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WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2007 - (Português)

While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.

This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).

Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.

Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?

291 Responses to “WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand”

  1. 101
    Charles Muller says:

    #82 Martin

    I discussed (by mail) of that with A. Roesch. The 2-3 W/m2 bias in AR4 models for global surface albedo is just one but many biases in current models when they simulate ernegy fluxes troposphere-surface. For example, as Roesch recalled me, the paper of M. Wild (Solar radiation budgets in atmospheric model intercomparisons from a surface perspective, JGL, Vol. 35, 2005) finds that the global radiation (the albedo just gives the percentage of the reflected global radiation) of the AR4 climate models varies by 40 W/m^2, with a mean bias of 9 W/m^2 for surface insolation.

    I agree with you on the poor conclusions we can draw from that in the exercise of attribution-detection of surface temperature change. But in fact, IPCC AR4 itself (the Second Draft, not the SPM) agrees too. Just read 9.1.2, and you will see a full acknowledgment of structural / parameters uncertainties in models. So the “likelihood” of any relative part of any forcing in any surface trend for any period is ultimately a solication of experts judgment, not a conclusion of a precise quantitative analysis. Because the later is simply not possible in 2007. But maybe I miss something. If somebody has a reference for a quantitative analysis of GHGs role in the 0,5 °C recent warming, I’m willing to buy. All that I read until now is the allways repeated general and trivial conclusion about the necessary inclusion of anthropic forcing in order to simulate the XXth trends. Nothing else.

  2. 102

    [[The solution is economic downturn, loss of jobs (especially polluting ones!), and lower of quality of "economic" life.]]

    Loss of jobs is not a solution. Are you quite sure you’re not an agent provocateur? It’s hard to believe any environmentalist or climatologist in his right mind would say something like the above.

  3. 103

    [[What are the estimated temperature limits of survivability of plants and animals (including insects such as honeybees). Take for example mass wild bird deaths in Western Australia ( that appear to be temperature related. I am also aware of Cattle deaths (due to temperature alone, not lack of water) last summer in Australia.]]

    I don’t remember figures offhand, but I do remember that a lot of those figures were collected in Dole’s 1964 book, “Habitable Planets for Man” (NY: Blaisdell). I’m pretty sure cattle were mentioned.

  4. 104

    [[What there IS argument about is the DEGREE OF man's influence and the projected degrees of warming in the future. To say there is scienticfic consensus on those things is disengenous at best and downright fraudulent at worst. ]]

    Sorry, but that’s not correct. We know how much warming there has been and we know pretty well how much man has contributed to it. Most of the warming has been anthropogenic. There’s a consensus as to that.

  5. 105
    James says:

    Re #96: “But consensus over WHAT ? That the there’a an obseved warming trend? So what- there was never much argument over that in the first place.”

    Like so many people, you’re getting the cart before the horse. The important part is not that a warming trend has been observed, but the fact that the science (behavior of CO2 & observed increase from human activity) _predicted_ that warming trend, and _predicts_ more warming in the future.

    That’s what science is all about, really, the ability of theory to predict…

  6. 106
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Well, it seems there’ll be a lot more sand for WSJ folks to bury the heads in, according to Mark Lynas’s SIX DEGREES (coming out in March), even if we don’t get beyond the mostly probable 3 degrees increase by 2100 (and who knows how much hotter it will be in 2200 or 2300…). Here’s a preview of that in his article for The Independent ( ):
    +2.4 Degrees C: Coral reefs almost extinct

    In North America, a new dust-bowl brings deserts to life in the high plains states, centred on Nebraska, but also wipes out agriculture and cattle ranching as sand dunes appear across five US states, from Texas in the south to Montana in the north.

    Rising sea levels accelerate as the Greenland ice sheet tips into irreversible melt, submerging atoll nations and low-lying deltas. In Peru, disappearing Andean glaciers mean 10 million people face water shortages. Warming seas wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and make coral reefs virtually extinct throughout the tropics. Worldwide, a third of all species on the planet face extinction

    +3.4 Degrees: Rainforest turns to desert

    The Amazonian rainforest burns in a firestorm of catastrophic ferocity, covering South America with ash and smoke. Once the smoke clears, the interior of Brazil has become desert, and huge amounts of extra carbon have entered the atmosphere, further boosting global warming. The entire Arctic ice-cap disappears in the summer months, leaving the North Pole ice-free for the first time in 3 million years. Polar bears, walruses and ringed seals all go extinct. Water supplies run short in California as the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts away. Tens of millions are displaced as the Kalahari desert expands across southern Africa

    +4.4 Degrees: Melting ice caps displace millions

    Rapidly-rising temperatures in the Arctic put Siberian permafrost in the melt zone, releasing vast quantities of methane and CO2. Global temperatures keep on rising rapidly in consequence. Melting ice-caps and sea level rises displace more than 100 million people, particularly in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and Shanghai. Heatwaves and drought make much of the sub-tropics uninhabitable: large-scale migration even takes place within Europe, where deserts are growing in southern Spain, Italy and Greece. More than half of wild species are wiped out, in the worst mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs. Agriculture collapses in Australia.

    +5.4 Degrees: Sea levels rise by five metres

    The West Antarctic ice sheet breaks up, eventually adding another five metres to global sea levels. If these temperatures are sustained, the entire planet will become ice-free, and sea levels will be 70 metres higher than today. South Asian society collapses due to the disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas, drying up the Indus river, while in east India and Bangladesh, monsoon floods threaten millions. Super-El Niños spark global weather chaos. Most of humanity begins to seek refuge away from higher temperatures closer to the poles. Tens of millions of refugees force their way into Scandanavia and the British Isles. World food supplies run out.

