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New York Times Stands in Solidarity with Washington Post

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Ideological conservatives hold the New York Times and The Washington Post to be beneath contempt, as poster children of their bizarre conceptions of media outlets that are supposed bastions of liberal bias. When it comes to climate change issues, however, the Washington Post (and, more seriously, Washington Post Writers' Group) embrace of "fair and balanced" rather than "true and truthful" should give these reality denying ideologues a cause for glee. A particularly atrocious George Will piece, abusive of sources and any valid claim to legitimate factual discussion, has raised an outroar in the blogosphere that has now moved to major environmental organizations calling on The Washington Post to correct Will's disinformation. It seems as if, sadly, The New York Times is jealous of the attention The Post is receiving ...

Amid all this, it seems reasonable to conclude that The New York Times editorial leadership has decided that not only The Washington Post should lay claim to "faux and balanced" when it comes to print journalism on the issues of climate change. While The Times is beefing up its enviromental (including climate change) and energy reporting, it has given a solid home to perhaps the worst "science" reporter / columnist directly working for any major traditional media outlet. With John Tierney, it seems as if The Gray Lady is determined to give The Washington Post and George Will a run for their money in a competition as to the worst discussions of climate issues in a major traditional print outlet.

Tierney has been launching poorly sourced and deceptive attacks on the Obama Administration's top scientists appointed to policy positions. In a continuation of this disinformation, latest monstrocity of appearing 'reasonable' while peddling disingenuous truthiness was published under the title "Findings", as if it had some great degree of authoritative nature. This article attacks Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Science Advisor John Holdren, climate science and various solutions under the title "Politics in the Guise of Pure Science". This article begins:

Why, since President Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place" in Washington, do some things feel not quite right?

And, from there Tierney is off to the races with attacking Chu and Holdren as dishonest brokers, likely to engage in "stealth issue advocacy" rather than basing their recommendations and efforts on actual science. An example of Holdren's abuse of science was his decision to join with others in a 11-page Scientific American "attack" on climate delayer Bjorn Lomborg's serial truthiness and abuse of statistics.

Tierney bases his broadside in the seemingly reasonable voice of Roger Pielke, identified by Tierney with the following description:

Dr. Pielke, a professor in the environmental studies program at the University of Colorado, is the author of "The Honest Broker," a book arguing that most scientists are fundamentally mistaken about their role in political debates. As a result, he says, they're jeopardizing their credibility while impeding solutions to problems like global warming.

Honest Broker? Okay, to start with, Pielke is a regular in the global warming/skeptic community, and has been caught with "misconceived" (to be polite) analysis attacking Global Warming. Huh? Is it clear why Tierney's piece is, without even going further, fundamentally flawed to the point of moving past simple embarrassment for The Times?

While there are many good people working at The New York Times and The Washington Post. And, they can often have good (even great) reporting and editorial on energy, environmental and climate change issues. It is necessary, when seeing Tierney and Will published in their pages, to check the front page to be sure that one isn't actually reading The New York Post and The Washington Times.

Like George Will, Tierney chose to attack Steven Chu based on misrepresenting his interview with the LA Times.

Why, since President Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place" in Washington, do some things feel not quite right?

First there was Steven Chu, the physicist and new energy secretary, warning The Los Angeles Times that climate change could make water so scarce by century's end that "there's no more agriculture in California" and no way to keep the state's cities going, either. While most scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is a threat, they're not certain about its scale or its timing or its precise consequences (like the condition of California's water supply in 2090).

Other than waving his hands ("most scientists ... not certain ...") without a specific citation, what is Tierney's basis for attacking Chu? Oh, not surprisingly, a misrepresentation of Chu's comments. What did Chu actually talk about?

What is being predicted in climate change, there are two bracketed scenarios. The more optimistic one -- that we will really control carbon emissions, that we will get a handle on this, and we're talking the end of this century -- even by mid-century, in the optimistic scenario, we will have decreased our snow pack by 20 percent on an average basis. And our forests are going to begin to die, because of parasites and such.... In the pessimistic scenario, the snow pack will decrease by 70 to 90 percent....

... a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California. When you lose 70 percent of your water in the mountains, I don't see how agriculture can continue. California produces 20 percent of the agriculture in the United States. I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going.

