My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Tom B, Dec 3, 2016.

  1. Tom B

    Tom B

    My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic

    My research was attacked by thought police in journalism, activist groups funded by billionaires and even the White House.

    Dec. 2, 2016 7:05 p.m. ET

    Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

    WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.

    I understand why Mr. Podesta—most recently Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman—wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, other techniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.

    More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

    I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.

    Instead, my research was under constant attack for years by activists, journalists and politicians. In 2011 writers in the journal Foreign Policy signaled that some accused me of being a “climate-change denier.” I earned the title, the authors explained, by “questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports.” That an academic who raised questions about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an area of his expertise was tarred as a denier reveals the groupthink at work.

    Yet I was right to question the IPCC’s 2007 report, which included a graph purporting to show that disaster costs were rising due to global temperature increases. The graph was later revealed to have been based on invented and inaccurate information, as I documented in my book “The Climate Fix.” The insurance industry scientist Robert-Muir Wood of Risk Management Solutions had smuggled the graph into the IPCC report. He explained in a public debate with me in London in 2010 that he had included the graph and misreferenced it because he expected future research to show a relationship between increasing disaster costs and rising temperatures.

    When his research was eventually published in 2008, well after the IPCC report, it concluded the opposite: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.” Whoops.

    The IPCC never acknowledged the snafu, but subsequent reports got the science right: There is not a strong basis for connecting weather disasters with human-caused climate change.

    Yes, storms and other extremes still occur, with devastating human consequences, but history shows they could be far worse. No Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, by far the longest such period on record. This means that cumulative economic damage from hurricanes over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long-term average would lead us to expect, based on my research with colleagues. This is good news, and it should be OK to say so. Yet in today’s hyper-partisan climate debate, every instance of extreme weather becomes a political talking point.

    For a time I called out politicians and reporters who went beyond what science can support, but some journalists won’t hear of this. In 2011 and 2012, I pointed out on my blog and social media that the lead climate reporter at the New York Times,Justin Gillis, had mischaracterized the relationship of climate change and food shortages, and the relationship of climate change and disasters. His reporting wasn’t consistent with most expert views, or the evidence. In response he promptly blocked me from his Twitter feed. Other reporters did the same.

    In August this year on Twitter, I criticized poor reporting on the website Mashable about a supposed coming hurricane apocalypse—including a bad misquote of me in the cartoon role of climate skeptic. (The misquote was later removed.) The publication’s lead science editor, Andrew Freedman, helpfully explained via Twitter that this sort of behavior “is why you’re on many reporters’ ‘do not call’ lists despite your expertise.”

    I didn’t know reporters had such lists. But I get it. No one likes being told that he misreported scientific research, especially on climate change. Some believe that connecting extreme weather with greenhouse gases helps to advance the cause of climate policy. Plus, bad news gets clicks.

    Yet more is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.

    Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: “You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London Guardian, Mother Jones, and Media Matters.”

    Or look at the journalists who helped push me out of FiveThirtyEight. My first article there, in 2014, was based on the consensus of the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. I pointed out that the global cost of disasters was increasing at a rate slower than GDP growth, which is very good news. Disasters still occur, but their economic and human effect is smaller than in the past. It’s not terribly complicated.

    That article prompted an intense media campaign to have me fired. Writers at Slate, Salon, the New Republic, the New York Times, the Guardian and others piled on.

    In March of 2014, FiveThirtyEight editor Mike Wilson demoted me from staff writer to freelancer. A few months later I chose to leave the site after it became clear it wouldn’t publish me. The mob celebrated., founded by former Center for American Progress staffer Brad Johnson, and advised by Penn State’s Michael Mann, called my departure a “victory for climate truth.” The Center for American Progress promised its donor Mr. Steyer more of the same.

    Yet the climate thought police still weren’t done. In 2013 committees in the House and Senate invited me to a several hearings to summarize the science on disasters and climate change. As a professor at a public university, I was happy to do so. My testimony was strong, and it was well aligned with the conclusions of the IPCC and the U.S. government’s climate-science program. Those conclusions indicate no overall increasing trend in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or droughts—in the U.S. or globally.

    In early 2014, not long after I appeared before Congress, President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren testified before the same Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was asked about his public statements that appeared to contradict the scientific consensus on extreme weather events that I had earlier presented. Mr. Holdren responded with the all-too-common approach of attacking the messenger, telling the senators incorrectly that my views were “not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion.” Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.

