Weird stuff from Romm

It seems to have become axiomatic in some parts that Gore can do no wrong; Joe Romm has a long column (disclaimer: the column is too long for me to bother read it all) devoted to this implausible assumption, with which I disagree. It’s yet more of that tedious business with the slide that got pulled. As RP Jr apparently says Gore was right to admit that the slide was problematic and then pull it from his talk. Romm’s answer is Gore never admitted the slide was “problematic,” in the way Pielke is implying. He simply agreed to remove the slide after the Belgians backtracked about what they will [sic] had previously said about their data. I have talked to the Gore folks. Has Pielke? I don’t think the plucky little Belgians have backtracked about anything. But more interesting is Romm’s description of Gore’s fact-checking process. It is so comically inept that it’s astonishing they are prepared to admit to it (as we shall see, I also consider it to be implausible).

Romm reports: Charles Blow publishes an article in the New York Times (May 31, 2008) that uses a cute graphic of disasters derived from the CRED report that the Gore folks like, so they ask the CRED folks for a copy of their report. They don’t ask the CRED folks “we want to say X, backed up by your slide: do you agree with that interpretation”, presumably because that would be far too easy. Oh no, what happened is that the Gore folks monitored the NYT to see if CRED was critical of how Blow used their slide. Can you imagine this? Every morning they open the paper and scan though it looking for something from CRED. A week goes by, then a month. Still nothing. “Do you think we have waited long enough?” they say to each other. “I don’t know. How long does the post take to reach Belgium?” they reply. “Do you think we might perhaps simply ask CRED what they think of Blow’s column?” inquires one of the more sensible people. “Oh no, that would be too easy” says another. Apart from the obvious stupidity of this approach, there is always the possibility that CRED did write in bitterly complaining, but the rag didn’t print them. Perhaps CRED don’t even read the rag concerned. More likely, CRED shrugged their shoulders at yet another misinterpretation of their data.

The following twaddle dancing around the word “this” is just too embarassing to read.

Meantime, my apologies for wasting my and your time with this trivia. I need to get back to the runaway stuff (thank you for your comments), and there are piles of other things to finish off.

[Update: the lapine one provides a transcript -W]


  1. #1 crf

    Whenever Romm reads something of Pielke’s, he ought to sleep on it for a week before writing. If whatever Pielke wrote is still somehow relevant, then write about it: otherwise, forget about it.

    It isn’t about what Gore did, or what the NYtimes did. Once Romm reads what Pielke’s take on something is, he’ll find some fault in the presentation (which is too easy to do). This sticks in Romm’s craw. But then the original issue becomes secondary.

  2. #2 Eli Rabett

    The issue about whether there is yet an observable increase in disaster damage from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations is not settled, but there are very strong indications that this is so. The issue of whether there will be a significant increase in the future is different. There is strong agreement that there will be.

    The CRED statement (Pielke quoted this) is (emph added)

    Indeed, justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts ESSENTIALLY through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is PROBABLY an actor in this increase but not the major one- even if it impact on the figures will likely become MORE EVIDENT in the future. The task of identifying the possible impact of the climate change on the EM-DAT figures is complicated by the existence of several concomitant factors.

    In addition to the usual factors cited by Pielke which have increased the costs, building in flood zones, etc, there are others which have reduced the losses, better building codes in hurricane areas. In this case, Gore was probably about as right as Roger, or a bit more so. Certainly the major insurers are coming over to Gore’s side of this.

    Finally, if you think that Romm is parsing, what about Roger?

    [That's all very well, but the issue here is the Gore folk's use of one slide. I notice you're not defending that, or their absurd methods in this case. As to whether there is a connection between climate change and disasters, I have no objection to their being one, and I'm certainly not saying there isn't one - I'm saying that Gore should be using and reporting the correct evidence.

    As to RP, I was going to reply "Oh, Roger is a terrible parser", but you've linked to Romm parsing again, so I'm not sure what you point is. If you think Roger is being inconsistent, that is possible, though without checking I'd be doubtful, as he is usually quite careful -W]

  3. #3 Magnus W

    I think that this also might serve as a good wake up call for parts of the media… words is easily twisted and it might be good to actually check with the source before writing stuff…

  4. #4 Eli Rabett

    Romm needs an editor, for sure.

