist (like his younger Guardian colleague Seumas Milne). In 1994 it was revealed that Gott had been working for the KGB for years and had taken Red Gold. Gott tried to dismiss his espionage as an “enjoyable joke” (yes, how they laughed in the Gulags when they heard); nonetheless Gott was, eventually, forced to resign in disgrace.

    And yet he didn’t. He’s still working for the newspaper now. In 2007 the self-confessed KGB informant Richard Gott wrote an article in the Guardian, saying that Britain really should hand the Falklands back to Argentina, “regardless of the islanders’ wishes”.

    Imagine if the Daily Mail hired a journalist. Imagine the Mail was then told this journalist was a fascist spy, taking money from fascists, so they were forced to sack him. Imagine the Daily Mail then thought “To hell with it”, and hired the same guy again – to write some more sinister articles? How would the Guardian react to that?

    Perhaps they would find it all rather refreshing.

    • Cathy Cowan

      Wow. Case in point that the opposition to acting on climate change is political and ideological, not scientific.

      • OWilson

        Your nebulous term, “climate change” is a political (not a scientific) scam.

        Here’s why:

        Satellite records, (not unreliable ancient proxies) show that the earth has warmed 0.30 degrees in the 36 years of the actually observed data.

        That’s another 0.71 degrees by 2100, much LOWER than the IPCC target of 2 degrees.

        And that’s ONLY if it continues to climb at exactly the same rate, with no pause or abatement, which is statistically highly unlikely, as we have seen.

        So scientifically you have statistically insignificant warming with humans responsible for “some” part of it.

        You are clamoring for ACTION NOW for a non existent problem.

        You’ve been duped by (or are activists for) opportunistic politicians.

        There is no scientific consensus that climate change will be catastrophic for humankind.

        • Nicholas Palmer

          Clearly it is you, OWilson, who has been fooled by pseudo-scientific
          sources spouting half truths and crafted deceit. If any of your flimflam
          was valid, then Big Oil would be trumpeting it from the rooftops to
          avoid them taking the big hit to their financial bottom line that
          mainstream science shows is necessary. Or do you think you are so smart
          that you know better than some of the largest corporations on earth, who
          have more money than God to pay the best analysts around to find out if
          there is any validity whatsoever in the fuzzbrained denialist nonsense
          that you just repeated?

          • OWilson

            Notice the complete avoidance of the scientific facts.
            Lol

          • Mike Richardson

            Right, because the profit motive never runs counter to public interest, eh? I do live on the Gulf Coast, so BP and others like them aren’t really considered all that trustworthy when it comes to acting in the public interest.

          • OWilson

            Again, notice the complete avoidance of the scientific facts.

            Sorry Mike, that’s two strikes for you.

            After the third vacuus, dissembling and prevaricating lazy post, I will have only one response for you. “NHWRT”

            You may have to stalk someone else to validate your own self approval. :)

          • Mike Richardson

            Dude, if we were counting posts devoid of facts as strikes, you’d have lost the game long ago. Besides, the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster and the company’s deception following the incident are facts relevant to a discussion of business practices, which you brought up in your previous post. And nobody’s stalking you. It’s just that some of us feel some of the ridiculous things you’ve said shouldn’t go unanswered. But you’re certainly not the only person I respond to on these posts. As for validation, I need none, because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

          • OWilson

            People like to be told what they want to hear. It’s no secret. (You share Pachauri’s “religion” with more than half the population).

            Bringing them bad news is not so popular.

            A kid prefers the parent that feeds him candy and cookies.

            Not so much the parent who drags him kicking and screaming to the dentist :)

          • Nicholas Palmer

            “Notice the complete avoidance of the scientific facts”

            The trouble is OWilson, the “facts” as you present them are either wrong or apparently presented in a deceptive way. You wrote: “Satellite records, (not unreliable ancient proxies) show that the earth
            has warmed 0.30 degrees in the 36 years of the actually observed data”

            No doubt this misleading factoid is sourced from Roy Spencer’s blogging about the UAH record. If we look at what the number (0.3°C) you quoted ACTUALLY refers to, it is the departure from the long term AVERAGE of temperatures between 1980 and 2010 – not the temperature rise over the last 36 years. As a consequence, the meaning you put on the figure is misleading and you either don’t know what you are talking about or you are deliberately trying to deceive.