    I suppose it is a distinction of a sort to be singled out in this manner by the president’s science adviser. Yet Mr. Holdren’s screed reads more like a dashed-off blog post from the nutty wings of the online climate debate, chock-full of errors and misstatements.

    But when the White House puts a target on your back on its website, people notice. Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

    The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.

    But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point. Studying and engaging on climate change had become decidedly less fun. So I started researching and teaching other topics and have found the change in direction refreshing. Don’t worry about me: I have tenure and supportive campus leaders and regents. No one is trying to get me fired for my new scholarly pursuits.

    But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups, the media, Congress and the White House. If academics—in any subject—are to play a meaningful role in public debate, the country will have to do a better job supporting good-faith researchers, even when their results are unwelcome. This goes for Republicans and Democrats alike, and to the administration of President-elect Trump.

    Academics and the media in particular should support viewpoint diversity instead of serving as the handmaidens of political expediency by trying to exclude voices or damage reputations and careers. If academics and the media won’t support open debate, who will?
  2. A few more academics need to come forward and publish their stories of being targeted by the political establishment and media due to their data-backed research results. Perhaps they all should come together publish a book of essays and start a public media campaign on the abuse of anyone labelled a "denier" by the climate alarmists.

    "Climate Change" is not science, it is a political movement. Perhaps a movement that is more dangerous and harmful than communism.
    stoic and Tom B like this.
  3. java


    Thanks for posting the whole article, makes it so much easier to read. Wow, poor guy, he could serve humanity more by educating us climate deniers and explaining how he thinks a carbon tax should work than wasting his time on the anti science democrats.
    Tom B likes this.
  4. fhl


    This is what they try to do to someone who doesn't even get into the biggest part of the fraud. The deliberate effort to change historical data so that it will match their current climate models.

    All he did was point out the more obvious things, like hurricanes and other disasters not occurring or increasing with the regularity that the con men claim. It's apparently harder to go back in time and change the climate record on hurricanes, like they've gone back and changed temperature data.

    They think they've gotten away with changing the temp record, but left to be done is to destroy anyone who points out that they're lying about the existing hurricane records that they can't easily change.

    Good grief I hope karma gets these people.
  5. Oh look, the professional merchant of doubt piezoe likes. What a surprise.

    "But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups"

    What he means to say is that quiet science is no match for the loud denial machine which is very well funded by the fossil fuel interests. It's how piezoe makes his living..
  6. Oh look, the climate alarmist has showed up insulting other people again.

    I wonder if FC even took basic chemistry in college, obviously his environmental science and golf course turf management degree did not require it.
    WeToddDid2 likes this.
  7. Classic denier merchant stuff. He has not uncovered anything that the climatologists didn't know. The jury is still out on number of hurricanes and tornadoes. They admit that. The scientists know this. They also know that LARGE hurricanes and LARGE single precip events seem to be getting more frequent as are natural didasters. But he doesn't bring that up. He makes it sound like the scientists don't know this. As if this is some momentous discovery and so therefore they are wrong. No it's not. No they aren't.

    And who is this guy Pielke?

    Let's Google him.

    Roger A. Pielke, Jr. (born November 2, 1968) is an American political scientist and professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) where he served as Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado Boulder from 2001 to 2007. Pielke was a visiting scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School in the 2007-2008 academic year.[1]

    His interests include understanding the politicization of science; decision making under uncertainty; policy education for scientists in areas such as climate change, disaster mitigation, and world trade; and professional sports.

    Education and background
    Pielke earned a B.A. in mathematics (1990), an M.A. in public policy (1992), and a Ph.D. in political science, all from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prior to his positions at CU-Boulder, from 1993 to 2001 he was a staff scientist[2] in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. From 2002 to 2004 Pielke was Director of Graduate Studies for the CU-Boulder Graduate Program in Environmental Studies and in 2001 students selected him for the Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award. Pielke serves on numerous editorial boards and advisory committees, retains many professional affiliations, and sat on the Board of Directors of WeatherData, Inc. from 2001 to 2006. In 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Linköping University[3][4]and the Public Service Award of the Geological Society of America.[5]


    So has no education in climate science or physics or really anything related. He's a political guy. What a surprise. He's really not qualified to judge the science.

