The dim and distant history of climate blogging

shiptoship1 There's a thread on twitter, started by "@JacquelynGill" noting "The Day After Tomorrow", "@ClimateOfGavin" replying that "it was that movie and lame sci community response that prompted me to start blogging", and continuing "Spring 2004 was pre-RC, Scienceblogs, etc. Deltoid was around, Stoat, @mtobis + other sci.env ppl too. But very few."

Gosh, those were the days. More than ten years ago. What can I remember?

[Update (I'll put it here so you see it, maybe): David Appell remembers. Which reminds me of a story: somewhen we were all (on sci.env?) speculating about such-and-such a thing: had X really said Y, or whatever. And then I found a post on QS where DA had simply asked the relevant person, and got an answer. Oh, is that how you do it, I thought.

Eli has seen it all before.

As has James.

Also updated to add Coby Beck, Inkstain (John Fleck), PlanetFleck, and Prometheus.]

TDAT was May 2004 and predates "stoat"; the very first "stoat" was in July 2004 and contained, in its entirety, Do I really want to do this? I wonder. Still it may well be fun to try. My first edit to the wiki TDAT article was in early 2005: I replaced The film aims to dramatically depict hypothetical catastrophic effects... with The film dramatically but unrealistically depicts catastrophic effects... and there were all sorts of arguments about that over the years.

The first "stoat" of mine that I can see with any bearing on climate is Another post and advises people You should read this:
, which is TL pointing out McK's degrees/radians error. If you look at Deltoid now, it looks like it has a contiguous history as scienceblogs going back to 1998, but of course it doesn't; as TL says, he's imported old stuff. Maybe I should import old sci/env stuff to stoat? I had a brief go at working out when it really started but failed; in December 2013 he mostly seemed to be assaulting the gun-nut Lott. Though its possible to find stuff if you know where to look.

[Update: as Eli points out, Deltoid's first post on climate is at least as early as March 2004.]

Meanwhile, the first RC was Welcome to RealClimate in December 2004, and I think my first post there was Just what is this Consensus anyway?. There are some interesting bits of that post - notice how little I cared about exactly what the temperature trend was. So while "stoat" existed before RC, I'd written almost nothing on it by the time RC got going.

[Update: RC: Ten Years of RealClimate.]

Speaking of McK leads me to remember that 2003 was the year of the Hockey Stick Wars. Or at least one of the years. I can find my, which is why the name McK meant something to me (I think it wasn't clear that he was the monkey until later). Oh look, I even wrote a history page about it. Of course nowadays you're better off reading [[Hockey stick controversy]]. There was some stuff about "climate2003" I think; ah yes, that was McI.

David Appell's Quark Soup predated most other things I know about. Sadly the early site disappeared in some server crash or another; here's an internet archive snapshot from 2005, showing archives back to March 2003. However, here's March 2003 and its about politics and Star Trek. But I remember picking up early stuff on McI / McK from there.

Searching back through James' Empty Blog I found Now you see it - now you don't which refs First look at S+C's MSU vn5.2? which is a reminder of one of the Big Things people used to argue about - how to reconcile the relative lack of warming / cooling shown by the satellite temperature record with reality. And the answer was a combo of: S+C had got it wrong, and the record was short. My recollection is that JEB first existed merely to make it convenient for James to post comments elsewhere; his hello world post in Jan 2005 just says "Well, everyone else seems to have a blog, so I might as well too. Will it be useful? I doubt it, but who knows..." Real posts seem to start with "betting on climate" in May 2005.

Michael Tobis, mt, didn't start blogging till late I think. Eli was in sci.env under a pseudonym, but didn't start blogging until September 2005.

So how did all that overlap with sci.environment? Quite a lot, I discover somewhat to my surprise. Here's my last post there:

Following a long long period of disenchantment, and more importantly
the development of alternative fora, I'm leaving sci.env.
If the signal to noise ever improves, do let me know, I may take a peek.

The alternatives? Wikipedia; blogs ( :-);


William M Connolley | |
Climate Modeller, British Antarctic Survey | Disclaimer: I speak for myself
I'm a .signature virus! copy me into your .signature file & help me spread!

That's from June 2006. Fitting in with the history thread is ANNOUNCING MODERATED GLOBAL CHANGE DISCUSSION FORUM from May 2006, which was a last-ditch and ultimately ill-timed attempt to create a moderated sci.env by a group of the sane: "James Annan, Raymond Arritt, Coby Beck, William Connolley, Michael Tobis". It failed. But I see that early 2006, and certainly before, I was still pretty actively posting to sci.env.

Well, anyway, that's some old stuff. There's loads more I've forgotten and quite possibly stuff I've got wrong. Do feel free to comment, or if you write your own blog on the history, to link to it in the comments.


Errm, well. As in, people I didn't cover in the first version.