            Here’s Spencer’s blog, where you can refresh your faulty perceptions

            http://www.drroyspencer.com/2014/07/uah-global-temperature-update-for-june-2014-0-30-deg-c/

            Re: “Big Oil is in the business of making money, not upsetting more than half their customers, who’ve been brainwashed”

            I can’t believe you’re not better. If Big Oil had found out that there really were the gaping holes in climate science that the scientifically illiterate and dumb/deceitful denialosphere fallaciously assert to fool the gullible and they wanted to carry on “making money” uninterrupted, they would simply show the public the holes and the public would see that mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions wasn’t necessary and Big Oil could carry on without all those tedious international obligations carmping their style plus their having to invest in carbon capture and sequestration technology etc.

            And yet you insinuate that Big Oil are currently faking their clear and obvious acceptance of mainstream climate science when, according to the crackpots, they don’t need to – and they are doing this for public relations reasons?! You really are being totally ridiculous now. It’s resorting to tin foil hat stuff like that, OWilson, that really shows up the way people like you think. You’re just embarrassing yourself and you should be ashamed to repeat your nonsense ever again.

          • OWilson

            Two facts.

            The “hiatus” is not my description, that’s IPCC take it up with them.

            And if we depart from the AGWers standard of “anomaly” to accommodate your objection, and use your own warming figure of 0.55 degrees (actual, not your “eyeballed”) you will see that by your own standards, at this rate (if it keeps going at the same rate in a straight line, which is unlikely) the temperature would be 1.3 degrees higher by the year 2100.

            Statistically insignificant.

            As for showing “the way we people think”, yes we think rationally as does successful big business (I was a consultant to them and government for many years, so I know what they think)

            You find me one “Big Oil” company that hasn’t embraced some degree of environmental greenism.

            They want to sell their products, and it makes no sense (except to a liberal) to antagonize more than half their customers base, who “believe religiously” like the head of your IPCC, in catastrophic Global Warming, or whatever they are calling it these day!

            Do you guys patronize “Big Oil” outlets? :-)

          • Nicholas Palmer

            “The “hiatus” is not my description, that’s IPCC. Take it up with them”

            You do know that the “hiatus/slowdown” meme is in the surface temperatures but this figure comes without allowances being made for the influence of cyclical phenomena such as El Nino/La Nina? If allowances are made for these, there is no hiatus at all. Unless you can guarantee that the cyclical effects are all going to line up in their negative phases, like some great planetary conjunction, and then stay like that, it is highly irresponsible to use their (temporary – cyclical phenomena reverse in due course) masking effect as some sort of proof that global warming is not a problem.

            “1.3 degrees higher by the year 2100.
            Statistically insignificant”

            Dear, oh dear! Maybe you need to know that the difference between now and the last full on ice age is only about 5°C. Your linear extrapolation to obtain 1.3°C is in any event very “non-scientific” (I’m trying to be polite).

            Are you sure you were a consultant? You certainly don’t seem to have analysed this situation very well. You seem to be claiming that Big Oil fully knows that climate science has the big holes in it, that people like you believe, which would lead the board of directors to be sure that reduction in emissions was not necessary. You claim that, knowing this, they deliberately lie on their corporate websites by endorsing the science that says their major product’s emissions must be mitigated fast and hard because “more than half their customers base … who “believe religiously”… in catastrophic Global Warming” and you think they do this to avoid pissing them off? That is absolutely crackers!

            If they truly could, they would get their own scientists to publish papers ripping climate science apart and then everybody could relax and what is likely to happen at the COP21 in December 2015 would be seen as completely unecessary. And yet they are not doing this, you claim, because they think they would alienate “more than half of all their customers” and they will, without argument, see governments internationally agree to tough targets that will mean their bottom line will be severely affected in perpetuity?

            You can’t see that your claims are Alice-in-Wonderland weird?.

            You have made several claims to having stated facts that you think support your view. It is a fact that every National Academy and major scientific organisation worldwide has endorsed mainstream climate science in clear statements. In recent years Big Fossil Fuel has joined them too. Just about every major fossil fuel company on the planet now has clear statements accepting that the emissions from their major product need to be mitigated. The only one I could find who doesn’t is Iran Oil – go figure! You won’t find a trace any longer in their stance of any of the scientifically illiterate arguments and cherrypicked facts, deceptively quoted out of context, that keep the dwindling denialosphere’s tin hats firmly on. Those arguments might seem plausible to some but many of them have been crafted to deceive the public – one needs quite a lof of specialist knowledge to see where the misdirection is, the slippery language, the fallacious assertions etc.

