Discussing the Source of Climate Trends: Debate vs. Demonization

At the risk, yet again, at incurring the wrath of the true believers, it is time to continue the debate regarding the cause of climate trends, and indeed, the direction of the trends themselves. But conducting a debate on this most sensitive issue invites more than civil debate. The issue of climate change has been succesfully framed as a moral issue, and debate is no longer politically correct. To persist in debating this issue, despite mounting evidence – both scientific and economic – that debate is vital, is to risk being marginalized and demonized.

Our favorite climate website, Climate Science, is operated by Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., a climatologist at the University of Colorado. We highly recommend anyone who wants to see just how little we still know about climate to visit this website regularly. Pielke asserts climate change is real, but mostly regional in nature, and anthropogenic influences such as aerosol emissions and changes in land use, if anything, are more significant than CO2 emissions.

Pielke’s main conclusions, might be summarized as follows:

  1. Climate change study should focus more on regional and local scales.
  2. Global surface temperature trend assessments are flawed.
  3. Global warming is not the equivalent to climate change.
  4. Ocean heat content change is the most significant factor in diagnosing and monitoring global warming and cooling.
  5. The role of CO2 in climate change is overstated.
  6. Global climate models have not made accurate predictions to-date.
  7. Controlling CO2 is an inadequate policy to influence regional climate trends.

This is a crude distillation of Pielke’s conclusions and one should read his website and read the more detailed summaries he has compiled to make a fair assessment of his position. But if you study his conclusions, and follow his updates, it is clear this is the work of someone who is both highly qualified and nuanced in his outlook. But qualified and nuanced isn’t enough for the true believers.

Questioning the role of anthropogenic CO2 in climate change has nothing
to do with whether or not one cares deeply about environmental values.

For his refusal to simply adhere to global warming alarmism, Pielke has now earned the ire of desmogblog, a website that states “we’re here to clear the pollution that clouds the science on climate change.” In their post criticizing Pielke, entitled Roger Pielke Sr. Attacks Messenger, Injures Self, author Richard Littlemore takes issue with a recent post on Climate Science where Pielke criticizes reporting on hurricanes. In this post, entitled “Hurricanes and Global Warming – A Disconnect,” Pielke cites a recent example to illustrate his point that mainstream media tends to reinforce the perception that hurricane intensity is on the rise because of rising global temperatures.

It is interesting to read the exchanges between DeSmogBlog & Pielke. We’re well familiar with these guys because they decided to launch an assault on EcoWorld a few months ago entitled “EcoWorld – A Website Officially Unconcerned with Accuracy.” In this masterful hit piece, Littlemore highlights a disclaimer we include on EcoWorld – a disclaimer that is standard issue for any website that includes in their content financial analysis, and makes this disclaimer the centerpiece of their attack. Without going into the details of their attack, nor our response, it is obvious Littlemore and his colleagues at DeSmogBlog are skilled professionals. As Littlemore states in his recent exchanges with Pielke:

“The DeSmogBlog has only a passing interest in science and (as previously demonstrated, sometimes painfully) no avowed scientific expertise. Our interest AND our expertise is in public relations – particularly in the manipulation of the public climate change argument by people who have abandoned science in favour of advocacy…”

We are not interested in attacking DeSmogBlog. But we are interested in defending people like Dr. Pielke Sr., who themselves, in our view, are challenging bias with at least as much integrity as Mr. Littlemore. It is time for people to look for hidden agendas on both sides of this debate over climate change; the scope, the causes, and the proposed policies we support as a result. And it is time to stop demonizing people who are willing to question the conventional wisdom; time to stop saying “the debate is over.”

There are environmental challenges of undeniable urgency – dead zones along our coastlines, tropical deforestation, depleted aquifers, collapsing fisheries; the list goes on. And this focus on reducing CO2 emissions, which may well have nothing to do with anything, will almost certainly take the spotlight away from these other environmental issues. And to attempt to marginalize the work of Roger Pielke Sr., who is uncovering valuable information about various causes of regional climate change, is counterproductive, to put it mildly.