Coby Beck, now, started A Few Things Ill Considered at in November 2005, but didn't get his first comment until 2006, so it was well stealthed to start with. the first post is worth reading because it confirms the "oh look there's this thing called blogging starting to become popular and its better than usenet" type reaction. In Feb 2006 I welcomed him.

One I'd forgotten is PlanetFleck, which was a blog aggregator run by John Fleck. A sort of early google reader, but with fixed choice of blogs. Here's an internet archive snapshot from 2005 featuring your favourites: RealClimate, Prometheus, Chris Mooney, Me, Tim Lambert, and other more misc ones.

Which of course reminds me of Prometheus: as I once said, once upon a time Prometheus bestrode the blogging world like a colossus. Here's the opening post (cite). Although that says its the work of "Tind Shepper Ryen, Mark Lohaus, and Roger Pielke, Jr." pretty soon it became RP's. Reading a quasi-random post from 2004, Hurricanes and Climate Change: On Asking the Wrong Question it seems there is little new under the sun.

Atmoz appears to have been a relative newcomer: January 2007 is the first I can find.

John Fleck, at Inkstain, has some early history: he provided Thinking About Climate from April 2003. John nowadays blogs pretty well exclusively on water issues in his area. And of course he's one of the joint authors on the seminal The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus paper. In fact, he's the one that provided the flow and narrative cohesion.

Fergus Brown is a newcomer: Empty Cave is I think the first, from 2007(cite); that fits my recollections.


* Arthur Smith, in comments above, points us to from March 2004.
* Doug McNeal's list of climate-y blogs

I ought to leave you with some very vaguely appropriate picture.

2014-11-29 14.51.48

More like this

weren't coby beck, fergus brown and atmoz already blogging ?

[I think those were later, although that might be "later" from a very early perspective. I'll add them in, thanks -W]

The irony is that the pseudo-skeptic nonsense circulating around sci.env the late 1980s and onward is being repeated almost verbatim today.

By derecho64 (not verified) on 30 Nov 2014 #permalink

from the 2014 RC article

"Other things we have mentioned in other posts come in as supporting evidence. That the increase in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic is so obvious that few people question it and in consequence few people rebut skepticism of it "

since then we have seen Essenhigh, Humlum et al, Salby etc. promulgated by WUWT, CLimateEtc, BH etc. As they say "plus ça change, plus ils dégrader" (at least according to Google translate)

[Change and decay in all around I see -W]

By Dikran Marsupial (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

I think you meant December 2003, not 2013 for Tim Lambert. Also, I guess Dikran meant 2004, not 2014.

Marco indeed, it is interesting to see how depressingly little the on-line debate has progressed on skeptic blogs over the last decade on a topic where the science is *very* well understood. Perhaps we could refer to it as being some sort of "hiatus"? ;o)

By Dikran Marsupial (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

The post about consensus also shows how little things have progressed:

"We’ve used the term “consensus” here a bit recently (see our earlier post on the subject), without ever really defining what we mean by it. In normal practice, there is no great need to define it – no science depends on it. But it’s useful to record the core that most scientists agree on, for public presentation"

The most frequent criticism of the TCP paper is that it is being used as evidence of AGW, when this post a decade ago clearly states that "no science depends on it" but that it is useful for communication of science to the public (which it is).

[Yes. I wrote that carefully, because back then we'd already hammered to death the "consensus is not science" issue in sci.env, and I knew it was necessary to say it that way -W]

By Dikran Marsupial (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

Speaking of history.. I was browsing a "history of climate" book today (turns out it was a "history of climate from the point of view of someone that learned everything I know by reading", which is pretty impressive because it's a very thick book), and noted that RC is mentioned as "launched to combat McIntyre" or something like that. This is impossible of course. I was there at the beginning, and I had never heard of Steve McIntyre.

[Yes; that would be a topic worth discussing in a more complete history. As I've half-mentioned in the post, if you look at what is there *now* it can be pretty confusing, because most people have moved their content -W]

By Eric Steig (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

Coby certainly was active in 2004, but IIRC atmoz and fergus were both a couple years later.

In other news, India seems to be officially climbing onto the bandwagon, as with China predictable and predicted. Maybe we can even have a race to the top. Indonesia and South Africa (the latter less obstinate IIRC, but still a lot of ground to cover) will probably put pen to a deal too, leaving a lone R. At this point Yurp is extremely motivated to get off Russian natural gas, so over time perhaps much of the R problem can be solved externally.

Yes, yes, this is where we should have been ~ 15 years ago, but late to the party is better than no party at all.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

Speaking of China, a couple questions for Tommy F if he's reading:

A recent news report said China was having grid problems with wind power generated in the north. Any details on that?

Apparently they've also made a big push toward distributed solar, to my surprise (according to the article I saw) to the detriment of big solar installations. Any idea what's up with that? Is there a connection?