            No one seriously believes that flim flam any more. Not the scientists, not Big Fossil Fuel, nor any one with their head screwed on properly

          • OWilson

            You obviously know better how business works than I do. The Left usually do.

            So, I’ll just admit defeat and leave your comments to stand. :)

          • Nicholas Palmer

            Nice sparring with you. By the way, I’m not left wing – however, being British, our right wing would probably be regarded as rather left wing by the rabid elements of your Republican party!

            As far as I’m concerned, science should outrank politics. I don’t want climate science to be true because it might disrupt some of my dreams… However, I wish the USA’s far right Republicans, who are regarded in Europe as being a bit nuts and rather dangerous to boot, instead of spreading propaganda that global warming is not a problem, or is a hoax, would instead use their energies more productively to come up with right wing free market solutions to mitigating greenhouse gases. Then we can all debate the relative merits and effectiveness of the various solutions.

          • Mike Richardson

            Yes, but you British have much more sensible campaign finance laws, and an insistence that most of the political parties at least agree to a common reality. Candidates, especially Republican candidates, get “primaried” for being too sensible. And it only gets worse in the South, where you’d lose points for agreeing with Obama on whether it’s raining or not. Please drop by more often. It’s fun talking with sensible conservatives. Well, also the not-so-sensible ones, but that’s mainly for entertainment value.

          • OWilson

            You should have quit while you were, ahem, ahead, instead of babbling ad nauseum left wing diatribes about Big OIl., and that “dangerous” America.

            You guys have conceded you own sovereignty to Germany and the EU years ago.

            The rules about how high your garden fence can be, and the re-arrangement of the internal features of a pub, even the content of your local beer, all are made now by the EU.

            Everything from the curve of your banana and cucumber, to whether you can have a dish of bottle of olive oil on a restaurant table.

            You have become so used to the nanny state, you’ve lost any incentive to be anything other than a number.

            I left the UK for that very reason, and certainly don’t want to see it all happen again here.

            Maybe Mike, does, but it’s a sad commentary on his liberal education.

          • Nicholas Palmer

            I try to tune out misleading stuff but, as you mention it, you wrote “by 2050 if it continues at the same rate as observed by satellite technology?”

            Do you mean Roy Spencer’s record or the other one? In any case, as I mentioned before, it is “non scientific” to simplistically extrapolate a linear trend from the current signal – which is highly affected by cyclical phenomena. Whether one is left wing or right wing is irrelevant – it is just irrational non-science to think one could get a meaningful figure by doing that.

            Re: Britain and the EU. I don’t live in the UK and we are not EU members here, so your rant about bananas and fences is irrelevant. It sounds like you should go home and vote for the despised UKIP!

        • ronaldmsonntag

          Wrong on facts! Your statement “…unreliable ancient records” is a typical climate change denier ploy. There is nothing unreliable about the trapped CO2 gasses in the Greenland ice cores. This is a scientific fact that has never been refuted by the over 10,000 published scientists involved with climate issues. The record is unequivocal going back 500,000 years showing an unprecedented And unnatural increase in CO2. Your opening assumption is wrong, negating your entire argument. Your tactic of attempting to sow doubt where no doubt exists is typical of your group. Read “The Two Mile Time Machine” and then get back to me on one single important fact in that book that you can factually disprove.

    • Leonarda Fibonacci

      I find it quite interesting that you attempt to smear the Guardian’s climate change series by bringing up past interviewees, employees, and whatnot. What difference do they make to the urgency of the issue or the power of fossil-fuel funded denialism? None. You have no firm ground to address the Guardian’s courage in the face of Murdoch’s murderous denial of climate change (and, therefore, all of his news outlets), so your post is so much hot air.

    • Maggnum

      That’s a new one! Reductio ad Communism.