11 Responses to “Discussing the Source of Climate Trends: Debate vs. Demonization”
  1. sfs says:

    pls ask ed ring to contact me re desmogblog

  2. Roger Brown says:


    In your summary of Roger Pielke’s website you make the following statements:

    Climate change study should focus more on regional and local scales.
    The role of CO2 in climate change is overstated.
    Controlling CO2 is an inadequate policy to influence regional climate trends.

    The above statements appear to admit that significant changes in weather patterns are occurring on a regional basis. If so, to what cause do you attribute those changes? By what means do you (or your favorite climate scientists) assign a low probability to the possibility of even more significant changes occurring during the next 50 years?

    If you do not admit that significant changes in weather patterns are occurring, then what point were you trying to make by the above statements?

  3. In answer to comment #3, humans are clearly altering the local, regional and global climate system through effects other than CO2. These include a diverse range of effects from aerosols and landscape change. The commenter is referred to the 2005 National Research Council report listed below for a detailed discussion of these other human climate forcings:

    National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

  4. Roger Brown says:

    Roger Pielke writes:

    In answer to comment #3, humans are clearly altering the local, regional and global climate system through effects other than CO2. These include a diverse range of effects from aerosols and landscape change.

    I looked at the referenced report and found the following statements (emphasis added):

    The largest positive forcing (warming) since 1750 is associated with the increase of the well-mixed greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide [CO2]; nitrous oxide [N2O]; methane [CH4]; and chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]) and amounts to 2.4 W m−2. The greatest uncertainty in Figure 2-1 is associated with the direct and indirect radiative effects of aerosols. If the actual negative forcing from aerosols were at the high end (most negative) of the uncertainty range, then it would have offset essentially all of the positive forcing due to greenhouse gases (see also Boucher and Haywood, 2001).

    Whereas the level of understanding associated with radiative forcing by well-mixed greenhouse gases is relatively high, there are major gaps in understanding for the other forcings, as well as for the links between forcings and climate response. Error bars remain large for current estimates of radiative forcing by ozone, and are even larger for estimates of radiative forcing by aerosols. Nonradiative forcings are even less well understood. The potential for large and abrupt climate change triggered by radiative and nonradiative forcings needs to be explored.

    So the science of the positive radiative forcing due to well mixed green house gases is well understood. In many parts of the world mountain glaciers are disappearing as is the arctic ice (Yes, I know that the antarctic ice may be increasing). In spite of the fact that climate models are uncertain and that other poorly understood effects may be countering the effect of greenhouse gases does not give me comfortable feeling that neglecting green house gas omissions in favor of pursuing maximum rate of short term economic growth is a great idea. By the way what do you mean by the expression ‘clearly altering’ when the report says that the effects of aerosols are highly uncertain?

    I ask again, on what basis do you claim a low probability (this is a different thing than uncertainty) of high impact climate change over the next fifty years?

  5. Ed Ring says:

    Roger Brown: Hopefully Dr. Pielke will respond to your comment, but here are some thoughts:

    1 – The role of aerosols is poorly understood in a variety of ways. It is true they can cause “global dimming,” but they can also increase warming, for example when dark soot settles onto lands covered with snow or ice. Aerosols also, depending on the type and location, can have a dramatic impact on precipitation. It therefore is insufficient to simply assert aerosols may be temporarily offsetting the impact of CO2.

    2 – The greenhouse impact of CO2 is relatively minor, it is the assumption that CO2 induced warming then increases atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, which itself is a greenhouse gas, that in climate models creates alarming scenarios. But the role of water vapor, like aerosols, is also poorly understood. Depending on conditions, the observed role of increased water content in the atmosphere can be negative instead of positive, and it isn’t at all certain whether or not, overall, increased water vapor in the atmosphere will cause net global warming.

    3 – Most ocean encroachment on coastal areas is due to heavier densities of human settlement than ever in these areas, causing more vulnerablility and more visible desctruction. Another reason coastal areas are more frequently inundated is because of coastal subsidence due to drained aquifers. In the most recent IPCC summary, most of the projected sea level rise is from thermal expansion, but most of the recent aquabuoy data suggests the ocean, overall, is not warming – it may actually be cooling slightly.

    4 – The frequency and intensity of storms is not increasing; there is a great deal of evidence suggesting we are simply measuring and recording more of them. Atlantic hurricanes, for example, are showing no trend of greater frequency or severity.