    +6.4°: Most of life is exterminated

    Warming seas lead to the possible release of methane hydrates trapped in sub-oceanic sediments: methane fireballs tear across the sky, causing further warming. The oceans lose their oxygen and turn stagnant, releasing poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas and destroying the ozone layer. Deserts extend almost to the Arctic. “Hypercanes” (hurricanes of unimaginable ferocity) circumnavigate the globe, causing flash floods which strip the land of soil. Humanity reduced to a few survivors eking out a living in polar refuges. Most of life on Earth has been snuffed out, as temperatures rise higher than for hundreds of millions of years.”

    Now about the sun, I think we should take it seriously. For instance, what if it did start contributing significantly to this increased warming (whether or not it has done so already), then we’d really be in hot water…literally. So, it extremely behooves us to reduce our GHGs all the more, not only to mitigate AGW, but to offset the solar effect, as well.

  7. 107
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #101: It’s hardly trivial, Charles. The assumption behind that statement is that a variety of combinations of forcings can be used to explain recent climate history. It’s a bit like a combination lock: Starting with no knowledge, one can postulate any series of numbers as the correct one, but then trying them shows in the end that only one is correct.

  8. 108
    Mark A. York says:

    Marsha Blackburn R-Tennessee just spouted off about hearing about the “Hockey Stick fallacy” and how greedy scientists only wanted the money. Guess we know who she heard on that committee last fall.

    [Response: I recall Marsha Blackburn standing out at that hearing as particularly repugnant and dishonest . Quite an achievement! - Mike]

  9. 109
    tom says:

    # 98.

    Now come on , ALL scientists agree. That’s just plain silly and you know it’s not true.

  10. 110
    Jerry says:

    Tongue slightly in cheek, engage the WSJ more on its own turf:

    10 Stocks to own if AR4 is CORRECT:
    –houseboat manufacturers
    –nuclear utilities sited above 100m
    –air conditioner manufacturers
    –insurance companies

    10 stocks to own if AR4 is INCORRECT:
    –coal fired utilities on the coast
    –Ski equipment and apparel manufacturers
    –Florida land developers
    –insurance companies

    Hmmm, global and regional temperature futures, put and call options on glacial ice, rainfall futures, desertification indices… the possibilities are endless.

    you get the idea. Which portfolio does better, over what interval of time?

    My thanks to RC moderators who allow some modest straying from strict discussion of the “Science of Climate Change” ..I have learned greatly from this blog, skeptics, denialists and all.

  11. 111
    Sashka says:

    Re: 29

    Usually I don’t approve witless and inflammatory statements like this one

    Actually, you and your colleagues approve dozens of them – but only when they are directed against “denialists”. It is true, however, that you rarely allow the flame to go the other way.

    there was clearly a consensus at one time for the geocentric picture of the Universe

    Of course. The point being made is that the consensus view could be wrong. Maybe not in this case but it doesn’t follow that the word “consensus” can be used to shut down the dissenters.

    [Response: You don't see what we throw out. If you find something offensive and inflammatory and with no redeeming value, let us know and I'll remove it. Discussions about what consensus does and does not mean can be carried out without resorting to personal comments. Some restraint is useful in these kinds of discussions regarding the expression of what you feel. Stick to the issues and don't goad people and there'll be less need for us to police this - which is something I'd really rather not be doing. - gavin]

  12. 112
    Ike Solem says:

    Sashka, consensus in science is not like consensus in a court of law. Even in the case of the ‘cold fusion’ business, the American Physics Society said they were ‘only’ 99% certain that they had identified the error in widely reported claims of cold fusion – and no laboratories have ever reproduced the Pons-Fleischmann result.

    Still, one can imagine the two authors, who still apparently believe in their results, being given a media platform on which to proclaim their viewpoint, and being invited onto CNN and FOX news to proclaim their viewpoints, and being invited to write editorials for the Wall Street Journal on their positions.

    The fact is, there are no longer any reputable scientists who dispute the reality of global warming, and the ‘consensus view’ contained in the IPCC is actually very conservative, and perhaps even too understated – I really don’t think the use of the 1980-1999 time period as a baseline for future prediction is justifiable, for example – if they were to use the 1951-1980 period, their anomaly predictions would look quite different!

    There are still a few ‘contrarian voices’ who continue to be given media megaphones, but that’s just because the fossil fuel industry doesn’t want to see carbon emissions caps and the rapid growth of a renewable energy industry that will absorb most of their market share. Change is tough, after all.

  13. 113
    tom says:


    Now come on. There have never been any accurate climate predictions that have held true over any extended time periods. This we know by default since climate models are a very recent phenomena.

  14. 114

    Re WSJ OP-Ed submissions-
    They have run quite a few of mine on other matters, but just declined this one :

  15. 115
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Re: Edward A. Barkley

    [quote] “The climate science field is now so entrenched in overly abstracted simulations based on limited data sets that the supposedly “peer-reviewed” journals just read like constitutional law that piles personal opinion on top of personal opinion until a skillful propagandist could draw any conclusions he likes from the books without fear of judgement.”

    Thats a rather serious allegation to make against the peer review process and the scientific community. While there may certainly be some small fringe journals whose peer review process is less than rigorous, you would need to provide some substantive evidence that any of the major journals reporting climate science have failed to effectively peer review their submissions before this claim can be taken seriously.

    [quote] “How can you criticize the WSJ for what it prints as editorial?”

    To the extent that the WSG editorial board prints what they claim to be scientific facts that are demonstratively wrong (e.g. that the new IPCC report reduces the estimated human contribution to climate change, or that the document was written by policymakers rather than scientists), criticism is fair game.

    [quote] “Show me the hard science that makes ethanol a reasonable alternative to gasoline – given that millions of acres of land would need to be dedicated to providing only a portion of the corn crop required.”