      • OWilson

        No, as old as Occam’s Razor. :)

    • John Samuel
  • iFred

    Is that the same Graudian where an enviromental contributor (works for Greenpeace) with the climate blog openly advocated the beheading of lukewarmer Matt Ridley in a forum discussion? Repeatedly? Where skeptic commenters are rigorously censored? Is that the same Rusbridger who’s complaining about financial fat cats yet is earning 350.000 Sterling ($525.000) and uses taxis to ferry stuff to his office? Is this the same Granudian who is hiding hundreds of millions (by selling Autotrader) away from the Briitish Tax on the Cayman Islands? Mr.Rusbridger and the Garudian are typical salon-socialists; “Do as I say, Not as I do”.

  • Joshua

    From your blog post:

    ==> “At this point, it seemed obvious to me that the tenor and scope of the special attention Guardian was giving to climate change had an advocacy feel to it.”

    How do you define “advocacy feel?” What are the lines of distinction? Do you suppose that segregationists some 50 years ago felt that coverage of cops beating protesters on the Pettus Bridge had an “advocacy feel?”

    From your twitter exchange:

    ==> “I prefer to get that from Mojo, Rolling Stone, The Nation et al. Not a mainstream paper.”

    What is your clear definition of what comprises “mainstream?” Whose definition should we all accept? Who lays down the rules of who can do what according to that definition?

    From your blog post:

    ==> “Rusbridger lays out a very narrow debate framed around certain assumptions that should not be taken at face value. For example, there are plenty of concerned climate scientists and analysts who don’t believe that the 2C target can be met, and some of them argue persuasively that this indicator is not only unrealistic,”

    He does say the following (emphasis mine):

    The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century.

    If he says that the debate is about what governments can do to attempt to regulate or stave off consequences of exceeding the 2C target, is he tak[ing] it at face value (unlike those concerned climate scientists that you reference) that the 2C target can be met?

    He says:

    For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming.

    He lays that out as an assumption and leaves others free to work from different assumptions if they choose to do so. Does he have some obligation (as a journalist) to work from assumptions he thinks are incorrect? Is that some moral obligation of a journalist, more generally? Do you, as one example, in your work as a journalist, feel some obligation to not assume that climate change is a problem or that GMOs are safe or that pro-GMO scientists are not Monsanto shills?

    I think that it makes more sense, rather than trying to determine what assumptions should or should not be made, to try to have people be clear about stating which assumptions they’re operating from.

    • Tom Scharf

      One definition of propaganda is only telling one side of a story. This overt alarmism is unsupported in many cases and outright fiction in others. If their starting point is Klein’s and McKibben’s thoughts on science should be taken at face value then they need to review the science a little harder.

  • John Samuel

    2C is probably too high. And we’ve probably already blown it.

  • Cathy Cowan

    Regarding Rusbridger’s call to leave fossil fuels in the ground … that is not coming only from Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. It is also coming from peer-reviewed research published in the journal Nature. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

    Regarding the 2C limit, if anything it is too high. Identifying a particular limit may not be that helpful for science, but it gives policymakers a goal to shoot for, even if it’s likely we are going to overshoot it.

    • JH

      We’ll blow through the 2°C limit like we blew through “population limits” and the food production limits and no one will even notice – just like we have over the last 15 years.
      snort. stop fooling yourself.

      • John Samuel

        Your faith is touching. Your evidence is lacking.

      • Maggnum

        [quote]We’ll blow through the 2°C limit like we blew through “population limits”[/quote] Tell that to the Chinese. You have a lack of evidence for sure, but also a lack of sense.

  • John Irving

    Your case that this move by the Guardian, one of the most read mainstream publications in the world, to draw attention to the greatest challenge facing humanity today, and countless other species (which, BTW, humans rely upon), seems very weak and tangential to me. We better hope that we stay within the low end of the RCP scenarios because climate disruption is already unfolding at an alarming rate and we are on course for the worst case scenarios if CO2 emissions remain unchecked. I am really struggling to imagine why this is a negative development or what would motivate anyone sufficiently informed to arrive at that conclusion. Honestly…

  • John Irving

    Meanwhile the Guardian reports on not meeting the 2•C target just now.

    Climate summit’s pledges on carbon cuts ‘won’t avert global disaster’
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/07/climate-summit-pledge-fail-carbon-cuts-temperature-rise

  • Leonarda Fibonacci

    Every single voice in the public sphere has a perspective and a position of which they are attempting to convince their listeners. Rusbridger’s candid acceptance of the consequences of his editorial policy is to be much admired. I find this article very disappointing, not the least because the author is attempting to hide his denialism.

