A Technical Apology to Juliet Eilperin

March 7th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

It has been close to 2 weeks since WaPo reporter Juliet Eilperin interviewed me for an article about why some climate scientists become so outspoken on climate issues. After that interview, I had a bad feeling (as I always do) about how my views would be portrayed in the mainstream media, and so I had a blog post which ended:

“It will be interesting to see how Juliet represents my views. I predict spin. But if she accurately and fairly represents my views, I will apologize for doubting her.”

So how did she do in her article, “In climate wars, advocacy by some researchers brings risks“?

Well, she did not actually “spin” my views, so for that unusual gift of journalistic balance, I will gladly apologize for doubting her.

On a first, quick read the article seemed more balanced that I was expecting (keeping in mind my expectations are usually pretty low in such matters). So, in response to her e-mail to me a couple mornings ago, I said my apology would be forthcoming when I get a chance (I was busy with a corn growers-related meeting in Kansas City).

Now, after re-reading the article, I realize that while she did not actually misrepresent my views…she instead simply did not bother to represent most of what I said.

On the positive side, she accurately described me as one of the scientists who questions the level to which humans are responsible for recent climate change. A great step in the right direction, since we are not “climate deniers”. In fact, we believe more in climate change than the anthropocentric scientists who believe only humans can change climate.

But that was it. The meat of what I told her was ignored, which was on the topic of why scientists on both sides of the global warming debate choose to speak out publicly.

She provided several paragraphs alluding to why scientists on the other side of the issue speak out, but nowhere could I find reasons why WE speak out.

I had told her that ill-conceived energy policies that hurt economic growth kill poor people. Was that not a sufficiently interesting thing to report on? Or, was she afraid that anyone reading a statement like that might actually start thinking for themselves about the unintended consequences of carbon dioxide regulation?

Instead, her article continues the tired tradition journalists have of making the “consensus” scientists sound like they are the only ones who have the best interests of humanity at heart, while continuing to ignore the reasons why I (and others like me) feel WE are really the ones who have the best interests of humanity at heart. I believe we are the ones who own the moral high ground.

She gave more ink to someone from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a misleading name for an organization if I ever heard one. You remember them, they are the ones who even let dogs join, as long as they have a credit card.

So, Juliet, your article was a step in the right direction. But if you are going to have a balanced article about why scientists on both sides of the global warming issue speak out, then please, represent both sides.


34 Responses to “A Technical Apology to Juliet Eilperin”

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  1. Gary says:

    “The meat of what I told her was ignored…” That’s the effective trick journalists use to appear ethical. They ignore what they don’t like and shape the story to misrepresent the truth in terms of facts presented and opinions given. Eilperin deserve condemnation, not apology.

  2. Jeff says:

    So she didn’t misrepresent anything you said, but the article went in a different direction than what you had hoped? Gimme a break, she’s the journalist not you. She is owed an apology from you, and a second one for presuming that you get to direct the content of her articles.

    • Elliot Vance says:

      To Jeff:
      So you think that to explain views and motivations of warmistas not giving the same opportunity to their opponents is OK and you call it professional journalism?

    • StGeorge says:

      Not including specific pertinent information is a misrepresentation. The journalist chose what she would report and left out specific information that would have been contrary to the alamists viewpoint.

  3. Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    I suppose if your view is that a journalist should be an advocate of a particular point of view with no obligation to report objectively, then I could understand your point. However, I think most journalists depend on the public believing their reporting is objective and accurate. The public is ill-served by reporting that is expected to be objective but is really advocacy.

  4. woodNfish says:

    I’m not going to waste my time reading the article because Eilperin must not be very bright if she thought the comments from the Union of Concerned Scientists might actually carry scientific weight.

    The high level of reporter stupidity at the WSJ and most other MSM outlets keeps me from subscribing or watching most of them. I dropped my WSJ subscription about 5 years ago and their mailings to get me to return go into my shredder unopened.

  5. BCC says:

    “In fact, we believe more in climate change than the anthropocentric scientists who believe only humans can change climate.”

    Can you please point me toward a published climate scientist who has made this claim (“only humans can change climate.”)? I am not aware of any.

    • Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

      I thought the same when I read what quoted. Surely your question is more clear than the one I could have posted. But, most likely, we won´t get any answer …

  6. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Spencer says… “…WE are really the ones who have the best interests of humanity at heart. I believe we are the ones who own the moral high ground.”

