Open Comment to Andy Revkin with Respect to your 23 August 2005 Article in the New York Times Regarding my Resignation from the CCSP Committee

The reference to my perspective and to the reasons I resigned from the Committee are mischaracterized and erroneous in the New York Times article (subscription required). One major reason that the Climate Science weblog was launched was to correct such mistaken communications. Anyone who has read my blogs will recognize that your article is inaccurate as to how it characterizes my perspective on human-caused climate change and on the reasons for my resignation from the CCSP Committee.

My comments on your article appear below.

NY Times Article: “A scientist who has long disagreed with the dominant view that global warming stems mainly from human activity has resigned from a panel that is completing a report for the Bush administration on temperature trends in the atmosphere.”

Pielke Sr. Response: The well documented increases of atmospheric concentration of CO2 are due to anthopogenic emissions of this gas. This comes from vehicles, industry, biomass burning and other sources of combustion. CO2 warms the Earth’s climate system radiatively (i.e. it is a global warming effect). As I wrote in the article “Heat storage within the Earth system” and as summarized in the 2005 National Research Council report “Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties” of which I was a co-author, the Earth’s climate system has warmed, and human activities certainly have contributed. To state that I have “long disagreed..that global warming stems from human activity” is a completely erroneous characterization of my perspective.

NY Times Article: “Its main focus is to explore why thermometers at the Earth’s surface, especially in the tropics, have measured more warming than has been detected by satellites and weather balloons in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere up to where jetliners cruise.”

Pielke Sr. Response: Regardless of what some may claim, this focus is not the charge to the CCSP Committee as documented on the CCSP web page for this report, nor in the Asheville meeting that provided recommendations in the establishment of the Committee (see the Panel summaries). The Committee was supposed to investigate spatial as well as temporal trends of recent surface and tropospheric temperatures, which, in the last version that I saw, it failed to do. This will be clearly documented in my Public Comment. As the recent papers in Science attest, reconciling the globally averaged and tropical-zonally averaged surface and satellite temperature records is a closed issue, and one that I fully accept. It is the remaining issues that the Committee should be addressing but is not.

NY Times Article: “Pielke contends that changes in landscapes like the spread of agriculture and cities could explain many of the surface climate trends, while most climate experts now see a clear link to accumulating emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.”

Pielke Sr. Response: This is a completely bogus statement of my conclusions on climate. My perspective on climate forcings is described by the NRC Report that I co-authored in which a diversity of climate forcings including the radiative effect of added CO2 is involved. I have repeatedly written in the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. see Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system) that climate prediction (and therefore attribution to specific climate forcings) is a daunting challenge since the climate system is nonlinear and chaotic. Landscape change is only one of a number of climate forcings. I can only assume that this statement is written out of an intentional attempt to mischaracterize my work or simply a failure to comprehend my various peer-reviewed papers on this subject.

NY Times Article: “Pielke said he decided to resign after three papers on the troposphere trends were published online on Aug. 11 by the journal Science. The papers said errors in satellite and balloon studies in the tropics explained why earlier analyses failed to find warming in the troposphere. Several authors of those papers, who are also authors of the coming government report, said at the time that the new findings would be discussed in the report. Pielke said those statements were an effort to influence the shape of the final report.”

Pielke Sr response: This is also erroneous. You made no mention of the inappropriate shadow version of the Chapter that I was Convening Lead Author on that you were aware of, nor that it was not the publication of the papers, but the repeated cherry-picking of information from the draft Report that were prematurely presented to the media and to the Senate Committee that were the issue. What can explain this fictional reporting?

While readers of our Climate Science blog will be provided a correction, the more general readers of the NY Times will be presented with an extremely biased and error-laden view of this issue. I am simply aghast at the major errors and mischaracterizations in this article. I’d welcome your response.

Sincerely,

Roger A. Pielke Sr.

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