Oh dear oh dear oh dear

Roger is having a spot of trouble: everyone is being nasty to him. Once upon a time the mighty Prometheus bestrode the world like a Colossus and ate big fish for breakfast, but now it seems Roger swims with the minnows and it isn't a nice world down there. Eli shows him no mercy - wabbits are a vicious bunch - and Tim Lambert is not kind either but Whiskey Fire probably has the best take on all this.

Incidentally, it isn't really Roger's fault but he does seem to be attracting the wacko septics in the comments, for example Of course DeepClimate consistently refuses to publish my charts documenting the on-going, unbroken 10,000 year cooling trend in both the northern hemisphere AND the southern hemisphere. Yes, DeepClimate doesn't publish that because it is rubbish. Sigh. Roger really needs to weed out the wackos. A comment policy that deletes irrelevant rubbish is *good* not bad.

Still, I'll take Pielke over, say, Romm any day but this recent post does him no favours.

[Updates: Romm says Roger Pielke Jr. is the most debunked person in the science blogosphere, possibly the entire Web but this is twaddle.

More interestingly (thanks Hank) I've finally found fame and fortune in Nature (Louise, eat your heart out):


Why has the man got a penis-shaped fish resting against his backbone? I'm baffled -W]

More like this

> Could be I'm wrong and all we need is to sit and watch
> and it'll all work out, as RPJr. seems to believe.

(I've retracted that statement. Can't be.)

Ari, I tried to post this yesterday -- in the USA something like a third of the people who actually vote respond mainly to the theatrical presentation. For those, you need really intense theater. Remember, only a small fraction of those eligible does vote.

The popularity statistics can't be argued with -- theater works, when "logic and proportion have fallen softly dead, and the white knight's talking backwards ...." you need the theatrics from a blogger (or a candidate)

I mean, look at the person currently at the top of the polls for the Republicans in the next presidential campaign:

Yeah, him: http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=huckabee

Why link to _videos_? Well, duh. That's the audience that needs to be reached.

Climate? bor-ing. Statistics? "math is hard."
Oooh, shiny, flash, bang, rock'n'roll -- vote for that.

As said many years ago, Roger is a well connected political scientist trained in the manipulation of policy images. One forgets that at one's peril. Roger shaped the blog he wanted and the comments section is his garden. Still, the most interesting question is what happened at Colorado in the last year.

And then Eli remembers what Roger did to MT, and all kindness vanishes.

[I think Roger is very much of the "come on and have a go if you think you're hard enough" school. And I do rather approve of that attitude. But then he isn't prepared to be kinder to mt, having failed to recognise that mt isn't doing the same stuff, and he was wrong in that.

You bring up the "what happened at Colorado in the last year" question. I haven't been paying attention, and I'm sure you have. What has been said publicly, and what do you suspect privately, and has Roger ever been asked? He is, you know, quite good at stomping on speculation by saying "well you never asked me" -W]

I don't get it. What set all this off. Surely not the one comment about Hansen etc.

By Nicolas Nierenberg (not verified) on 23 Oct 2009 #permalink

Nicolas, you have missed the great Supercalifragafreakonomics multiblog mud fight. Count your blessings and kiss the kids. Keep walking. Seriously

Hi William,

this if OT, but here is an interesting quote from Pachauri, which you will not like (I think):

"every single estimate that people have come up with has been exceeded by reality", says Pachauri. "The impacts of climate change are clearly turning out to be much worse than what we had anticipated earlier." from Nature's store When the ice melts:



First time comment:

Full disclosure: I read Roger and you both on a regular basis. I get the policy side from Roger, and what I believe is a well-grounded science side from you.

Here's my take on Roger: I come from a poli sci background and have to admit that I agree with Roger on MANY issues. I have also managed to get myself in hot water with friends on these same issues when I've aired similar opinions. I don't care how it works in the university (which I have a good amount of experience in), in terms of policy, Roger often policy extremely well.