    There is no hard science, at least given existing technology. Even assuming rapid technological advances in cellulosic ethanol production, ethanol will only provide a portion (perhaps 20-30 percent) of our fuel needs given current consumption levels. The land use and energy imputs required for ethanol production are relatively large, and the current corn-based ethanol program is effectively a large (and from an environmental standpoint, mostly useless) subsidy to farmers.

    [quote] “Show me the hard science that wind or solar energy are likewise reasonable sources of global energy and not mere left-wing, feel-good solutions.”

    Sure. Denmark currently gets roughly 20% of its energy from offshore wind turbines. California is aiming for 20% from renewables, and will likely meet it. About 20 other states have renewable portfolio standards ranging from 5% to 30%. From a technological standpoint, renewable energy can effectively provide around 30% of total energy demand. The largest limitation, in the absence of technological advances in energy storage, is the intermittentcy issue. With hydrogen technology, one could forsee renewables producing hydrogen in off-peak times to use in fuel cells for energy on a proverbial rainy day. However, in the absence of this backstop, renewables are limited to only a portion (say, 20%) of the solution.

    Perhaps the two most important solutions in the near term (barring technological breakthroughs in energy transmission and storage) are nuclear energy and natural gas. Nuclear is GHG-free, and natural gas emits considerably less CO2 than coal and a fair bit less than oil, as it has fewer carbon atoms in its molecular structure.

    Accompanying supply-side shifts, we need to focus more on end-use efficiency and demand-side reductions. Fuel/energy efficiency standards or carbon taxes would both be effective in creating incentives (or coercing, in the case of standards) for consumers to use less energy.

    In the long run, carbon sequestration will play an essential role in reducing emissions. However, there are still a number of important technical developments that need to occur for this to be cost-effective, and implementation is hindered by the high infrastructure costs (e.g. power plants tend to be far from the ideal repositories–depleted oil wells–and pipeline systems to transfer carbon are expensive.

    [quote] “All I see is a massive propaganda campaign to America’s science teachers and semi-literates fueled by highly abstracted simulation, untestable predictions and feel-good solutions that will have kids running home to switch off the air-conditioner.”

    Its a propaganda campaign that has convinced most of the scientific community, the insurance industry, most business leaders, world leaders, intellectuals, and increasingly the general public. You may want to bet against Swiss Re, but I prefer to hedge my bets.

  16. 116
    tom says:

    Russ, I think it was rejected because it conveys a smarmy , know-it-all attitude that you know everything about climate science and that only the dumb folks have any doubts about it any more.

  17. 117
    Doug Clover says:

    ‘Smarmy know it all attitude’ it should fit right in on the WSJ op-ed page then.

  18. 118
    Valuethinker says:

    No 92. Tim Flannery The Weather Makers has some good cites. He reckons 60% of all plant and animal species may die. is also interesting

    No 88. Probably the best argument for the viability of wind is the enthusiasm that *Texas* utilities are showing for building wind power facilities. Hardly the home of global warming believers.

    Now it is true that wind is subsidised (by the same amount that the Bush 2005 Energy Act provides for new nuclear facilities). But that is because we do not tax carbon emission from coal and gas fired power sources. The wind subsidy is to correct an existing market failure.

    No. 106 re effects of differing levels of climate change: good summary in the below, the Stern Review of Climate Change, by the UK Treasury:

    On the general problems of dangerous climate change, an excellent international conference was held here in the UK at Exeter University in 2002.

    includes full download of the proceedings (that’s a £70 book for free!)

  19. 119
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward A. Barkley wrote: “Show me the hard science that wind or solar energy are likewise reasonable sources of global energy and not mere left-wing, feel-good solutions.”

    I really don’t know what is “left wing” about wind turbines or photovoltaics. They are manufactured and sold by profit-making private businesses, just like coal or uranium fueled electrical generating plants, and arguably with less government support or involvement than either of those. If anything, but putting electricity generation in the hands of communities, businesses and individuals, wind and PV inherently foster a more libertarian society.

    As to whether wind turbines and photovoltaics are “reasonable sources of global energy”, estimates of their electrical generating potential are quite high, and both technologies are growing rapidly world wide.

    According to the WorldWatch Institute, in 2005 global wind power capacity grew 24 percent to nearly 60,000 megawatts, four times the growth in nuclear power capacity, and production of photovoltaics grew 45 percent to nearly 1,730 megawatts, six times the level in 2000.

    According to the American Solar Energy Society, implementation of efficiency technologies and clean renewables (wind, solar and biofuels) alone can reduce US carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2030, which is in line with what most scientists believe is needed to keep atmospheric CO2 levels below the levels that would lead to irreversible catastrophic warming.

  20. 120
    joel Hammer says:

    Can someone explain why these graphs show that:
    1. CO2 rises sharply following a sharp rise in temperature, but then falls off more slowly when the temperature sharply drops?
    2. Why, if CO2 drives temperature, the temperature rise precedes the rise in CO2?
    3. If this is CO2 driving temperature, does this mean there are no other factors driving global temperature?
    4. If CO2 is driving temperature, doesn’t that leave the big question unanswered: What drives CO2?

    Obviously, it wouldn’t take much imagination to think that temperature was driving CO2 levels, based on these graphs.

    [Response: This issue has been addressed many times before. The lead vs. lag issue tells you very little about whether CO2 drives temperature or temperature drives CO2. In fact, both happen in concert -- as in any feedback. The interpretation that CO2 has a strong influence over glacial-interglacial temperature arises not from the graph alone, but the interpretation of the graph in the context of using models as tests of various hypotheses about the causes of the temperature variation. See this for more discussion of the lead-lag issue. However, I do think we need to do a post which does a clearer job of explaining the role of CO2 as a feedback in glacial-interglacial cycles. --raypierre]

  21. 121

    Re 116 & 117
    Guys, what’s 2/3 of ‘smarmy’?