    If the Guardian’s series succeeds in putting climate change on the table for the next UK elections, it will have done more for the future than any amount of punctiliious dithering, such as that shown by here by Keith Kloor. Addressing climate change is a political decision at this point, and the Rusbridger shows his grasp of the issues.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    As nearly 1/2 the US digs out from the most brutal winter since the early 1900s, remember: “It’s only weather.” Alaska not having enough snow for the Iditarod is Global Warming!

    • John Samuel

      Yet more heat records were set in the US than cold records.
      http://www.livescience.com/50073-winter-2014-2015-how-cold.html

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Rural thermometers have become urban thermometers. For all the data that they sling, the numbers don’t mean anything. Reinstall shade, transpirative cooling, and intense chlorophyll near-infrared fluorescence, below, blasting heat back into the sky.

        Atmos. Meas. Tech. 6, 2803 (2013), DOI: 10.5194/amt-6-2803-2013

        http://icecube.berkeley.edu/~bramall/work/astrobiology/images/chlorophyllspectra.jpg

        • John Samuel

          Try again. Use reputable citations.

          Homogenisation has a purpose.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            Do you claim the above was drawn with crayon on butcher paper? If it was, it was peer-reviewed butcher paper.

          • John Samuel

            If I chuck your “citation” into Google I get.
            Global monitoring of terrestrial chlorophyll fluorescence from moderate-spectral-resolution near-infrared satellite measurements: methodology, simulations, and application to GOME-2
            http://www.atmos-meas-tech.net/6/2803/2013/amt-6-2803-2013.html

            Do you really know what you are doing? Or can you supply a link?

  • OWilson

    Remember when they used to remind us of the Washington D.C. Cherry blossoms blooming earlier and earlier? Global Warming they said.

    Maple syrup industry devastated by unseasonably warm weather? Global Warming, they said.

    Don’t hear much about that stuff any more.

    Wonder why?
    Lol

    • John Samuel

      Spring is arriving earlier. Had you not noticed? Bless. It’s not news anymore.
      http://www.climatecentral.org/news/spring-is-arriving-earlier-and-earlier-in-the-u.s-17202

      • OWilson

        A little bird told me the Cherry Blossom Festival may have to be moved forward, for the first time in it’s history, due to the recent late, very cold, springs.
        Also that the maple syrup industry is suffering from the same problem. :)

        • John Samuel

          Birds say many things.

          People supply evidence.

          • OWilson

            The cherry blossoms were described as the “canary” of Global Warming.

            Poor little canary, now relegated to the Global Cooling Pile Of Stuff.

          • John Samuel

            Still no evidence? Bless.

          • OWilson

            You seem concerned about the climate.

            Do you actually know what the temperature of the earth will be by 2050 if it continues at the same rate as observed by satellite technology?

  • styopa

    Rusbridger doesn’t say the 2℃ target can be met or is practical or helpful. He says that the consequences of warming beyond 2℃ are predictably terrifying and that there should be a debate about what governments can do to attempt to regulate them or otherwise stave them off. I have trouble seeing where you have trouble with that. But why not try it? Submit your piece arguing that the target is or may be unrealistic or unhelpful, and showing what consequences you believe that has for actions that should be taken by governments or others, and see if you can get it accepted. Or is sniping from the sidelines more your thing?

  • Tom Scharf

    Well given the Guardian’s previous well founded views on the impacts of climate change, I have no idea why there should be any balance in their views. Their word is gold:

    Climate change will shake the Earth
    “A changing climate isn’t just about floods, droughts and heatwaves. It brings erupting volcanoes and catastrophic earthquakes too”

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/feb/26/why-climate-change-shake-earth

    http://i.guim.co.uk/static/w-620/h–/q-95/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2012/2/24/1330108042031/As-the-Earths-crust-buckl-007.jpg

    • John Samuel

      Did you read the cited scientific paper? No.

      As the ice melts the crust shifts, allowing more magma.
      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/feb/26/why-climate-change-shake-earth

      Incredulity isn’t good enough.