The one thing I wish that more of the people doing the science would understand is that, for better or for worse, Roger makes many excellent points about how policy works. That doesn't make it a "good" thing per se, but ignoring policyland is done at your own peril.

Want to call him names? Go ahead. It's the interwebs, and that's what we all do here for fun. But if want to see policy that helps deal with an issue, whether we like it or not, there are certain intricacies in American policymaking. And for some reason people don't want to admit to this when it comes to climate-based legislation.

[I agree with you about Roger and policy. I'd go further: much of the stuff about Disasters and Hurricanes that he writes is both Correct and Unwelcome in certain circles. But when Roger takes his "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" attitude into areas that he doesn't know so well - climate science being an obvious one - he can fall apart rather badly (the trend stuff was a disaster for him) and he has no fall-back strategy, since he cannot admit error -W]

I think there's a term for it in academia, but I've forgotten -- what is it called when someone who studies and writes about a particular area begins to have boundary issues, and starts acting like he's _from_ the area or culture that he's studying? Being captured by the subject, or something like that. Loss of the perspective and separation.

In some areas that's a direct route to at least charming eccentricity -- studying Egyptology, say. In some it's practically a qualification -- Fortean studies admits of nothing but total immersion.

One can get over feeling, or at least publicly behaving, as though one is from the Second Dynasty or the Fifth Planet, given time and effort

But it's terrible hard to get over becoming identified with some particular political point of view.

The New Tories, now, are really fascinating, particularly in their seemingly fatal susceptibility to googling errors. Some early difficulty with understanding Venn Diagrams, I think -- who ever imagined that stuff would become essential?


I agree. That said, I tend to enjoy Roger most of the time, and think that he's a fun read regardless of his flaws. I don't disagree that he has his ups and downs, but when he's right, oh boy is he right.

To be honest, I think Roger should just take his lumps. People seem to forget that the Internet is the Wild West-- lawless and cruel, and full of loose sexual mores. Being slandered is just par for the course. Is it lame that the various blogospheres operate a certain way? Sure. I've been banned from liberal AND conservative blogs because I often take odd positions on issues. Roger should, in my not so humble opinion, just know that even if he were ALWAYS right (nobody ever is) he'd still get called nanny boo boo names by the d-bags and even the not-so-d-bags.

I mean, seriously now, it's what we do on the nets. It's our calling. Our way of life.

A report from the front: http://blogs.nature.com/

At present, in the left column -- the blogs by "NPG Staff" -- the Climate section is almost all Kloor, and astonishingly lacking in comments from anyone at all. And it's mostly about him and his friend Roger, and "the Poll" -- although the headlines over the columns are mostly mentioning Copenhagen.

And on the right hand side of the page, at the very top, is:

Top stories today
Story title:
Oh dear oh dear oh dear
Story description:
Roger is having a spot of trouble: everyone is being nasty to him. Once upon a time the mighty Prometheus bestrode th...

Yes, friends, that image _is_ what you think it is.
Someone has an arch sense of humor over there at Nature.

[Thanks Hank. OK, what *is* that image, I can't tell -W]

HR: 'I think there's a term for it in academia'.

The Stockholm Syndrome?

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 25 Oct 2009 #permalink

"Why has the man got a p*****-shaped fish resting against his backbone?"
The fish looks like a remora, aka the sucker fish.

Roger Jr has accused me of making personal attacks on him after I posted a comment about him on RealClimate. I wonder where I fall in Roger's fish analogy.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 25 Oct 2009 #permalink

Aha, belatedly, NatureBlogs got that illustrationfrom JR's blog on this subject. He provides it with a clear statement about who he wants the readers to think about on seeing it.
You can guess.

He found the same sources I did, including Wikipedia, from which he quotes.

Well, ya know, the remora fills an ecological niche. But it never grows up to be a shark.

Well, Eli said about the same over at Whiskey Fire,

What you gotta understand is that Roger OWNED climate blogging as recently as three years ago, but his narcissism and invention of Mobius references has driven him out of the market. He still does have a power Rolladex and gets his pieces published, but he is a decaying force. This bothers him greatly.