    I took this site’s Top 15 List of contrarian Op-ed chestnuts and cut it down to 10.
    You must be thinking of my classmate Al. He knows everything about climate change, no if’s or but’s.

  22. 122
    Ike Solem says:

    That was quite brilliant. Thanks!

  23. 123
    James says:

    Re “Show me the hard science that makes ethanol a reasonable alternative to gasoline – given that millions of acres of land would need to be dedicated to providing only a portion of the corn crop required.”

    If you assume that ethanol (or other renewables) will simply replace current gasoline use, then you’re right, but suppose instead you look at a broader reorganization of transportation. For instance, fuel use could be cut by half or better with reasonable fuel-efficiency & conservation measures. Then replace the automobile fleet with plug-in hybrids (with the electricity coming from nuclear and/or solar), that need fuel only for long trips. Add in e.g. electric trains instead of planes for shorter journeys (like the Swiss system), and you’ve reduced total fuel demand to a small fraction of today’s use.

    Can ethanol and other biofuels replace that small fraction? Probably – and given that recent research has shown a mix of native plants to be much more effective biomass producers than crops, the process might even contribute to habitat restoration & carbon sequestration.

    Does this require some attitude changes? Sure. But does it reduce “lifestyle”? I don’t think so. I much prefer my 70 mpg Honda Insight to an oversized SUV, and would much rather hop on a train for a comfortable 3-hour journey, than spend two hours goint through airport security, 45 minutes crammed in an uncomfortable airplane seat, and another half-hour waiting to discover where my luggage was lost.

  24. 124
    Andrew V says:

    An old argument is that capping CO2 emissions will slow down economy. While this could happen in the short term is it true mid-term? Are there any good assesments? I feel skeptical ;)

    For example, if it turns out in 2-3 years that the decrease of CO2 emissions is unavoidable to avoid catastrophe then the nations that already did steps can have advantage over others. While the other countires have to do drastical measures in rush, early actors will have already an estabilished economy based on low emissions. They also would have the technology and can sell them to late actors.
    I think it has to be investigated what can be the _benefits_ for an economy if it decides to act early on GW.

    What do you think?

  25. 125
    joel Hammer says:

    While some people are making big plans to overhaul the
    world as we know it, others are moving fast to profit on
    global warming concerns. See the article below.

    Don’t forget, all of you who are looking to Washington
    politicians to make rules to save the planet. That is
    wishful thinking. They will simply line the pockets of
    their most important constituents.

    [BTW, all those windfarms in Texas I suspect are just a
    way to suck money out of Washington (That's your money
    and my money.) and make rich men richer.]

    [IMHO, once we get a big recession (They always come.) all
    this talk of going green will simply go away. Imagine big
    cuts in research budgets. Since the debate is over, why
    waste more money on climate research? Right now govt. is
    awash in tax revenues, and the pols are eager to give
    that money away to their friends and raise taxes while
    the getting is good. ]

    From the WJS. Sounds like more environmental degradation
    coming up. Have you followed the stories of Amazon
    deforestation and Indonesian deforestation (NY Times) to
    make biodiesel? People like you, raising the cry that we
    must take action NOW are stampeding the political process
    over a cliff, IMHO. You should take a deep breath and be
    very afraid you are going to get what you asked for.

    U.S. May Boost Corn Acreage


    February 8, 2007; Page C11

    WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department is looking into
    whether it will allow farmers an early release from a
    land-idling program to raise production area, Secretary
    Mike Johanns said.

    “We should have a decision by early summer,” Mr. Johanns
    told senators regarding the decision on whether to release
    acreage from the Conservation Reserve Program.

    If some acreage is allowed out of the reserve program, it
    wouldn’t go into production until 2008, Mr. Johanns said.

    He was responding to Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), who
    said farmers had been pressing him for an early release
    from the program. It pays farmers to idle low-producing,
    environmentally sensitive land.

  26. 126
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: 29 and 111. It is interesting to note that the climate denialists use the same arguments employed by those who deny evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics and most every other aspect of modern science.
    The most important aspect to these arguments is that they are all pretty much flat-assed wrong. First, Aristarchus, among others, advocated a heliocentric Universe in the 4th century BC. Many ancient Indian, and pre-Copernican Muslim scholars also posited heliocentric Universes, and these ides, often based on Aristarchus were debated even in the Middle Ages even in backwards Europe. Second, science has only existed for 250, or at most perhaps 300 years, since the work of Francis Bacon. Prior to that, it was the Church that imposed intellectual discipline.
    Next they will be citing “scientific consensus” about spontaneous generation of some such thing, forgetting that medicine didn’t start to be really scientifically based until at least the middle of 19th century.
    Those who argue against scientific consensus merely demonstrate that they are as ignorant of the history and epistemology of science as they are of science itself.

    [Response: Thank you for these informative points. Insofar as there might have been, from time to time, a kind of "consensus" for geocentrism, it certainly couldn't be called a scientific consensus in the modern sense. In the case where there really was a scientific consensus that turned out to be wrong in part, it was very, very quickly overturned in the face of new evidence and better theories. Both relativity and quantum theory are cases in point, though Einstein was a notable holdout on the latter. --raypierre]

  27. 127
    Charles Muller says:

    #120 During glacial-interglacial transitions, solar orbital forcing is the first driver of warming, on a regional scale. Then come feedbacks: CO2 rise, but also dust, vegetation and ice albedo variations. And some change in general circulation. As raypierre put it, you need paleoclimate models in order to evaluate the relative effect of all these factors. It’s not just a Sun-or-CO2 story.