      • bobito

        So the gradual loss of ice over centuries is supposed to cause more harm than the massive buildup/melting that happens annually?

        • John Samuel

          Do you have evidence the loss is gradual?

          Try again.

          • bobito

            I’m assuming your issue with my statement is that you feel the ice is melting at a pace that is not accurately defined by the word ‘gradual’. I’ll reword so that we are not arguing semantics:

            So the accelerating loss of ice, due to climate change, is supposed to cause more harm than the massive buildup/melting that happens annually?

          • John Samuel

            I see your dog eats all your evidence.

            Year on year the earth is losing one trillion tonnes of ice.

            The surface warms.

            http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1996/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1996/trend

            The oceans warm…

            http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

            …and rise 3.2 mm per year, up from 1.9 mm per year a century ago.
            http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-removed

            …and acidify by 30% since the industrial revolution.

            http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F

            The earth is losing a trillion tons of ice per year:

            – 159 Gt Antarctic land ice, McMillan el al, GRL (2014), http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL060111/abstract

            + 26 Gt Antarctic sea ice, Holland et al, J Climate (2014) , http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00301.1

            – 261 Gt Arctic sea ice, PIOMAS, http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/

            – 378 Gt Greenland, Enderlin et al, GRL (2014), http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL059010/abstract
            – 259 Gt other land based glaciers, Gardner et al. Science (2013), http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6134/852.abstract

            = – 1,031 Gt, total

          • bobito

            You are either a bot, or blinded by ideology. Nothing I have said should lead you to believe I disagree with this statement.

          • John Samuel

            Then you agree the earth is losing ice beyond the annual build up and melt.

          • bobito

            Yes, agree, that was never the point I was trying to make.

            Do you agree that the earth, relative to each pole, gains and loses more ice each year than it loses on net? That’s my point. The ice growth, then melt, annually is massive compared to what is lost on net.

            So, my question remains, how can a this annually occurring massive change not have a greater effect on volcanoes and earthquakes than a smaller change over a greater period of time?

          • John Samuel

            Net the earth is losing a trillion tonnes a year. Every year. Beyond the cycles.

            The answer is obvious. Some scientists even provided it in my link above. Try looking in the back of the book.

          • bobito

            (note to self: stop commenting on climate topics as it causes a painful red dot to appear on my forehead)

          • John Samuel

            Migraines from learning? You don’t get those very often, do you?

          • bobito

            You have told me nothing I don’t already know and I agree with all the figures you gave me, so no, I didn’t learn a thing in our interaction.

            The headache comes from attempting to communicate with someone that just wants to preach.

          • John Samuel

            So you agree the ice is melting. And you agree your point on annual melting and reforming is a red herring. A fluorescing one.

          • bobito

            I don’t think you’ve address the point I was trying to make, and with that, I don’t think you are getting the point I was trying to make. So, out of morbid curiosity, what point did you think I was trying to make?

          • John Samuel

            OMG.

            The annual build up and melt is just an annual cycle around an annual decline. Think of it as a sinusoid on a downward tilt.

          • bobito

            I couldn’t agree more.

          • John Samuel

            Then we’re actually almost agreed. Except it’s not gradual. And the decline started relatively recently.

            The loss of mass allows the surface to rise and magma to flow. Not good.

          • bobito

            Right, and every year almost the entirety of Canada is covered in feet of snow, then it melts, which causes the same effect. I don’t recall hearing about an increase in volcanoes or earthquakes due to this. This is my point.

            Which leads me to a bigger point… why are you spending so much effort defending the Guardian article about increased volcano and earthquake activity? If you were to poll scientists, how many do you think would agree with the content of that article? Yet you’ve felt the need to insult me for questioning an aspect of it…

          • John Samuel

            The Canadian north isn’t notoriously volcanic or seismic.

            Good scientists wrote the underlying paper. Why do you feel the need to denigrate their work?

          • Tom Scharf

            Them sure is big numbers. Let’s see what they result in, you left that part out.

            Sea ice doesn’t count for sea level, it’s floating.

            If you are worried about massive ice losses, I suggest you read IPCC AR5, Ch 13, this will calm your fears.

            FAQ 13.2: Will the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets Contribute to Sea Level Change over the Rest of the Century? – Greenland 0 to 70mm by 2100. WAIS -20 to 185 mm. Overall It’s about 1 mm / year and not expected to change dramatically even over centuries. If we maintained the RCP8.5 emissions scenario for centuries (unrealistic) then these numbers can get larger.