At some level everyone agrees that science policy is a combination of science and policy. There are, for examples, issues that start with policy, such as the manned space flight program, or the DOE labs. Questions that start with policy are such as why do we do this, what do we want to get out of it, and what do we expect to get out of it.

There are other issues that start with science. What causes AIDS, what can we do about it. In that case, policy can either acknowledge the science, or go off into chaos and disaster, such as has happened in the early to mid 1980s in the US and again in South Africa. Vaccination and condoms are good examples of where small groups shouting for non-science based policies have had disastrous effects. These cases are particularly vexatious because the rejection of the science was based on ethical/religious constructs.

Pielke's arguments boils down to "we can't completely solve the problem therefore let us pray". However, he doesn't acknowledge the cumulative nature of small mitigations, that while emitting more will make things much worse, holding emissions constant or slightly reducing them will only make things worse, and therefore there is a virtue in taking small steps.

Also, curiously for a political scientist, he sees no point in setting up collaborative structures such as Kyoto and the IPCC which can build trust and the framework for action. This alone would have convinced Eli that Roger is playing a double game, but his distribution of blame is a clincher.

On the other hand, Eli agrees with Ari about the internet being lawless and cruel, but would like to know where they are hiding those loose sexual mores. Ms. Rabett demurrs.

While Roger might be a better source for science than Mr Romm, I think Romm is a better source on policy. I get my climate policy news from Romm and my climate science news from Realclimate and the other blogs such as this one linked at Realclimate.

Every time I read something written by Roger, or in response to Roger I get confused as to what exactly he is trying to prove or what his opponents are actually objecting to, and feel I have learned nothing...

While Roger might be a better source for science than Mr [sic] Romm - I wouldn't use Roger as a source for science (except in limited areas). But for policy, yes. As for I get confused as to what exactly he is trying to prove or what his opponents are actually objecting to - this may reflect your lack of understanding rather than a lack on Roger's part. Compare it to, say, Joe Romm, where you need never be in the slightest doubt about what he means, since subtlety is not JOe's strong point -W]

By Michael hauber (not verified) on 25 Oct 2009 #permalink


Quick aside, and then my point: I gotta level with you on something. I've read your blog as well for a while, but I don't get the third person schtick. Maybe I'm not "in the know," but it strikes me as sorta odd. Not that my opinion really matters, but that's just my take.

[You can argue with Eli about the third person over at his blog if you like. Its a game, if you hadn't realised -W]

Anyway, I know this will mark me with a crimson letter, but I can't help but agree with Roger on the collaborative structures to a greater degree. There are plenty of legit political scientists who cast a wary eye at international organizations. I myself wrote a few papers in grad school casting doubt on whether they provide net utility. My personal conclusion was "it depends," but I think the "liberal" (I use this term in the academic international relations sense, not American political) desire for more international institutions is often misguided. Institutions are meaningless unless they have teeth and the moral support of member organizations. The less realistic the immediate goals, the less member states will care to abide by the agreements, and in many cases you can come out behind instead of ahead. If you buy into it, it's possible to show using game theory how these situations can end up becoming zero sum. Therefore, our goal shouldn't be more organizations, but more powerful economic incentives to "be green" or whatever other silly term you want to use.

I am not saying that institutions are bad, mind you. I just don't think that they're really all that effective in cases like climate policy. To that end, I can't help but agree with Roger when he laments the toothless organizations. In many cases, such as the UN or a helluva lot of non-profits with "good" intentions on plenty of occasions can do more harm than good. I can think of plenty of scenarios where a policy-based international climate organization could do more harm than good.

[I largely stay out of the policy arena, since I know little about it, but (from watching the worthless Kyoto stuff and sucessors) I'd be inclined to agree -W]

Oh, and lose sexual mores... umm... isn't the Internet like 99% "adult?"