  28. 128
    Alan Tidwell says:

    Thanks for your entry. I agree that the editorial board of the WSJ is being shortsighted, if not down right stupid. My purpose in writing, however, is to take issue with your use (and many others) of the phrase “denialism”. This is so heavy handed, and frankly sounds ideological. Why not simply say the WSJ is behaving stupidly, and leave it at that?

    [Response: I agree with your sentiment that "denialist" sounds heavy handed. I think a lot of us think that the term "skeptic" commonly applied to such things overly dignifies what they are really about. As Gavin has noted, real skepticism is part and parcel of science, but what is commonly meant by "global warming" skeptic has very little to do with what most scientists understand by the term "skeptic" more broadly. "denialist" has a sort of symmetry with "alarmist," and I think the shoe fits for "denialists" more than it does for those to whom the latter term is usuallly applied. "Stupid" doesn't seem quite right, since you can accuse the WSJ editorial board of a lot of things but outright stupidity is not one of them. Suggestions are welcome, of course, but until something better comes along, I'm inclined to at least prefer "denialist" to "skeptic." --raypierre]

  29. 129

    Could the term Raypierre is grasping for be ‘cynic’ ?
    It has its uses:

  30. 130
    Pat Neuman says:

    This is what I’d tell the WSJ Editorial Board:

    “The abuse must stop. And we must come to grips with the truth.

    Here are the basic facts: At both poles and nearly all points in between, the temperature of the Earth�s surface is heating up, and at a frightening and potentially catastrophic rate. In fact, we know global temperatures increased an average of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the twenty-first century.

    Science tells us that this heating is the result of human activity. And hiding behind the science or trying to cover it up is not going to solve the problem. We need real solutions and real leadership from this Administration. The time to act is now.”

    Statement of John F. Kerry
    Hearing: Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity
    Wednesday, February 7, 2007

  31. 131
    P. Lewis says:

    Re #111 Sashka said: Of course. The point being made is that the consensus view could be wrong. Maybe not in this case but it doesn’t follow that the word “consensus” can be used to shut down the dissenters (though my comment below does not just apply to Sashka’s usage of the term ‘consensus’ â�� here or elsewhere).

    Consensus has never shut down dissenters, whichever side of the fence is dissenting (those ultimately in the right or in the wrong). It is always a facile argument to use and is sometimes a specious argument to use.

    Observation, hypothesis and prediction are what count, and AGW proponents outscore the AGW naysayers on all counts where it matters. Consensus is just a bonus, a bonus the likes of Arrhenius and latterly the likes of Hansen never initially had. And consensus is a bonus the AGW naysayers once had and are not likely to get back, IMHO.

  32. 132
    Hank Roberts says:

    A perfectly good term for the problem behavior noted elsewhere, earlier, I think is worth honoring. It’s even-handed. “Stooge.”

    “… something interesting that Lindzen said. He differentiated â��industry stoogesâ�� as a separate category, people who were interested in obfuscating the issue towards supporting their own agenda, as opposed to people that are interested in the scientific truth. This is an important distinction, separating the Marshall Institute type reports (many of which are of the stooge nature), vs the more credible scientific scepticism. The challenge is for a bona fide skeptic to steer clear of being associated with stoogedom…. So stoogeism is arguably making the job of the real skeptic more difficult. The reverse is also a true. The enviro groups do sort of the same thing but with a somewhat different strategy (although arguably not as effectively), … all this definitely does get in the way of sorting out the â��truthâ�� and uncertainty. This whole issue presents a huge challenge to scientists working on relevant problems (as well as to the public who is trying to make sense of it all).”

  33. 133
    Ike Solem says:

    It seems pretty clear that the solar orbital forcing (i.e. the Milankovitch factors) are slow acting effects that don’t depend so much on changes in total solar energy but rather on the orbit and rotation of Earth – as an extreme example, imagine if the axis of rotation of the Earth was directed right at the sun, so that one pole was in perpetual darkness.

    Good images of the different factors in the Milankovitch cycles can be seen at

    This is worth noting because one of the last issues that climate denialists, or contrarians, or cynics, or fossil fuel lobbyists, hold to is the notion that the recent warming is largely due to solar forcing. Milankovitch cycles have nothing to do with that particular notion of solar forcing, which is based on the notion of changes in solar energy output.

    See comment #23, item #1 for a link to the talking point put out on the sun and global warming.

    In contrast, consider what Professor Nigel Weiss, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, past President of the Royal Astronomical Society had to say:

    “Weiss was so offended by this mischaracterization that he issued a news release, saying “Professor Nigel Weiss, an expert in solar magnetic fields, has rebutted claims that a fall in solar activity could somehow compensate for the man-made causes of global warming.”

    “Although solar activity has an effect on the climate, these changes are small compared to those associated with global warming,” Weiss said in the news release. “Any global cooling associated with a fall in solar activity would not significantly affect the global warming caused by greenhouse gases.”"

    The main champion of solar forcing is still Prof. Sallie Baliunas. She is still saying (as of 2003) that “The scientific history drawn from nature and man’s observations over the last millennium suggests that a strong trend of human induced warming does not exist”

    Given the fact tha the solar maximum was back in 2001, and that no ‘global cooling trend’ has been observed, it seems that the solar forcing issue can be laid to rest.

  34. 134
    Mark A. York says:

    I concur with Ray. I called them, WSJ “Tards” in jest, which I admit is unprofessional. Even if they wouldn’t publish my comment. The real skeptics are the professionals who know what to be skeptical of. In this case, the obviously clueless false sceptics and their false theses, which are solidly refuted by reality. Everyone knows what to call refusal to acknowledge that. Don’t they?

