Anatomy of a Smear

May 21, 2008 | Michael Shellenberger,

If you want to get a sense at how the enforcers of climate orthodoxy on both left and right restrict the debate over solutions, just witness the way Grist's David Roberts and Joe Romm of Center for American Progress conspired with the right-wing Washington Times to slime Breakthrough Senior Fellow Roger Pielke, Jr. a few hours ago.

It started out innocently enough. Roger pointed out on his blog that if a recent Nature article is right that the next decade would bring global cooling, not warming, then climate models aren't very useful for making short-term predictions. Roger writes:

This means that from a practical standpoint climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global climate policy. I am sure that some model somewhere has foretold how the next 20 years will evolve (and please ask me in 20 years which one!). And if none get it right, it won't mean that any were actually wrong. If there is no future over the next few decades that models rule out, then anything is possible. And of course, no one needed a model to know that.

Don't get me wrong, models are great tools for probing our understanding and exploring various assumptions about how nature works. But scientists think they know with certainty that carbon dioxide leads to bad outcomes for the planet, so future modeling will only refine that fact. I am focused on the predictive value of the models, which appears to be nil. So models have plenty of scientific value left in them, but tools to use in planning or policy? Forget about it.

Enter one Richard Rahn at the Washington Times who quotes Roger utterly out of context and implies that Roger has suddenly become a skeptic:

Roger A. Pielke, environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado, and not previously a global warming skeptic, reacted to the Nature article: "Climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global-warming policy."

Roger has never been a skeptic, still isn't one, and has for 15 years called for immediate action -- both mitigation and adaptation -- on climate change.

Did Romm and Roberts email or call Roger for a comment? No.

Roberts writes, ""Not previously a global warming skeptic" sure makes it sound like he is one now, doesn't it?" It sure does -- which is why you probably should have emailed Roger to ask him about it before saying so publicly.

Romm writes a grotesque post, comparing Roger to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Romm goes on call Roger "Mr. Pielke" throughout to hammer home the point that Roger is, yes... a monster. That's Joe doing his best to uphold liberal values and civil discourse at America's largest liberal think tank.

The way Romm and Roberts use personal attacks and innuendo, rather than argument, one might concluded that they are part of the The Assault on Reason we've been hearing so much about.

By way of contrast, the Times' Andy Revkin wrote a thoughtful blog post about the original Nature piece in question and asks: "Can Climate Campaigns Stand a Decade of Cooling?"

I'd say climate campaigns can withstand a decade of cooling. The question is whether enforcers of climate orthodoxy can.


Actually, what you were saying was that Roger has a split personality. One is a scientist and the other is a monster.

Joe, face it, you screwed up. You claimed that Roger is "the go-to guy for quotes on not mitigating" when he was neither "gone to"

By Michael Shellenberger on 2008 05 21

You read this as my calling him a "Monster"? Wow, I had no idea you guys were so sensitive. Lighten up, dude! If you had actually read the post, you would see that I explicitly said Mr. Pielke was NOT a monster, that in fact he looks exactly like Dr. Pielke. Again, lighten up.

BTW, the Revkin piece was wrong as I have explained at length on my blog.

By Joseph Romm (ClimateProgress) on 2008 05 21