    OK, so let's move on.....

    Nate Silver has launched a new FiveThirtyEight blog with the intent of applying his data-driven approach to a wide variety of subjects. The problem is that Nate Silver is himself only one man, so FiveThirtyEight has hired a variety of contributors to write about the subjects that are outside his expertise and comfort zone. For the topic of climate change, Silver decided to hire the renowned obfuscator Roger Pielke, Jr.

    This was immediately disappointing for those familiar with Pielke's work, because FiveThirtyEight is a statistics site, and frankly Pielke is not good at statistics. Instead, Pielke is known for taking a selective view of the peer-reviewed scientific literature in order to downplay the connection between human-caused global warming and extreme weather. Predictably, Pielke's first two posts at FiveThirtyEight did exactly that, and included a litany of errors:

    • The headline and main point of his post are wrong.
    • He misrepresents his own research.
    • The references he provides don't say what he claims and don't support his argument.
    • Research he neglects contradicts his conclusions.
    • He doesn't include all available data.
    • He incorrectly claims that weather-related disasters aren't becoming more frequent.
    • He fails to account for the costs of improved technology and the damages they prevent.
    • He considers only land-falling hurricanes whose damages are highly variable.
    • His conclusions are contradicted by the increased intensity of North Atlantic hurricanes, and global warming's contribution to their storm surges and flooding.

    for the full debunking of this climate misinformer....who is exactly in the mould of piezoe...

    Ricter likes this.
  8. And your degree is in what? Ad hom arguments and moronic denial?
  9. Come back to us hen you get a degree in "Climate Science" -- you have regularly argued that only people with credentials in Climate Science are fit to comment on AGW... oh wait, no university actually offers a degree in climate science. I guess all of your fabricated "97%" of climate scientists (all 84 of them) need to just keep their mouths shut.
    Tom B likes this.
  10. piezoe


    You are right to say that "climate change" is a political movement. Why did the Hansen hypothesis research all of a sudden become "climate change" research. That name change completely muddies the water. Thankfully, there is a lot of very high quality science re "climate change" being carried out. The primary literature is full of it. But it runs counter to the Hansen hypothesis. The funding for this research is largely available because of the political-media hype. Mingling politics with funding has created a dilemma for researchers. This is the reason practically no peer reviewed papers take a stand one way or the other. They report results but avoid any discussion of the implications of their results. They completely skirt the real issue, which is the Hansen Hypothesis, in their conclusion sections. The only people that can risk coming out against the political-media "junta" position are either retired researchers or those funded by the industries that would be hurt by "climate change" initiatives, and this naturally raises conflict of interest questions.

    There are a few scientists that are so well established that they don't have to worry about losing financial support, and they have spoken freely. Lindzer, for example, is both well known and retired. He is still highly respected world wide in meteorology. He was one of the first to question the Hansen Hypothesis. It wasn't long before his conservative politics were brought up in an attempt to discredit his scientific opinion. This is not the way to do science. The way to do science is to take the points he has raised and question those using science backed arguments and data.

    Take the case of Ferenc Miskolczi as another example, or that of Murry Salby. Both of these scientists are highly trained, and well respected, Ph.D. Physicists. Salby is especially well known, and is author of one of the standard texts in atmospheric physics. Both are highly critical of the Hansen Hypothesis. Miskolczi quit a $90K job at Goddard when administrators suppressed publication of his work. Salby had his NSF founding jerked ostensibly for unauthorized moving of money between budget categories, but I can tell you that budget re-allocations are not uncommon, and as long as fraud is not involved will generally be approved after the fact by the funding agency as long as the P.I. can show that the reallocation was a necessary and efficient use of funds to get the project done. Not in Salby's case however. They came down hard on him. Why? We can only guess, but sad to say it seems to have had to do with his work not being in concert with the prevailing political winds. (I believe some of his data was impounded at MacQuarie University before he could get back to secure it. He was at a meeting in Paris when he got word that his funding was being jerked.)

    I have said this before, and I have no problem repeating it, because I am confident based on the papers I've now read, that James Hansen will eventually be recognized as the American Lysenko. I've seen nothing yet to dissuade me from that view. On the contrary the evidence against the validity of the Hansen Hypothesis is mounting. It is only a matter of time. As a scientist, it rankles me to see bad science.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016
    #10     Dec 3, 2016