  35. 135

    Cynicism has evidently made itinto the vocabulary of the Center for Environmental Journalism, witness yesterday’s headline:

    This so impressed me that I’ve cynically added ‘cynically’ to the WSJ Op-ed offering now twisting in the wind at :

  36. 136
    SolarNTrains says:

    Ike and raypierre – I find it odd (and despairing) that you take the WSJ to task for an editorial; clearly, a debate is going to continue on acceptance, then how to facilitate change, and that will have both a political and pragmatic context. raypierre’s position is especially non-sensical,as you readily endorsed Laurie David’s editorials bashing the NSTA, an organization who has assets smaller than the David’s and Al Gore’s checking account. Certainly the editorial in the WSJ is no more egregious than that thread.

    As I have said before, I have real world experience using solar. I agree with the logic of being more resposible in our use and production of energy. But positions of dubious integrity only make the worthwhile science seem more suspect. Bashing only wants to make people bash back.

    [Response: I don't understand the thrust of this comment. It's not a matter of who has more money. It's a matter of who has correct arguments. When a major newspaper consistently, in one piece after another, publishes outright falsehoods on its editorial page, something is surely amiss. The facts in the NSTA case speak for themselves. --raypierre]

  37. 137
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    The editorial board of the WSJ are obviously very intelligent people. They would have to be to be editors in a very prestigious newspaper.

    Their behavior makes alot of sense and as a tactic in a political campaign is very smart, kind of like the saying “crazy like a fox”. They are using their influential platform to undercut support for something they are opposed to, the government regulation of economic/business affairs.

    [Response: And if they actually had a defensible case, they could win by telling the truth, not by obfuscation and dissimulation. --raypierre]

  38. 138
    SolarNTrains says:

    RE: 119 – secularanimist, while I like the potential in the report, as a reasonably knowledgable consumer, at least from the solar power perspective, I can tell you it allows for no impedance of any type to deployment. This is just not realistic when you consider the impact that many gigawatts of deployment will have from both an infrastructure and environmental perspective.

    Is it possible? yes. But here in the Southwest, we already have massive debate and political action over wind farms, as well as more traditional sources like natural gas. NIMBY will be a factor, no matter how clean the source.

  39. 139
    Mark says:

    Thank goodness for the New York Times. We will always get the absolute truth from them with no political filters of any kind. Here in the Twin Cities we have the Star Tribune. No bias there either, and no lack of courage. They keep cranking out the global warming stories right on through the endless days of subzero temperatures. Now that is dedication to a cause.

    [Response:More like dedication to reality. - gavin]

  40. 140
    SolarNTrains says:

    Re: raypierre, what facts are you speaking of? The “facts” that appeared in an editorial page from biased source? Obsfucation and dissimulation can be used even by people who have opinions with which you agree.

    Do I think Laurie David’s efforts to create awareness of GW is a postive? Yes. Do I believe her op was anything other than self-serving and biased? No. Why? Because the follow on actions relating to distribution of AIT appeared to be half-hearted at best. A poorly subsidized and organized (contest!) give away with problems with registration. Late publication of the initiative, even here.

    WSJ and LD’s op ed are cut from the same cloth. So, yes, I am concerned when I hear you say the facts speak for themselves.

    [Response: I may have been unclear. What I was trying to say was that the NSTA post was not about Laurie David's op-ed, still less an "endorsement" of that, and was certainly not a comment one way or another on the Washington Post editorial policy -- which in any event engages different issues for op-eds than for staff-written editorials. It was about the NSTA's actions and the circumstances surrounding that. The information in the op-ed provided an initial condition for that exploration. The facts speak for themselves; the conclusion to be drawn from them about NSTA is still somewhat murky at this point, but I hope for enlightenment in the future. No further information was coming out in the discussion, which is why I closed off the thread. Let's not go back there unless there's some new information to be aired. --raypierre]

  41. 141
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #138: Apparently it’s already going to schools in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Norway and Sweden, so it does seem that a legitimate (and very active) distribution effort is being made. I don’t know the details of the subsequent distribution effort here (link?), but having spent several hours researching the situation I completely agree with Ray that the NSTA behaved very, very badly. While Laurie David seems to be keeping busy with related efforts. it appears that the information gap she was trying to fill remains all too real.

  42. 142
    Ike Solem says:

    The first thing to realize about renewable energy is that the resource base is essentially unlimited (timescale-wise) – while the fossil fuels resource base has a finite limit – the amount buried in the ground. So the only limitation on renewable energy is conversion of solar energy to storable and usable forms – electricity and fuels, in other words. Plants actually do both – the initial stages of photosynthesis are electron transport (theoretically similar to solar photovoltaics) and the later stages are carbon fixation (CO2 to sugar/oil-type molecules). Wind energy is just secondary solar energy. There’s no shortage of storage schemes, either.

    As far as media coverage of global warming in the US, it’s been largely atrocious. The Larry King debate matched a discredited contrarian scientist against their “Science Guy” – why didn’t they match Lindzen against someone like Stephen H. Schneider or Lonnie Thompson? Bill Nye’s debating partner should have been Michael Crichton. The WSJ editorial continues this kind of distorted coverage of the issue.

    Look at their final statement: “It can be hard to keep one’s head when everyone else is predicting the Apocalypse, but that’s all the more reason to keep cool and focus on the actual science.”

    At the same time, they don’t even point out that 11 of the last 12 years are among the warmest 12 years since 1850 (which includes 2001 and 2006) – isn’t that a deliberately misleading statement on their part?

    Also, two words are conspicuously absent from the WSJ editorial: COAL and PETROLEUM – the two chief culprits in the increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past century. It’s as if the article didn’t even want to discuss the issue of fossil fuels (another unmentionable word) and global warming.