TIA for any info.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

I assume Mike and Ray must have been somewhat motivated by the hockey stick business, but that doesn't say much about the other authors or the site as a whole, and for that matter is no proof that it was the main motivator for the former.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

ref comment #8

on the 10th December 2004, an email went out announcing the launch of Realclimate (extracts below)

and on the 13th December, M Mann were talking about Mcintyre/Mckitrick and Realclimate rebutalls

10th December 2004(extract)

No doubt some of you share our frustration with the current state of media reporting on the climate change issue. Far too often we see agenda-driven "commentary" on the Internet and in the opinion columns of newspapers crowding out careful analysis. Many of us work hard on educating the public and journalists through lectures, interviews and letters to the editor, but this is often a thankless task.

In order to be a little bit more pro-active, a group of us (see below) have recently got together to build a new 'climate blog' website: which will be launched over the next few days at:

The idea is that we working climate scientists should have a place where we can mount a rapid response to supposedly 'bombshell' papers that are doing the rounds and give more context to climate related stories or events.

13th December 2004
First, "RealClimate" should be helpful. It deals w/ the skeptic claims, etc. but using the
peer-reviewed research as a basis for the discussion.
The "hockey stick" overview should be helpful:
as well as itemized esponses to the various contrarian propaganda/myths:
and the specific discrediting of the claims of McIntyre and McKitrick, based both on our
response to their rejected Nature comment:
and the discussion of the analysis in the Rutherford et al (2004) paper in press in Journal
of Climate, that independently discredits them:
In the following emails, I'll attach some other materials (submitted papers) that deal w/
the McIntyre and Mckitrick matter, and the von Storch matter,
Please let me know if there is anything we discussed that I forget to provide you. Will
also draft an email to the small group (you, me, Scott, Caspar, Gene) about the prospective
additional RegEM/Mann et al method model analyses,


By Barry Woods (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

#12 reminds us of climate blogging's dim present, or a fraction thereof anyway.

Alastair, IIRC Bob didn't start blogging until a bit later.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink

#14 Steve Bloom

What are you talking about? Steig made a claim in #8 that seems to be effectively debunked by #12. Is it of no consequence that Steig has again proven to be a liar?

Ho hum. Eric Steig at #8 notes browsing a “history of climate” apparently based on ClimateAudit, a very thick book which is unsurprising as you'd have to be a bit thick to fall for the CA stuff.
Apparently RC is mentioned as “launched to combat McIntyre”, the world revolving around McI which EC disputes as he'd never heard of McI.

Quite right, the first four RC posts (dated 1 Dec to 3 Dec 2004) don't mention McI or his obsessions. Pat Michaels features in the first two posts, Woy is also in the first one. It's only with the three posts by Mike on 4 Dec that hockey gets a mention, two of these posts mention M&M (the first also mentions S&B). No indication there that ES had heard previously about the Great McI, so that debunks #12 and #16. of 24 Dec 2004 reveals Gavin admitting that RC (or at least Gavin speaking in a personal capacity) hoped "to counter industry-supported sites such as" which have what to do with McI? Is he now claiming that his was one of these industry-supported sites?

Fun factoid: has McI on Oct. 25. 2004 commenting at length on William Connolley, on Oct. 26 he wrote "Maybe I'll start blogging some odds and ends that I'm working on." Looks like ClimateAudit was launched on 2 Feb 2005 to counter William!

oops, to clarify myself the second sentence got the initials wrong, and should read:
Apparently RC is mentioned as “launched to combat McIntyre”, the world revolving around McI which Eric Steig disputes as he’d never heard of McI.


I was recalling the good old days before blogging, and W. just had a web site with a translation of Fourier on it. That has inspired me to translate de Saussure on whom Fourier based his ideas. He showed that the solar radiation is hardly absorbed by the atmsophere, but terrestrial infrared radiation is., This was before Herchell "discovered" of infra red radiation. My translation is here:
Skip to page 5 section 926 to omit the theories based on caloric which I found difficult to translate and as Saussure do not make sense.

By Alastair McDonald (not verified) on 02 Dec 2014 #permalink

Thanks for the vote Alastair, but I was indeed a late-comer to the blogosphere. Didn't really get started until August 2008.

Partly it was a legacy of the fact that I was the first of the 'sci.env' crowd to be on sci.environment (predating Michael by a year or three, 1990), and the last one to leave (2010 looks like my last more or less regular period).

[Now a history of sci.env would be another matter... -W]

By Robert Grumbine (not verified) on 02 Dec 2014 #permalink

Since the Weasel was one of the lowlifes that started Real Clmate, it appears to Eli that he has a better idea of when and how it started than most. As far as Eli goes, he was still born on sci.environment in 2003 and made his way in life as a pain in the ass for Roger Jr. Some guys just piss Bunnies off.