Quick aside, and then my point: I gotta level with you on something. I've read your blog as well for a while, but I don't get the third person schtick. Maybe I'm not "in the know," but it strikes me as sorta odd. Not that my opinion really matters, but that's just my take.

Well, hopefully your ancestors said the same about the Federalist Papers, on the off chance you're a US citizen ...

To that end, I can't help but agree with Roger when he laments the toothless organizations.

But, of course, give them teeth ... and Roger will argue war, rather than lamentation.

You're missing the entire point of Roger. He's trying to forestall the eventuality that such international organizations might actually be given teeth (as the US Federal government has been given teeth over the state).

And, if RPjr was simply concerned about effective policy in the face of scientific reality, why would he be attacking scientists so vehemently? All this "scientists are dishonest and climate science if fraudulent" innuendo is dishonest and has nothing to do with policy, but rather with undermining the foundation of policy.

[cut: WP:NPA -W]


I've read the Federalist Papers multiple times (I keep it on my iPhone at all times, actually), and I don't recall Hamilton, Madison, or Jay using the third-person. In fact, I can't find a single case of them doing so. Unless you're mistaking pseudonyms for the third-person, which is a bit different. The pseudonym I understand completely. It's the use of the third-person that escapes me.

Also, allow me to reiterate my position: I believe that international organizations, by nature, tend to be toothless. Because I am most closely a neorealist, I buy into the whole "international anarchy" thesis. I therefore believe that the only reason that the post-war structures worked is because there was a large active player keeping the member states in line.

To be honest, I can't think of a single way to actually give climate treaties real teeth, other than perhaps sanctions. But are we really naive enough to believe that countries will agree to sanction rules in these treaties? Other than sanctions, what is really left in treaties? War.

This does NOT, by the way, mean that I want "nothing done." I just don't believe that treaties and international organizations will get it done.

Such is international policy: the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

And as for the rest of Roger's theses, I can't say I agree with him on the rest. But that doesn't make the rest of his arguments incorrect. That's logically fallacious thinking. Where he is right, I give credit where credit is due.

Oh, and the "adult" comment was a joke. Did that really warrant name calling? (Also, the answer is quite complex, as The Straight Dope showed: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2618/how-much-of-all-internet-…)

I liked this from a commenter over at Whiskey Fire:

"Can [RP Jr.] write in Arabic? If so, he has a great future in the field of terrorist interrogation."

Re his relationship with Romm, bear in mind that the latter is plugged into policy in a way that RP Jr. could never hope to be and really is in something of a gatekeeper position. RP Jr.'s contrarian shtick was well-suited to the Bush administration, but not so much to the present regime.

[I agree that RP is unlikely to be in tune with the present administration; but that is their loss. Romm being a policy gatekeeper is scary and bad -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 26 Oct 2009 #permalink

The pseudonym I understand completely. It's the use of the third-person that escapes me.

True, enough. Use of the third-person would be say ... Douglas MacArthur - not someone I'd want to emulate, that's for sure.

> gatekeeper .... evil

I dunno. I mean you're so convincing, William, and your worry about policy gatekeeping sounds like old Robert Frost, musing on Mending Wall

" ... I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence."

And then I read this kind of thing:

>> When I told Dubner that Caldeira
>> doesnât believe geoengineering can work
>> without cutting emissions, he was
>> baffled. âI donât understand how that
>> could be,â he said. In other words, the
>> Freakonomics guys just flunked climate
>> science.
> Thatâs award-winning journalist
> Eric Pooley in his terrific Bloomberg
> story today, âFreakonomics Guys Flunk
> Science of Climate Change.â

Hat tip to:


And, well, I read that, and I think, cheeses, there's need for gatekeepers here, hell, there's need to back the gatekeepers up with raised drawbridges, moats full of sharks and remoras, and kettles of boiling oil. And I'd expect people like PiekleJr. to be out in the streets foaming along, to back up the gatekeepers. This is basic stuff.

I mean this is Bloomberg he's quoting, not exactly your maniacal socialist broadsheet. The mainstream business market writers seem to understand the basic problem about CO2.