    Essentially, the editorial can be summed up as an attempt to prevent any ‘radical policy shifts’, which would obviously include (1) shutting down most of the coal-fired power plants in the United States, and engaging in a Marshall Plan-scale attempt to replace that power output with wind and solar and (2) reducing petroleum consumption in the U.S. by 80% or so – meaning an end to foreign oil imports, using fuel efficient and electric vehicles, and working out efficient biofuel production methods (i.e. not coal-fired ethanol distilleries). We definitely have the technological capacity to do this! Not only that, but such a plan would be good for the domestic economy, would reduce the trade deficit, and so on.

    Unlike the piece on the NSTA, the WSJ editorial actually misrepresents and distorts the science behind the IPCC (which itself doesn’t include the last few years, and which probably is too conservative in many of its projections). The WSJ said “The models didn’t predict the significant cooling the oceans have undergone since 2003–which is the opposite of what you’d expect with global warming” – that is a blatantly false statement!

  43. 143
    John D. says:

    Regardless of how many remedies we can think up to slow this change, the world will continue on a business as usual mode as most folks will be too busy trying to re-adjust their lives due to flooding and coastal catastrophe. All of the large industries and everyone that directly or indirectly works for them, such as oil, gas, coal, transportation, tourism, construction and demolition, shipping, container storage etc, etc, will be too busy rebuilding, removing, shifting and relocating their infrastructures from the waters edge to really care much about anything else.

    Governments will be broke from being inundated with relocating and feeding populations, clearing out sewage lines, pollution causing infrastructure and chemical plants from the shorelines before the rise in oceans even begins. These are the land bases that keep the world moving, the financial lifelines of the planet, so to speak. These actions will take the better part of this century alone to accomplish on a worldwide scale and lets not forget the wars that will inevitably continue or even begin as a result.

    People are going to welcome the work in order to sustain their families, if even for the short term. You may even see the odd hard-core environmentalist driving a diesel bulldozer among them, trying to make a few extra dollars to buy a new solar panel for the travel trailer.

    Wind, solar power and driving battery powered cars are not going to begin to solve this dilemma for at least another couple of centuries, when hopefully, most of the social implications will have been addressed.

  44. 144
    pete best says:

    I read an article recently concerning the decisions of groups vs individuals (experts you might say) and consistantly the groups got the right result over the so called experts. Makes you wonder about a group of experts vs the climate dessenters who tend to work alone and are always shown to be wrong but right wing people in power neither understand nor care about science it would seem and so constantly provide articles that are nothing more than personal opinion.

    We have people over here in the UK, motoring journalists who have some power in terms of newspaper readership and TV programmes who simply do not believe that humankind can effect the atmosphere regardless of the scientific evidence. The Media does not understand Science, it understands gee-whizz science like massive engineering projects and the space shuttle (as it inspires the kids) but in the main there is very little understanding there. This probably all stems from School where science is taught, some are receptive to it but a good 80% are not and find it extremely boring and seemingly pointless.

    Its a up hill struggle for scientists to convince the media, dissenting voices possibly sell papers and generate column inches and fill some of the more boring TV program timelines and channels. People like their lives, they do not have to understand Science, just be able to earn money in some way and buy the science they need in the form of big TV’s, cars and trucks, computers and games consoles to name a few.

    So what is the real problem here, Governments are still dragging their feet over an effective way of funding CO2 reductions because they do not as yet exist. Yes we can reduce our need for fossil fuels via efficiency programs and renewable energy but even second generation ethenol based production methods (not fully demonstrated as yet) can only reduce our dependene on Oil and not replace it unless we reduce choice and all drives cars within a limited band of fuel efficiency, after just because a massive 2 tonne hummer can run on a ethenol-gas mix does not mean that it is efficient and worth while.

    So as yet no single Government can replace fossil fuels with alternatives without significant state expenditure in many areas of endeavour especially energy R&D. There is no single coherent plan as yet to do this and it will probably take some 5 years to come up with one and another 10 years because we see it come together and show positive CO2 reductions. Sure people are adding wind and solar to the mix but consiering world energy demand is currently 13 trillion watts and wind provides 40 gigawatts at present you can see that we have a long way to go.

    One other massive issue currently effecting the globe is energy security and peak oil and gas. As Oil and Gas become more expensive after 2015 (when Peak may occur) then one of a few things will happen, cut your energy consumption which is anti american I believe and non negotiable or secure supplies of oil and gas by whatever means are necessary, most likely by War in the long run.

    When people are freezing they will allow their goverments to do anything to make them warm and pout food on the table. I believe that it will get this bad until a global coherent plan is put forward. WE HAVE YET TO SEE THIS !

  45. 145
    pete best says:

    Off Topic — It also appears that humanity require contingency plans just in case we do not manage to stop pridocung CO2. Ideas have come forward under the guise of technological ideas to thwart climate change via CO2 extraction (hows will it run – on fossil fuels no doubt) or by deflecting sunlight via space or land based mirrors perhaps. Seems that Richard Branson has found 10 million to fund a competition to mitigate climate change itself just incase we cannot agree to stop burning coal after the Gas and Oil run out I would imagine. James Lovelock and Hansen plus Tim Flannery to judge the entrants.

    Sounds like some people think that its hopeless waiting for governments to agree to 65% reduction targets before 2020 and that sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere or reflecting sunlight by 1% will be the scientific worlds real calling.

    It would also suggest that some business people who understand the real threat of climate change also do not think that politicians are going to be able to resolve.

    The technology does not currently exist to replace fossil fuels easily and with a low economic hit and hence it will most likely not get done and hence cure and not prevention become the order of the day.

  46. 146
    PHE says:

    Re 138 (SolarNTrains).
    It’s simple. Fact = ‘scientific concensus’.