[I may or may not know where the bodies are buried. Or I may just be an unwitting pawn. You'll have to wait for the memoires -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 02 Dec 2014 #permalink

15 Looks like I lost the run from ye olde typepad

By RussellS eitz (not verified) on 02 Dec 2014 #permalink

Dave S @ 17
Yes, for sure. People might see Crescendo to Climategate Caophony:
p.15 has an overall chronology 1988-2010, although only partial.

pp.19-22 covers 1998-2004, especially the chronology on p.22. There was already plenty going on, including Senate testimonies, Wall Street Journal banging away, the Soon & Baliunas Controversy, published 01/31/03. It was 8 July 2003 before the big reply happened in EOS.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 02 Dec 2014 #permalink

John Mashey - Thanks much for reminding us of your "Crescendo..." Excellent proof of [Now now, children, behave -W].

As a late entrant to the commentariat, I first found Brett Anderson at Accuweather (not a relation) who is terrific but was unable to prevent his responses being dominated by a large hostile attack posse, and fled from there to DotEarth (Andy Revkin) which was NYTimes beta for blogging but also late. AR didn't move into unhelpful nice-guyery-let's-all-get-along-with-each-otherness and pro-Pielke Jr. and fracking until later, and his reporting began in the 1980s. Though to be fair we do all need to get along for effective action, but things are going the other way. History is full of humans promoting conflict when they would be better off getting along, and it's profitable in the short term. It seems to me this time the stakes are higher, though.

AW was where I finally realized that there was no there there, and kill the messenger was the alpha and omega of denial.

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 03 Dec 2014 #permalink

Then there's this guy:

"After writing a few op-eds for the Guardian, I was offered a regular column in 1996. Thanks to the tolerant and open-minded editors I have been blessed with ever since, I have been able to explore the issues that interest me, however obscure they may be.
"Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.

"Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice."

Amen to that, though I fear my own as well.

"I still see my life as a slightly unhinged adventure whose perpetuation is something of a mystery. I have no idea where it will take me, and no ambitions other than to keep doing what I do. So far it’s been gripping."

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 03 Dec 2014 #permalink

William - Ah, good times. So young, naive. I've dug up what I think is the first climate-related blog post on Inkstain: April 7, 2003 -

As I mentioned over at David A's, I almost certainly blogged about climate earlier on my Albuquerque Journal blog, but those archives were lost in one of the newspaper's many computer system overhauls.

[Thanks; added (and apologies for not adding you earlier) -W]

By John Fleck (not verified) on 03 Dec 2014 #permalink

Meh, I was getting good climate advice in the mid-1990s, when I started asking on about forest fire restoration. The folks in Spain and Portugal replied that climate change was already affecting fire conditions there, and their site work all was being done in anticipation of more rapid changes to come.

Good advice. Glad I asked.

In the meantime, this 'web' and 'blog' thing came along. I congratulate those of you who mastered that thing.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 03 Dec 2014 #permalink

Well, I've pretty much given up blogging and I didn't start on climate in the first place but rather energy solutions (I think was my SECOND bloggish website, started in January 2005; I can't even remember what it was I'd put up before that). But what inspired me then was the now-defunct "Worldchanging" site started by Alex Steffen and Jamais Cascio - that was up at least by October 2003 -
That was the first place I heard the term "bright green future" which they promoted - an optimistic vision of solutions for climate and other environmental issues. It's still a hopeful message, I guess Grist has partially taken that on in a more commercial fashion now.

By Arthur Smith (not verified) on 04 Dec 2014 #permalink

Hmm, a few bits of older bloggish stuff I participated in (usually science but not climate generally):
Sciscoop - I was a contributor starting at least in 2003, maybe earlier ...
a "family" blog started in January 2004 - - well, at least one post on climate from September 2004 here:…

By Arthur Smith (not verified) on 04 Dec 2014 #permalink

Well, not exactly a blog, but how can one forget the pioneering Tasmanian John Daly, Western Fuels Association "science advisor" whose Still Waiting fro Greenhouse has a long history.

If nothing else, he should be famed for the second oldest instance I know of misusing IPCC(1990) FIg 7.1(c) to claim MWP hotter. (Although he seems to have been first to use it against the hockey stick and to falsely cite it as IPCC(1995).)

By John Mashey (not verified) on 04 Dec 2014 #permalink

Climate scientists stopped posting on the globalchange forum right after the so-called "climategate" emails went public. So, I think globalchange was killed by climategate. If not, it was a weird coincidence.

By Tom Adams (not verified) on 04 Dec 2014 #permalink

As a matter of convention, might we designate climate blogging , as opposed to just plain polemics and propaganda, to be the extension of the climate wars by other means?

This would somewhat reduce the risk of future generations assuming it had something to do with The Cold War, albeit the PR boundaries blurred back when nuclear winter was in flower.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 05 Dec 2014 #permalink