    Dr Spencer, “we” can only say that “we” believe you are completely wrong. “We” believe your position is not supported by the overwhelming body of research. So, were does that leave “US?”

  7. Greg F says:

    From Websters:

    Definition of LIE
    intransitive verb
    1: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
    2: to create a false or misleading impression

    Leaving out pertinent information is a lie by omission. This type of lie is one I find quite often in the main stream media.

  8. Roy,

    You say, “In fact, we believe more in climate change than the anthropocentric scientists who believe only humans can change climate.”

    Exactly who are these “anthropocentric scientists”? Name some names, because I have a sneaking suspicion that you can’t name any actual climate scientists “who believe only humans can change climate.”

    • Eric Hein says:

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hyperbole

      Barry,

      Maybe you can explain why an educated man as yourself cannot recognize the obvious…

      • Except that mainstream climate scientists think that Nature can cause very large climate changes like the glacial-interglacial cycles, so Roy’s statement is more of a “lie” than a “hyperbolic statement,” wouldn’t you say?

        In fact, I’ve seen any number of uninformed individuals repeating this charge ad nauseum, and actually believing it. So whether Roy meant it as a bold-faced lie or hyperbole, he should take some pains to disabuse the people who listen to him of the notion that he is telling “the truth”.

        • Misdirection… the issue is that many (probably most) climate scientists believe that natural variability cannot be used to explain a few 10′th of a degree temperature change over two decades.

          • Yes, and “natural variability” does not mean the same thing as “nature” to said scientists. What is really being said is that in the absence of a forcing (whether natural or anthropogenic), the temperature wouldn’t keep changing in the same direction for several decades just from heat shuffling back and forth between the ocean and the atmosphere.

            That doesn’t sound nearly as stupid to me.

    • StGeorge says:

      Do you understand what anthropocentric means? Means caused by human beings and not natural means. The point is the name alone is defining what these particular scientists believe to be causing warming.

  9. Glenn Tamblyn says:

    Roy.

    Using language like ‘moral high ground’ is really disturbing. That this question can be painted in such simplistic black-and-white terms with you occupying ‘the high ground’ is actually quite offensive.

    Yes impacts on economic growth might cost lives. But we really do need vast amounts of growth to deliver much in the way of saving the lives of ‘the poor’. The ‘Trickle Down’ theory has proven to be 98.27% snake oil.

    And the threats from Global Warming can be just as deadly for the poor – in fact for anyone.

    I understand you don’t think Global Warming is that serious or real, but among those in the climate science discplines, yours is very much a minority view. Also you have not made a secret of the impact your religious beliefs have on your views about AGW – you are a signatory to the Cornwall Declaration after all.

    However, should you be advocating that we ignore the science of AGW because it conflicts with your religious beliefs? Your beliefs are your own, they do not apply to anyone else. If you wish to take a gamble that your beliefs adequately inform you on these issues and risk your life as a consequence, that is your choice. But advocating that others should take the same risk based on your beliefs is not something that, to my mind, can be equated with the ‘moral high ground’. It seems far to treat the safety of other to casually.

    Let me give you an alternative religious, even Christian, view of how to look at AGW.

    God created the Universe at the Big Bang. And he created the Laws of Physics that govern that Universe. He didn’t just create stuff; he created the rules that go with it.

    He knew that these rules in the Universe he had created would give rise to life in myriad forms on many worlds. Including ours. And as this life evolved and changed, moulded by His Laws, he knew that creatures with intelligence, passions, feelings would evolve in the Universe he had created.

    And he made his Universe a place that these intelligent creatures would be able to slowly come to understand. That they would be able to read the rules of His Universe, The Laws of Physics, and understand the implications of them.

    This is perhaps the true Testament of God, compared to which the Old & New Testaments are simply comic books in comparison.

    That they provided a toolbox that His creatures could use to make their lives better and more meaningful. So long as they used their knowledge of his Rules wisely.

    But if they did not use the knowledge he gave them wisely, they could suffer much harm. The God of the Old Testament is a stern God, at times wrathful and cruel. His sternness extends beyond whether the dictates he laid out in the Old Testament. His sternness extends to being unforgiving of stupidity. Intolerant of lack of Wisdom.

    ‘I have told you the Rules! If you then ignore them, you will pay the price for stupidity. Do you know how LONG I have sat in Heaven, waiting for you to GROW UP!’