    5 – There is ice loss in several areas on the planet, but there is also increasing ice – overall, particularly when you take into account Antarctica where over 90% of the world’s ice is sequestered, there is probably net ice increase globally. Only 4/10ths of one percent of the planet’s ice is outside of Antarctica and Greenland, anyway. There still isn’t good data on the current trends with the Himalayan ice sheet, the biggest one we’ve got. And in many areas, such as Kilimanjaro, the ice is disappearing because of deforestation which has reduced the quantity of repenishing snowfall on the top of the mountain.

    One can go on and on with all this. The point we have been making, editorially, is that the debate as to the causes of climate change is not over. In fact to do so may be more perilous to the climate than continuing the debate. Because if draining our aquifers is the reason seas are encroaching on land, or if because deforesting the tropics are the reason we are seeing increasing drought, or if because losing the reflective cloud cover that forms over tropical forests (but doesn’t form over oil palm plantations) is the reason we’re seeing regional increases in surface temperatures – then we need to refill our aquifers, and reforest the tropics – and our inordinate focus on CO2 emissions only slows the trajectory of these other more clearly necessary mitigations.

    There is a great deal of observational data available just in the last 2-3 years; the new Argos satellites that can do 3-D imagining of clouds, and the new aquabuoys that automatically submerge and resurface to broadcast ocean temperatures at every depth, for example.

    All in all I am simply not convinced that managing CO2 emissions does anything except expand government, take away individual freedoms, inappropriately empower environmental nonprofits, enrich the NGO/UN community, add huge new areas of law and public accounting, justify higher insurance premiums and lower coverages, and enable the biggest corporations on earth to adhere to strict new regulations that smaller entrepreneurs can’t afford to comply with. The volume of funds now going into climate research instead of particle physics or curing cancer should have anyone thinking twice.

    In my opinion many people believe in the dangers of CO2 because they want to believe in the dangers of CO2, and they haven’t thoughtfully considered the consequences of taking dramatic steps to curtail CO2 emissions. In my opinion, protecting economic growth and individual freedoms, while keeping our focus on genuine environmental challenges is far more important than curtailing CO2 emissions. And the reason I wrote this post, and the reason EcoWorld has an editorial policy of encouraging this debate, is a matter of principle. It is simply wrong to demonize anyone who is willing to question the CO2 alarmism – as any student of history ought to realize.

  6. Mr. Brown – Thank you for your comments. I urge you to read the Executive summary of the National Research Council report

    National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

    This report documents the diverse range of effects of aerosols and other climate forcings, and shows how little we still understand about the climate system. This findings of this report were essentially ignored by the IPCC.

    I am convinced that humans are having a major effect on the climate system, but the radiative effect of added CO2 is only one of a range of first order forcings, as I have documented extensively on my weblog and in my peer reviewed papers.

  7. Paul says:

    I’ve been keeping my eye on this website for over a year. I must say, I wish they would publish in detail how this site is funded…I have a suspicion that there is a malevolent agenda to this site, and although we keep reading how ‘fair and balanced’ this site is it should be obvious to anyone that this is far from the truth. Even the sites that are mentioned here and and have links to them are mostly suspect. User beware! It is sad to think just how many people will get fooled with this kind of site. I will make my findings of this site known around the web to make sure the web being woven here does not catch any of the innocent, the ones truly searching for real answers to very complicated issues.

  8. Ed Ring says:

    Paul: Our funding comes from our advertisers and sponsors. Your comment would be more helpful if you would identify what specific editorial positions we have taken you would like to challenge. Our editorial mission is to present what we believe to be a more balanced view of environmentalism, as well as to provide a platform for open media. You are welcome to comment further. Believe it or not, we aren’t trying to fool anyone, and we always try to respect differing points of view.

  9. tazzy18 says:

    How come Paul said that the details you have discussed here in this site are really far from the truth? Just wondering

    • @tazzy18 – Could you elaborate a bit? Ed Ring was the original author of this article, and while he remains as an author on the site, our team has grown considerably.

      If there is information above that needs to be corrected, please do follow-up here and let us know.


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