            The seas were rising at about the same rate they are now in the time frame 1940 to 1960. Figure 13.7

            All these estimates come from models. Buried deep in Ch 13 we find this fact, sea level rise models are currently running hot, about 15% higher than observations. p 1180, 13.5.1. They expected sea levels to be rising at 3.7 mm/year at this point.

            No need to buy life rafts quite yet.

          • John Samuel

            F=ma is a model. Science is very much about models.

            We are currently tracking RCP 8.5 with emissions rising 2% a year.

            SLR was 1.9mm pa a century ago. Now it’s 3.2mm pa. On a straight line that’t a foot a century. Many capital projects are built for 100 year lifespans. What numbers would you use?

            No need for complacency.

          • Tom Scharf

            We are currently tracking all RCP emissions scenarios because they all start with current conditions. They diverge in the coming decades. I call RCP8.5 unrealistic for long term predictions because this scenario has us burning 10x the coal as we do today by 2100. The world only has so much coal reserves. If China is to be trusted, we won’t be on RCP8.5.

            Sea level has not been rising in a straight line. See recent post from RC. If we average over a period of 60 years it flattens out. It is probably getting slightly faster over the past century. Possibly 1 mm/yr per century. Unfortunately observations from 100 years ago are not ideal.

            I expect global sea levels to rise about 18 inches over this century given what we know today.

            I live in Florida, most coastal communities have building codes to 10+ feet due to hurricane storm surge. I wouldn’t panic if your building is to current codes.

          • John Samuel

            Which RCP do you think we are traversing?

            As RC points out the IPCC SLR estimates are probably low-balling.

            You can’t call it climate change in Florida now due to state censorship, can you?

            Thankfully not everyone lives in Florida.

          • Tom Scharf

            The RCP scenario isn’t what is happening today, it is how emissions evolve over time. We know what is happening today. RCP8.5 assumes China, India, et. al. keep increasing their emissions at today’s very fast rates. no significant technological advances, very substantial population increases, etc. It’s a good idea to have worst case profiles, it’s a bad idea to assume this will happen by default if the fix is costly. My guess is we will be near one of the medium emission profiles. Time will tell.

            SLR observations are currently below model estimates, that’s not low balling. I’ll stick with the IPCC because apparently I’m a denier of science.

      • Tom Scharf

        So….. is it your belief that AGW will bring erupting volcanoes and catastrophic earthquakes?

        I’m not asking if you believe someone stated this, I’m sure they did, I’m asking if you personally believe this.

        • John Samuel

          I tend to follow the science.

          What do you do?

          • Tom Scharf

            I just first want to establish whether you agree with this particular science from this particular researcher, your personal opinion about its veracity. Then we can talk about whether this particular science is supported by others. We have established someone asserted this.

            Do you agree with these findings?

            I disagree with these findings. I believe AGW will not lead to catastrophic earthquakes or volcanoes and do not believe mainstream climate science supports these conclusions.

            Your turn.

          • John Samuel

            Have you any evidence to support your beliefs?

            I do.

          • Tom Scharf

            Most recent IPCC SREX: “there is low confidence in the nature of recent and projected future seismic responses to anthropogenic climate change.”

            However I suggest you make it a point to bring this up in every conversation and do your best to make the public aware of this imminent catastrophic consequence of AGW. It should help.

  • Kehvan

    Ah yes, the typical lament of the global warming propagandist, skeptics, “are hostile to climate science for ideological and political reasons,” while believing, as they advocate for a world wide reordering of economies into something reminiscent of fascistic oligarchy, nothing they do is motivated by political and/or ideological reasons.