    My view on the thing is that Revkin, drawn in by Pielke, drew a false equivalence. It was damaging

    1) The slide was the real and complete slide that CRED had published and it was relevant to the question that Gore posed. It was not a piece of fantasy or at best a stretch such as Will imagined. (See Michael, Patrick, eraser class)

    2) Gore’s statement about the meaning of the slide was a stretch, but there was observational (weak) and theoretical backing for what he said. What Will wrote was wrong.

    The fact that CRED used the word PROBABLE, as Romm noted in his interminable way, is important on Gore’s side. The fact that CRED said that climate change is not the major, but a significant cause makes Gore’s statement too strong.

    Roger, himself, as another of Romm’s posts, and one of mine shows, is engaged in similar stretching with respect to the issue (go on, read Rabett Run, it’s at the top)

    3) Roger’s hissy fit about what Gore wrote was aimed at stirring a fuss. You and I might have said: This is a stretch. We expect the signal to emerge from the noise when the temperature anomaly goes up a bit more, but right now we can’t unequivocally see it

    4) If anyone thinks what Roger is doing to Michael is fair, they are wrong. If anyone has any respect for Roger after this they are wrong.

    [4. RP's comments on mt are stupid. 3, 2: I still haven't seen what Gore *wrote* about the slide - can you provide a link? Nor have I seen the transcript of what he said. 1. Yes but not very interesting. I assume 2, 3 is going to be another AIT style "if greenland melts" type thing, in which I think he was being deliberately misleading and you disagree.

    I notice you've still avoided commenting on the Gore teams method of fact checking, as reported by Romm -W]

  5. #5 Eli Rabett

    RP’s comments on mt are destructive and purposely so unless you think Roger is an idiot. More this evening.

  6. #6 Brian Schmidt

    RP Jr. is a careful parser? Do you mean careful as in truthful, or careful as in misleading but not technically lying? I’ll put him in the latter category regarding Hansen and air capture, although Roger’s wrong about Hansen’s position on deep sea CO2 injection.

  7. #7 Thom

    Roger purpsoefully misleads and Romm is trying to point that out. Gore did a pretty admirable job of checking out the CRED data. He waited to see if there was a retraction and found other sources backing up the information. I don’t think you need to go back to the source and check out every single publication in a personal email.

    [Oh dear. No, Gore did not do an admirable job. As I've said, if the Gore team really did do what they say then they are totally clueless. It would have been an absurdly labour-intensive method, far harder than simply mailing CRED. If you're going to us words directly lifted from the source, then there is no need to go back and check with the authors. But of course the Gore follks weren't doing that - otherwise why did they feel any need to monitor the rag? The answer, of course, is that they are overlaying their own interpretation on top of the study, in a way that the CRED text doesn't support. Most likely, they were fully aware of that, and so deliberately avoided checking with CRED, since they knew CRED wouldnt approve -W]

    Otherwise, how would science advance? Should the papers listed in a bibilography include a dated email, explaining that the paper’s author was contacted for comment?

    [See above. You have failed to understand the situation -W]

  8. #8 kelebek


  9. #9 Eli Rabett

    You have to but ask. Deposit the carrots on your way out.

  10. #10 Marion Delgado

    The history with Romm and various denialists like Pielke is not mostly Gore-centric. I think that’s a mistaken impression on your part, William.

    [I'm not really sure what you mean. Incidentally, Pielke isn't a denialist; that is lazy talk -W]

  11. #11 Brian Schmidt

    Personally, I think kelebek has nailed the issue down succinctly. He left William without a rejoinder.

    [Jack you're late? -W]

  12. #12 gravityloss

    I feel the American bloggers (Michael Tobis, Eli Rabett etc) are too kind with Al Gore. I’m kinda fed up with his mistakes. Why do they have to be in there? Why do you have to say 300 dead from Australian forest fires when the data is about 200.

    These mistakes don’t change the main points much but are very annoying. Why can’t he get his stuff straight god dammit.
    Watching his stuff you spot kinda foolish arguments at regular intervals (“nature’s great plan” when talking about birds and caterpillars).

    I wish there was someone more on the ball doing talking tours and making movies. The BBC series has some goodness but a lot of badness too (especially the start with the ice age thingy).

    Myles Allen? He at least had a good style and is a real physicist.