If so, then anyone who can add and understand the very basic facts about CO2 physics is probably convinced by now.

That's got to mean there's nobody left for the septics to focus on infecting but those susceptible to rant and bluster due to innumeracy.

Now it's basic that being able to count and understand radiation physics isn't a majority skill in my culture -- remember Adlai Stevenson said "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

Who ya gonna call to counteract that kind of ignorance backed by big marketing money?

It's showtime.

I will say in defense of every wild word Joe Romm puts out that I'd rather be reading a sober well-cited discussion from William and his ilk (you do have an ilk, don't you?). But I'm not the people who need to be convinced there's a problem. And those who need to be convinced need the showmanship.

Also remember -- this was a New Yorker cartoon some years back.

East Coast attitude: Voice balloon saying "Fuck You!" and thought balloon saying "Have a nice day!"

West Coast attitude: Voice balloon saying "Have a nice day!" and thought balloon thinking "Fuck you!"

I think Joe's from back east, and fighting a level of incomprehension in public policy that ought to pull Pielke and any other scientist out of the tower and down to the gates to lend a hand.

Could be I'm wrong and all we need is to sit and watch and it'll all work out, as RPJr. seems to believe.

Ya think?

Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic (more than a bit?), but to me calling either Romm or Pielke a "gatekeeper" is a bit incorrect. Gatekeepers, at least as I was taught, are those who can control policy by killing it "at the gate". They are the ones who can stop it from ever happening.

Neither Romm nor Pielke has that sort of power. They are both, at least in my mind, commentators. Sure, Romm is a bit more "in the thick of it" in his think tank-esque sort of position, but he sure as heck doesn't have any policymaking or policy ending powers. He can affect policy, perhaps even directly (if he has someone's ear), but he's not on the floor voting.


I think there are more than just "believers" and "non-believers." There is an unfortunate tendency on the interwebs to create binary camps, but the reality is that there are people along a wide spectrum. At one far end is the Lovelockian contingent, who believes that we are headed for a Tatooine Mad Max death world. On the other far end is the Inhofeites, who believe that CO2 is in fact a myth.

Most people, however, exist somewhere in between those two extremes. Unfortunately, the cowboys-- whoopin' and hollerin' all the way to the saloon, makin' a ruckus-- can often turn an ally into a disinterested party. I have at least a couple of friends who at this point are so tired of hearing bluster from all the yippy dogs of the climate change policy debate and have decided instead to block it all out.

That's a danger that is often ignored. Yes, a Romm might bring a few into the "good camp," but he's just as (more?) likely to leave people tired. My concern isn't whether we bring the occasional Wattie into the fold, but whether or not the people who actually give the government a mandate experience fatigue and start saying, "I just don't give a damn anymore."

> what happened at Colorado ...
> has Roger ever been asked?

I asked why, in some topic on his blog, shortly after it changed from being hosted on an academic server to being hosted on an outside server -- think I asked if this new venue freed him from any academic constraints in what he blogged, or something like that; as I recall he replied that he was a member of the committee that chose his replacement.

Hmmm, I tried searching for that, and _this_ popped up.



William writes:

"the trend stuff was a disaster for him"

Just out of curiosity, what does this refer to? Is this in relation to Pielke Jr.'s normalization study on disaster trends? I'm skeptical of his normalization technique, which is riddled with assumptions, but haven't seen an outright debunking. It's also used by contrarians to claim there's no link between disaster costs and global warming, but if you re-ordered decades based on regional temperatures, we see a significant correlation between even his normalized data and disaster costs.

[Nope, the disaster trends stuff he does is good - which is why you haven't seen a debuking. On that stuff he has shredded anyone who has tried to take him on.

For RP in general, you might like to read the comments at http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/02/who-framed-roger-pielke.html

Trends: maybe http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/05/the_significance_of_5_year_tre.php though I have a feeling that isn't the one I wanted. I think it was more recent... Ah yes, this is the one: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2008/05/losing_the_plot.php -W]