    If your religious views lead you towards a ‘God wouldn’t let that happen’ mindset, consider that the stern God of the OT really doesn’t do tolerance very well. He doesn’t tolerate milksops.

    This world isn’t a ‘veil of tears’ before we head on to eternity. This world is a crucible where we are forged. If we think God will save us, if we think that just piety is enough, that God is so emotionally immature that he needs to be worshipped by us, that we can simple flick-pass the hard stuff to Him, maybe we are deluded.

    We aren’t waiting for salvation! We are being tested by God to see if we are good enough. And ignorant piety gets an F-.

    If we aren’t willing to read and learn from God’s REAL testament – Science, we flunk the test.

    So trying to convince ourselves that AGW couldn’t happen because it in some way contravenes ‘Gods Will’ is absurd. If AGW derives from the Laws of Physics (which it does) then AGW is a consequence of Gods Will.

    This is the ultimate insight from the TRUE Testament. Physics is THE WORD OF GOD!

    So if our thinking flies in the face of this, we fail God’s test.

    Could accepting the limits and demands of God’s Rules be our Entrance Exam for Heaven?

    • Eric Hein says:

      ” The ‘Trickle Down’ theory has proven to be 98.27% snake oil.”

      There you have it! Glenn says trickle down theory has “proven” to be snake oil so all the proponents of supply side economics are thoroughly and completely de-bunked with a single sentence in a blog post…Milton Friedman be damned because Glenn says so!

    • Eric Hein says:

      “However, should you be advocating that we ignore the science of AGW because it conflicts with your religious beliefs?”

      Why don’t you try debating the science with Dr. Spencer instead of simply insulting the man and questioning his motives and ability to be un-biased?

      If he isn’t “in the pocket of big oil” then he must be a deranged religious nut, right?

      Besides, I’m a guessing Dr. Spencer got his weekly preachin’ last Sunday…

      • Mark Pomeroy says:

        “1.We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.”

        I’m not sure why Glenn chose to preach, but the above statement is not supported solely by established science or observation, i.e., it’s biased. If one signs off on it, then one shows bias.

        • Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

          I can´t find on Glenn post what quoted by you, and don´t want to post a comment without seeing the rest of the text.
          Could you please kindly help me?

          • Mark Pomeroy says:

            Sure, Rafael. Google “Cornwall Declaration.” You will find the text and also a list of claimed signitories including Dr. Spencer. Please don’t infer that I think bias is necessary a bad thing, but, in all fairness, there are a lot of posts and comments about the bias of so-called warmists (etc). It’s a fair topic, but Dr. Spencer can be biased and also correct.

            If I were head of a climate change research organization and I said, “The world’s climate has always been stable and always will be,” I would expect questions about my objectivity. However, my research would stand on its own. To assume my research was faulty because I’m biased would be a logical fallacy.

    • Tamblyn, the issue is over the science, not what the majority of people (scientists or otherwise) wish to believe.

    • RobW says:

      Typical warmista misdirection. Now back to the real world data, not models. The globe stopped warming a decade ago, the oceans severely slowed their rise, the troposphere ias cooling, the sun is headed for a Minimum not seen in hundreds of years. Theses are the facts so please lets stick to the facts and leave religion out of it.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Seems odd that a journalist whose aim was *to explain why scientists speak out about global warming/climate change* failed to do so. Perhaps what you said was too compelling, and she was firmly in the other camp. But consider this: If she’d concentrated on reporting what she learned from you, there’s a good chance that the piece wouldn’t even have been published. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she did a good and thoughtful job on the article, but it was edited to suit the inclinations of the Post’s editors and readers.

    It’s all about readership, not so much about truth or actual facts. The bottom line is always money.

  11. Tom Barney says:

    I also refer to their political organization as the Union of Confused Scientists.

  12. AlaskaHound says:

    Why is it that people do not realize we are in the skinny period of geological history?
    Inter-Glacial means we are between polar glaciation conditions, yet apparently some believe we’ll slow the next coming of the ICE, or actually avoid it.
    Climatology is the infant in science, but man still relies on his own importance and ideas of the day.
    Ignoring where we are geologically, is the biggest mistake and although fund seekers need potent explanations to continue their income, they could avoid black eyes (coming quite soon), by sharing their level of confidence or lack thereof.
    Consensus means squat when me and 55 of my fellow electrical engineers agree on a concept, yet when a handful of climatologists agree on tenuous data it’s cause and effect, it becomes gospel?
    The dream is just about over, thank goodness!