  13. #13 Eli Rabett

    Dear gravityloss. Gore spoke on Feb 15. For some days before that the newspapers were full of estimates of 300 odd dead from police source. Many of them said up to 300, which since these things are estimates could have been more. You could google it, or you could pull a Stoat and bluster about why Gore had not used the Future Google feature. OF ALL THE POLITICAL AND POLICY WONKS OUT THERE FIND ELI ONE THAT IS AS PRECISE AS GORE AND CONSULTS AS MUCH WITH SCIENTISTS ABOUT THE SCIENCE AND PUTS IT INTO HIS SPEECHES.

    Frankly after ten years of this crap trying to tear Gore down, Eli is happy to give him the benefit of the doubt and a bit more. Those so minded can always find something to quibble on in a one hour speech or a paper. Evidently you and William are so minded. Perhaps you could turn your attention to the truly deserving?

    Allen was good vs. Lomborg.

  14. #14 Eli Rabett

    Kelebek! eeeeeeeeee!

  15. #15 Alan Woods

    What Eli is essentially saying is that Gore is OUR bastard.

    However, Eli is right when he points out that it was reasonable for Gore to use the figure of 300 dead. Where Gore was wrong was to suggest that the major debate in Australia was about whether global warming was the culprit. The major debate is over who is to blame for allowing historic levels of forest litter and fuel to accummulate. Perhaps mt can pinpoint the morally responsible party.

    [Weeeellll... at the risk of irritating Eli further, why was Gore mentionning the 200/300 at all? It is very much a current event. Gore is trying to tell us about long-term warming, which doesn't depend on current events at all. The Aust fires are just some "spice" to his talk. If he is going to mention them, I would say he should be giving ranges for the deaths rather than single numbers, and point out that we don't know what their cause is. But if he is going to talk about the science of GW, I'd rather he stuck to the P-R lit. -W]

  16. #16 Eli Rabett

    No, Eli doesn’t think Gore is a bastard of any sort. He is a political figure who does as good an approximation to science speak as one can find. Not everything is caveated, which pisses some off, although he does do this a lot more than most policy types.

    As to what the major debate in Australia is, all Eli can see is what is on the blogs and the newspapers, so clearly there is an and, with one side pushing the litter issue to blame the greens and bash Rudd for his climate change plan and the other the climate change issue. YMMV, but Eli likes AND from half way around the world.

  17. #17 Alan Woods

    It’s a figure of speech, Eli.

    Wrt to the debate, I can assure you the major issue being debated here in Melbourne is the fuel/undergrowth issue. Thats not to say that greenhouse warming isn’t, but most people recognise that as a minor issue, given Australia’s bushfire history.

    Theres a lot of the bashing you describe, but its really just a self-indulgent left/right columnist/blogger sideshow to the major debate about cheap housing on the urban/forest fringe, lack of clearing of forest around houses and roads, and under-resourced and under-supported departments whose job it is to burn off forest fuel. Not to mention councils who want to protect the character of their areas etc etc.

  18. #18 Magnus W

    On the sea level and Gore?

    As suggested by the IPCC the Greenland Ice Sheet can disappear completely if surface warming is maintained in excess of 1.9-4.6°C for millennia and raise sea level by 7 m or more.

  19. #19 Eli Rabett

    Alan, unfortunately the left-right columnist sideshow is the main one for most people, which is the point, especially in the US where the left has been denied a voice for a long time. Agreed that the situation is more balanced elsewhere, but Eli lives in the US. We understand how nit-picking and lying about people like Gore in this media environment destroys any possibility of progress. We lived through eight years of the consequences. We also understand false equivalency which we see every day and we are beginning to have a voice. And yes sir, we understand how the refs have been worked and conditioned to sit up and beg from Drudge, and Co.

    IEHO anyone who writes that Will and Gore are equivalent is going well beyond making a mistake.

  20. #20 sohbet

    Wrt to the debate, I can assure you the major issue being debated here in Melbourne is the fuel/undergrowth issue. Thats not to say that greenhouse warming isn’t, but most people recognise that as a minor issue, given Australia’s bushfire.
    Theres a lot of the bashing you describe, but its really just a self-indulgent left/right columnist/blogger sideshow to the major debate about cheap housing on the urban/forest fringe, lack of clearing of forest around houses and roads, and under-resourced and under-supported departments whose job it is to burn off forest fuel. Not to mention councils who want to protect the character of