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Climate Gutterball

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 2, 2009 11:31 PM


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What are we to make of the ugly campaign still being waged against Andy Revkin for this piece, and, in a parallel effort, against Roger Pielke, Jr, who, in mid February had pointed out that climate data was misrepresented in a Gore slide show at the AAAS conference? What are we to make of Michael Tobis, a University of Texas climate scientist, who on his blog recently said this about Revkin:

I don't think his dragging Gore into Will's muck was a minor transgression of a fine point of propriety. I think it was palpably evil.

Palpably evil. Chew on that one for a minute. Oh, but wait, Tobis is just getting warmed up. In the comment thread of his post, he has this exchange (which I'm excerpting) with Roger Pielke Jr (who Tobis and other bloggers blame equally for his role in the Revkin piece that equates Gore with Will). Tobis:

It is difficult for me to state how grave I think the transgression of ethics committed by Revkin and Pielke in this matter is. Consider some statistical expectation of human lives that will likely be lost as a consequence of the delay due to this confusion. I think such a number could present a very grave picture indeed.

Pielke Jr.:

If you think that it was unethical for me to point out that Gore was misrepresenting the relationship of disasters and climate change (based on my research I should add), then I am really amazed.

What kind of scientist says that misrepresentations are OK or should be ignored if politicians with the right values are making them?

[And maybe I read you wrong, but are you really suggesting that Revkin and I are complicit in "statistical deaths"? Please do clarify that odd claim ...]

Tobis obliges:

Implying an equivalence between Gore, who is constantly treading a fine line between effective politics and truthful description of risks, and George Will, who is wrong from beginning to end in conception, detail and emphasis is unacceptable because it perpetuates this dangerous skew. As for the scope of the ethical risk, let us consider the possibility that the behavior of the Times and the Post this year increases the chance of an extreme event with a premature mortality of a billion people by a mere part per million, a per cent of a per cent of a per cent. The expected mortality from this is a thousand people. Is that morally equivalent to actually killing a thousand people? It's not all that obvious to me that it isn't.

Pielke is incredulous:

Wow. These sort comments give far more ammo to your political enemies than anything I could ever say or do. Eye opening stuff.

It's worth reading the exchange in its entirety to see the debased logic now being employed by some climate advocates. I have a theory as to why Tobis and Joe Romm, to cite two of the most relentless and over-the-top critics of Revkin and Pielke, Jr., are so hellbent. That's in the next post.

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