    There is a plethora of scientists who aren’t on board with the global warming scaremongering… this includes, but’s not limited to;
    * David Bellamy, botanist.
    * Judith Curry, Professor and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
    * Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus of the School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study; Fellow of the Royal Society
    * Steven E. Koonin, theoretical physicist and director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University
    * Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Academy of Sciences
    * Craig Loehle, ecologist and chief scientist at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement.
    * Nils-Axel Mörner, retired head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics Department at Stockholm University, former chairman of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999–2003)
    * Garth Paltridge, retired chief research scientist, CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research and retired director of the Institute of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre, visiting fellow Australian National University
    * Denis Rancourt, former professor of physics at University of Ottawa, research scientist in condensed matter physics, and in environmental and soil science
    * Peter Stilbs, professor of physical chemistry at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
    * Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London
    * Hendrik Tennekes, retired director of research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
    * Anastasios Tsonis, distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    * Fritz Vahrenholt, German politician and energy executive with a doctorate in chemistry
    * Zbigniew Jaworowski, physician and ice core researcher.

    Read more — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming)

  • Buddy199

    The journalists at The Guardian accept as an article of unquestioned quasi-religious faith that the same governments and bureaucrats who thought up the Euro and ran the continent’s economy into depression, or “fixed” the U.S. health care system are competent enough to take over the global energy sector and $75 trillion economy.

    Let’s have that debate before we go any farther.

    • John Samuel

      They’d love to see a viable free market solution.

      Got one?

      • Kehvan

        The wonderful thing about free markets is that viable solutions only arrive when they’re needed: no sooner, no later.

        • John Samuel

          Really?

          CFCs? Acid rain?

          Try again. No invisible hand faith based arguments, please.

          • Kehvan

            Maybe you meant CFCs, but then it appears you’re a sycophant. You don’t understand the science, but are willing to mouth talking points.

          • John Samuel

            I edited the spelling.

            It would appear I understand the science far better than you. But that would also appear to be a low hurdle. So I’m not as delighted as you may think.

          • Kehvan

            I doubt it, but lets test that…

            How is stratospheric ozone created?

          • John Samuel

            Did you mother never tell you about JAQing off?
            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_asking_questions

            Make a point. Provide reputable evidence. It’s grown ups’ night tonight.

          • Kehvan

            Can’t answer I see, so you respond with a diversion.

            I’m done with you, good bye.

          • John Samuel

            JAQing off is just an old denialist’s last trick before being caught out.

            You folded instead of making a substantive point. And I rather thought you would all along. :-)

          • Buddy199

            Fracking. Courtesy of the same invisible hand that puts food on your table, a paycheck in your pocket and a roof over your head.

          • John Samuel
          • John Samuel

            Markets are just a mechanism. When they work, great. When they don’t I don’t treat them as religious beliefs, I try something else.

          • Buddy199

            When free market solutions don’t work, they go out of business. When government solutions don’t work their vested interests make sure that even more taxpayer money is thrown at them and they never disappear. That’s the difference. The religious belief is thinking that the only reason any government program doesn’t work as advertised is that we didn’t pour enough money into it.

      • Buddy199

        The free market is largely responsible for the reduction of CO2 output due to the revolution in fracking and natgas recovery. Also, the fact that the U.S. will soon have viable oil reserves on a par with Saudi Arabia. Government funded basic research whose developments are later exploited in the private sector (the iPhone, communication satellites, GPS, nuclear power for instance) is a powerful solution. Crony capitalism, showering green money on political contributors, killing energy projects such as Keystone based on political pressure rather than the government’s own science are not effective solutions.

  • Ferdinand Marcos 2.0

    I hope I’m alive when the sun burps one day and shut all of you up about man-made this and that. We are fleas on this planet. We may have the ability to kill most life off with our weapons but it would come back.

    • OWilson

      A couple of days without electricity, and with no phone, radio, refrigeration, heat, hospital equipment, police service or internet, first the Walmarts would be looted and trashed, then in a week, we would all be back in the stone age.

      Cheap fossil fuel energy is all that keeps us from killing each other.

      (that, and those guns your local cops wear to prevent your nice neighbours from stealing your stuff, and doing terrible things to your wife and kids)

  • MJ Manetzke

    I agree with you. Parameters defined are by definition limits, and in this case ones which are by the Guardian’s own writings still up for debate, now…stifled/limited.

  • http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/ Bob Bingham

    With CO2 at 400 pats per million and no sign of it stopping we are pretty well committed to a 2C temperature rise and a sea level rise of two metres this century and a lot of other bad things happening. This will lead to the deaths of one billion people through wars and starvation. If we do nothing and just keep going there will be four billion dead. The problem with wars is that when they get started you have no idea where it will go.

    .http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/climate-threats.html

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

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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