It would seem that The New York Times (Tierney) owed it to their readers to place Chu's comments in context. Perhaps they could have mentioned that this Nobel Prize Winner at top of the Department of Energy is enough on top of his subject area that he is able to cite and discuss actual scientific studies about the issues of concern. Here is the abstract of "Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California":

The magnitude of future climate change depends substantially on the greenhouse gas emission pathways we choose. Here we explore the implications of the highest and lowest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emissions pathways for climate change and associated impacts in California. Based on climate projections from two state-of-the-art climate models with low and medium sensitivity (Parallel Climate Model and Hadley Centre Climate Model, version 3, respectively), we find that annual temperature increases nearly double from the lower B1 to the higher A1fi emissions scenario before 2100. Three of four simulations also show greater increases in summer temperatures as compared with winter. Extreme heat and the associated impacts on a range of temperature-sensitive sectors are substantially greater under the higher emissions scenario, with some interscenario differences apparent before midcentury. By the end of the century under the B1 scenario, heatwaves and extreme heat in Los Angeles quadruple in frequency while heat-related mortality increases two to three times; alpine/subalpine forests are reduced by 50-75%; and Sierra snowpack is reduced 30-70%. Under A1fi, heatwaves in Los Angeles are six to eight times more frequent, with heat-related excess mortality increasing five to seven times; alpine/subalpine forests are reduced by 75-90%; and snowpack declines 73-90%, with cascading impacts on runoff and streamflow that, combined with projected modest declines in winter precipitation, could fundamentally disrupt California's water rights system. Although interscenario differences in climate impacts and costs of adaptation emerge mainly in the second half of the century, they are strongly dependent on emissions from preceding decades.

While these "scientists are not certain", their work was accurately discussed by Secretary Chu. And, as for implications, does Tierney want to seriously suggest that California agriculture would survive in anything like what it is today if the "snowpack declines 90%)? Or, that there wouldn't be serious difficulties with eight times more frequent heatwaves in Los Angeles? Or ...

Tierney's deception, using the voice of Roger Pielke to achieve his objectives, didn't end there. Tierney quoted Pielke at length suggesting that as yet to be invented, not fully conceived of, ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere "could be chaper" than cutting emissions. "Could be cheaper if the technology improves ..." Well, I "could win pitch a perfect game" if I'd only improve my fastball. "If ..."

We have to ask ourselves why theoretically serious newspapers hand over precious (and it is precious) column inches to such serial deceivers as John Tierney and George Will.

NOTE: Please see Joe Romm's John Tierney makes up stuff, just like George Will -- does the New York Times also employ several know/do-nothing fact checkers? For those concerned, let me end as Joe does:

Please email the NYT at nytnews@nytimes.com to demand a correction for the egregious mistakes in Tierney's column and/or email its public editor at public@nytimes.com to explain you are "concerned about the paper's journalistic integrity."

POSTSCRIPT: Here is a letter sent earlier today to The Post. Could we hope that something similiar will go to The Times?

Andy Alexander
Ombudsman
The Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Mr. Alexander:

We are writing today to express urgent concern over your refusal to correct George Will's February 15 column, "Dark Green Doomsayers." Will used his nationally syndicated column to make several clear distortions about global warming.

First, Will misused data on global sea ice levels from the Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC), wrongly suggesting that ACRC data undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus surrounding "man-made global warming." In fact, the ACRC says the opposite is true -- the sea ice data Will cited actually support the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming.

Second, Will claimed that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." Will cited no source and provided no quote for this claim. In fact, last year, the WMO stated that the "long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing." And just last month, WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud reportedly said: "The major trend is unmistakably one of warming."

Third, Will rehashed the discredited myth that in the 1970s, there was broad scientific consensus that the Earth faced an imminent global cooling threat.

Will's column has sparked widespread criticism. Yet, the only response from the Post seems to be to defend Will with further misinformation. When Brad Johnson from the Center for American Progress Action Fund contacted you to correct Will's distortions, you reportedly refused to acknowledge that they exist.

Global warming is one of the most urgent issues facing our country and the entire world. In dealing with an issue of such magnitude, the Post has a duty to provide the truth to its readers.

George Will is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts. We respectfully ask that you immediately make your readers aware of the glaring misinformation in Will's column.

Thank you.

Carl Pope
Executive Director, The Sierra Club

Gene Karpinski
President, League of Conservation Voters

Brent Blackwelder
President, Friends of the Earth

Eric Burns
President, Media Matters For America

This is a great letter. A letter that will, hopefully, be followed up with contacts from other prominent people (such as Congressman who chair committees with "Energy Independence and Global Warming" in the title?). But, let us be clear: this would not have been written without the work and voices of a number of bloggers. This a clear example of the movement of a Blogosphere outrage into action by mainstream organizations.

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