  47. 147
    Charles Muller says:

    Ike, #133

    As you explain it in #23, “the stance hasn’t changed much in around a decade”. In fact, what has basically not changed over a decade is the “level of understanding” of solar forcing (low). So, we must be open-minded to publications from the specialists of this field, in order to better understand sun-climate connections. And, as laymen, try to ask pertinent questions about that, rather than just quote X or Y adress to mass-media.

    For example, Gavin and Mike co-authored a paper (Shindell et al., Science 294. 5549, 2149 – 2152) about Maunder Minimum where they emphasized a global change of 0.3° to 0.4°C, and more important local responses (e.g. 1 to 2 °C for European winter). As IPCC AR4 leaves us with a 0,1 W/m2 for 1750-2000 solar TOA forcing, maybe 0,3-0,4 W/m2 for 1650-1700 / 1950-2000 if we’re generous, we’ve a high transient sensitivity of 1°C.W/m2. It suggests some amplification of solar signal, like the AO/NAO shift hypothetized in Shindell et al. 2001.

    PS : I’m presently reading the very clear and informative book of Rasmus Benestad on that topics, many thanks to him to have pointed it to me in a previous discussion.

    [Response: The global temperature change in our runs was not amplified by the AO shift and was in line with the climate sensitivity to GHGs given the forcing we used. The local patterns however, were larger with the ozone response and AO change. Thus this is a statement that our current understanding is already sufficient to explain what happened at the MM within the uncertainties of the forcing, climate sensitivity and temperature reconstructions. You cannot use it to demonstrate that there is a mysterious amplification that we don't know about! - gavin]

  48. 148
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 134

    Mark [ false sceptics ] does it for me.

    I can be — and often am — sceptical when my son tells me the homework and the chores are done. I know what questions to ask to get to the truth.

    A false sceptic has an agenda.

  49. 149
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #58 Re #26: Nick, do you have any specific report of how the FI event went?

    No, sorry, I don’t. In fact, the report I saw of what Lawson said, on the BBC website (which I’d read before I read on this site about the Fraser Institute) was actually about what he said to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee; I can’t find *anything* in the UK media about the Fraser Institute launch!

  50. 150
    joel Hammer says:

    Look at more junk from the editorial page of the WSJ. Makes
    me mad, is all. I have pasted the entire editorial below so everybody can see the kind of garbage published on that editorial page. Note the hysteria and the carelessness with facts this editorial so well illustrates. Notice their pathetic attempt to cherry pick “facts” to bolster their side of the story even though the consensus says they are wrong.


    Global Warming Smear February 9, 2007; Page A10

    Mark Twain once complained that a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. That’s been the case of late in the climate change debate, as political and media activists attempt to stigmatize anyone who doesn’t pay homage to their “scientific consensus.”

    Last week the London Guardian published a story headlined, “Scientists Offer Cash to Dispute Climate Study.” The story alleges that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, collected contributions from ExxonMobil and then offered climate scholars $10,000 so they could lobby against global warming legislation.

    Another newspaper, the British Independent, picked up on the story and claimed: “It has come to light that one of the world’s largest oil companies, ExxonMobil, is attempting to bribe scientists to pick holes in the IPCC’s assessment.” (The IPCC is the United Nations climate-change panel.)

    It would be easy to dismiss all this as propaganda from British tabloids, except that a few days ago the “news” crossed the Atlantic where more respectable media outlets, including the Washington Post, are reporting the story in what has become all too typical pack fashion. A report offered that, “A think tank partly funded by ExxonMobil sent letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a major global warming study released Friday which found that global warming was real and likely caused by burning fossil fuels.”

    Here are the facts as we’ve been able to collect them. AEI doesn’t lobby, didn’t offer money to scientists to question global warming, and the money it did pay for climate research didn’t come from Exxon.

    What AEI did was send a letter to several leading climate scientists asking them to participate in a symposium that would present a “range of policy prescriptions that should be considered for climate change of uncertain dimension.” Some of the scholars asked to participate, including Steve Schroeder of Texas A& M, are climatologists who believe that global warming is a major problem.

    AEI President Chris DeMuth says, “What the Guardian essentially characterizes as a bribe is the conventional practice of AEI — and Brookings, Harvard and the University of Manchester — to pay individuals” for commissioned work. He says that Exxon has contributed less than 1% of AEI’s budget over the last decade.

    As for Exxon, Lauren Kerr, director of its Washington office, says that “none of us here had ever heard of this AEI climate change project until we read about it in the London newspapers.” By the way, commissioning such research is also standard practice at NASA and other government agencies and at liberal groups such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, which have among them spent billions of dollars attempting to link fossil fuels to global warming.

    We don’t know where the Brits first got this “news,” but the leading suspects are the reliable sources at Greenpeace. They have been peddling these allegations for months, and the London newspaper sleuths seem to have swallowed them like pints on a Fleet Street lunch hour.

    So, apparently, have several members of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday Senators Bernard Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry sent a letter to Mr. DeMuth complaining that “should these reports be accurate,” then “it would highlight the extent to which moneyed interests distort honest scientific and public policy discussions. . . . Does your donors’ self-interest trump an honest discussion over the well-being of the planet?”

    Every member of AEI’s board of directors was graciously copied on the missive. We’re told the Senators never bothered to contact AEI about the veracity of the reports, and by repeating the distortions, these four Democratic senators, wittingly or not, gave credence to falsehood.

    For its part, Exxon appears unwilling to take this smear campaign lying down. Bribery can be a crime, and falsely accusing someone of a crime may well be defamation. A company spokesman says Exxon has written a letter to the Independent demanding a retraction.

    One can only conclude from this episode that the environmental left and their political and media supporters now believe it is legitimate to quash debate on climate change and its consequences. This is known as orthodoxy, and, until now, science accepted the legitimacy of challenging it.

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