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Nothing to Show: AGWers’ Big Stumbling Block

UPDATE NOV 29: William M Connolley says he is not impressed by Romm’s list either

There’s an underlying feeling of desperation in Joe Romm (ClimateProgress)’s “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?, a list “of what might drive action strong enough to avoid the worst“.

The list includes the Arctic “ice-free before 2020“, “superstorms like Katrina“, “a heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003” , and the 2012 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (perish the thought it might be less catastrophiliac than the Fourth Assessment Report…).

Note that Romm’s blog has been echoed by Heliophage, on Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth, and in Nature’s Climate Feedback. An unwise move, if you ask me: one wonders what people would make if they knew that those claiming to work towards saving Planet Earth, are actively hoping disasters of all sorts befall upon us.

Talk about striving for unpopularity!!!

The desperation is evident in the fact that a person allegedly as well-informed on climate stuff as Romm, comes up with wholly inappropriate examples. Katrina was a big storm but not more superstorm than other hurricanes (Romm even acknowledges this point), and the destruction of New Orleans was evidently a matter of bad engineering and incompetent relief management. Didn’t he have anything better to put forward?

Likewise for the European heatwave of 2003. And even more importantly: neither Katrina, nor the European heatwave, can be linked to Climate Change and/or Global Warming. And so if, say, another heatwave will materialize, it will tell us absolutely nothing about Climate Change and Global Warming.

Actually, looking at the list of 9 items posted by Romm, the only ones that may provide ammunitions to the AGW cause may be the ice-free Arctic, and “accelerated mass loss in Greenland“.

Most likely, Romm is simply and perhaps unwittingly acknowledging the fact that for all the huffing and all the puffing, there is very little that AGWers can show to support their claims.

Look at when Revkin (a journalist I am grudgingly but steadily learning to respect) makes a very clear point to Romm:

As I [Revkin] wrote in 2006 (”Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet“) problems that get people’s attention (and cause them to change) are “soon, salient and certain” and the dangerous aspects of human-forced climate disruption remain none of those things

In other words, the dangers of AGW are not about to happen, they are not strikingly conspicuous, and they are not sure or inevitable.

And what has Romm got to reply to that? Very little. Actually, almost nothing: he spells out some kind of humanitarian deathwish, a desire for a big climate crisis; makes a critical point against journalists (who doesn’t); and decries how he understands things but most people don’t:

Multi-hundred-billion-dollar-sized government action happens only when there is a very, very big crisis […] labeled as such by very serious people who are perceived as essentially nonpartisan opinion leaders […] bad things must be happening to regular people right now […]

Better journalism would help. […] We simply don’t have a critical mass of credible nonpartisan opinion leaders who understand the nature of our energy and climate problem.

Revkin’s “soon, salient and certain“, by the way, is a quote originally from “Helen Ingram, a professor of planning, policy and design at the University of California, Irvine.

Won’t Prof. Ingram be excited upon hearing that salience is not a problem, but persons not being bright enough is…

The supreme pinnacle of irony, in the Romm/Revkin exchange, lies in the former’s misunderstanding of the latter’s point about “certainty“. In 2006, Revkin noted that:

Projections of how patterns of drought, deluges, heat and cold might change are among the most difficult, and will remain laden with huge uncertainties for a long time to come […]

While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion […]

Romm’s reply? Another accusation, refusing to acknowledge Revkin’s first point (emphasis in the original):

You [Revkin] understand this but you don’t convey this to your readers: Doing nothing or doing little eliminates the uncertainty.

Romm’s near-term climate Pearl Harbors post, actually, does look suspiciously as a way of “pushing a notion” the non-scientific notion of connecting recent weather to (future?) climate change.


The above doesn’t look very promising for the AGW movement.

I am actually starting to think that the problem is in the fact that most AGWer haven’t grasped the nature of the issue they are concerned about. And so they use the tools learned to protect pandas or clean up the Hudson river. And for most intents and purposed, they fail: because, as Revkin has realized, Anthropogenic Global Warming, aka Climate Change, truly is a completely different beast.

  1. 2008/12/13 at 21:08

    you may be interested in the site http://acccforum.blogspot.com, which tries to take an even-handed approach in the context of a particular region, the us appalachian coalfields.

  2. 2008/11/28 at 19:48

    I don’t think either I or Andy were “echoing” Joe Romm; I was actually pointing out that his candidates were, I think, unlikely to have the effect of which he was talking. The fact that i didn’t offer any of my own can be taken to mean I don’t think hoping for catastrophes is a great idea.

  3. 2008/11/28 at 14:07


    If you read the About Omniclimate page, you will see that we are not talking using different wavelengths…

  4. 2008/11/28 at 13:05

    I remember the heatwave of 2003 vividly, and recall driving on the M25 near Heathrow during one of the hotter August afternoons (in a car without air conditioning.) But that was over half a decade ago now, and there’s been nothing quite like it since. In May 2005 the Met Office were predicting unusually high temps in July and August, and the BBC showed a docu-drama called Heatwave, set in the year 2006, and featuring overflowing hospitals, wildfires devastating the countryside and the UK’s transport infrastructure collapsing. Even this year, scientists such as Andreas Sterl have been gazing into their climate models and forseeing ever hotter heatwaves as the century unfolds. Who knows, maybe there will be 1976- or 2003-style heatwaves in future; I think it likely. But as the first decade of the 21st century approaches its end, the summers in Europe have been rather underwhelming in the apocalypse department, and thus probably somewhat disappointing for the catastrophiliacs.

  5. 2008/11/28 at 06:57

    AGW believers I tangle with these days are rationalizing the lack of warming.With the latest one about Asian Brown Clouds.

    CO2 aside from their climate models backing are just lost molecules in the bigger picture.Yet AGW believers fervently cling to the never proved awsome warm forcing power of the super rare gas.

    The low ice levels in the Arctic is really a SUMMER time phenomenon.The data shows that winter levels are about normal.While Fall and Spring slightly below normal.But the AGW believers never seem to notice that low ice levels are confined almost entirely to the Summer time of the year.

  6. geoff chambers
    2008/11/28 at 06:49

    You note an “underlying feeling of desperation” in Joe Romm’s call for a “Climate Pearl Harbour”. I detect rather a note of exhilaration – rapture – even. He’s enjoying himself, and so are his readers. The most striking thing I found is the quality of the comments, which are intelligent, literate, well-informed (just like here, really) nothing like the illiterate rants (from all sides) which you get in reply to an article by Booker or Monbiot. Except they’re discussing, in the most reasonable tone of voice, the relative merits of Dengue fever, drought, or a hurricane destroying New York. Romm claims he’s not wishing for these things, only speculating as to which of them would be the most effective in waking people up. Does desiring the effect imply desiring the cause?
    Something which has been noted many times, in an entirely different context, is the terrible banality of evil. I’ve had my wake up call, and it’s not the one Romm is wishing for.

  7. Rick
    2008/11/28 at 06:28

    The most interesting thing about the climate debate to me is that it demonstrates that intelligent educated people can be entirely off base and completely wrong despite their convictions and ability to reason and consider eveidence.

    And thats true no matter who might be ultimately in the right. The point is: everybody should step back and stop being so cock sure of themselves. Some humility is fitting when it comes to climate future.

  1. 2012/03/21 at 00:53
  2. 2011/07/08 at 00:09
  3. 2010/01/25 at 23:29
  4. 2010/01/20 at 14:54
  5. 2009/01/12 at 00:12
  6. 2009/01/08 at 00:35
  7. 2008/11/28 at 06:57
  8. 2008/11/28 at 03:41
  9. 2008/11/27 at 22:55

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