  13. Stephen Pruett says:

    One climate scientist who comes to mind who has stated that CO2 is the main driver (i.e., most warming is caused by humans) is Phil Jones. When asked why he thinks that he replied, “because we can’t think of anything else that could be doing it! The IPCC comes to essentially the same conclusion by almost entirely ignoring mechanisms of natural climate change. The fact that the earth has entered and exited several ice ages and that this is not always associated with CO2 increases or decreases demonstrates conclusively that natural (non-anthropogenic) climate change of much greater magnitude than in the past 30 years has occurred without CO2 as the driving force. Doesn’t that suggest some as yet unknown factor may be in operation? That is not the story the IPCC wants to tell, however, so they don’t.

  14. Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    DR. SPENCER SAYS (his main point?):
    “ill-conceived energy policies that hurt economic growth kill poor people”
    It could be true, but I´d had said: “… COULD kill poor people”.
    I consider this rather demagogic …
    And, on the one hand: It depends on whose economic growth are we talking about :
    World Water Forum: “It is estimated that almost 10 % of the global burden of disease is associated with lack of access to adequate sanitation and safe drinking-water, of proper hygiene and of effective water management. More specifically, diarrhoea is estimated to kill almost 2.4 million children under five every year”,
    after a lot of years of “economic growth” since WWII.
    This would drive us to another issue I prefer not to discuss now.
    On the other hand: global warming IS already killing people:
    WHO: Key facts:
    Climate change affects the fundamental requirements for health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
    The global warming that has occurred since the 1970s was causing over 140 000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.
    Many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate-sensitive and are expected to worsen as the climate changes.
    Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
    Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health”.

    And if you prefer something more “balanced”:
    “Global health and climate change: moving from denial and catastrophic fatalism to positive action:
    “Mitigation and adaptation strategies will produce substantial benefits for health, such as reductions in obesity and heart disease, diabetes, stress and depression, pneumonia and asthma, as well as potential cost savings within the health sector. The case for mitigating climate change by reducing GHGs is overwhelming. The need to build population resilience to the global health threat from already unavoidable climate change is real and urgent. Action must not be delayed by contrarians, nor by catastrophic fatalists who say it is all too late”.
    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1942/1866.abstract?sid=ec7f97e4-0ebe-459f-9e07-958d3fdec453

  15. Michael Mann and his acolytes, such as Al Gore, believe that climate has not changed significantly in 1,000 years, and have stated there has been no significant change in 2,000 years. James Hansen said that the 2 degrees Fahrenheit that he predicted temperature would rise 1986 to 2006 would make it the warmest period in 100,000 years. Their positions and statements place them in direct opposition to the preponderance of scientific evidence that show natural climate change during the past 20,000 years includes periods of greater warming – the Medieval Warm Period (850 t0 1250 AD), the Roman Warm Period, (1 to 350 AD), and most dramatically, the Holocene Climate Optimum (6000 to 2000 BC) which attained and sustained periods of global warming 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above current levels. Mann also conveniently for his cause left out the Little Ice Age, the coldest period since the Younger Dryas 10,000 years ago. In fact, looking at global temperature since the last Ice Age, it is obvious that Earth has been on an undulating cooling trend since 2000 BC.

    I had a brief email exchange with Kevin Trenberth about the Greenland ice cores that show 9,100 of the past 10,000 years were warmer than any of the past 100. He said it was probably due to a “hot spot” in the region of Greenland where the ice cores were taken. Add him to the list of natural climate change deniers.

    Numerous studies of current warming indicate it started about 300 years ago. Glaciers in Glacier Bay, Alaska, retreated about 66 miles since 1780, and about 60 miles of the retreat was before 1912. Russians found several mammoth bodies being washed down Siberian rivers in the 1800′s that had been freed by melting ice and permafrost in which their bodies had lain for 20,000 years.

    Please excuse me for not writing more on these examples. I am reading Dr. H H Lamb’s excellent “Climatic History and the Future” and his later “Climate, History and the Modern World”, and many pages cite multiple studies that confirm many instances of natural climate change, almost all of which were greater and more rapid than the present.

    It seems the “warmists” criticizing Dr. Roy Spencer are involved in semantics, not science. There is nothing new there.

  16. economy says:

    Please report heavily on the event in one f your magazines! I will not be able to attend because my 1967 Corvette coupe is still very much a work in progress.