Comment On New York Times Article By Andrew C. Revkin And John M. Broder “Before Climate Meeting, A Revival Of Skepticism”

There was an article in the New York Times on December 6 2009  by  Andrew C. Revkin And John M. Broder titled “Before Climate Meeting, A Revival Of Skepticism”.

The text attributed to me is

“Roger A. Pielke Sr., for example, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado who has been highly critical of the United Nations climate panel and who once branded many of the scientists now embroiled in the e-mail controversy part of a climate “oligarchy,” said that so many independent measures existed to show unusual warming taking place that there was no real dispute about it. Moreover, he said, “The role of added carbon dioxide as a major contributor in climate change has been firmly established.”

I want to correct a significant misstatement in one part of the above text.

There are “many independent measures existed to show unusual warming taking place that there was no real dispute about it”  is not my view. The sentence should read “many independent measures existed to show human caused climate change taking place that there is no real dispute about it”.  The warming (and cooling) we see in the observations is not unusual.

I have reproduced below the question I was asked for this interview, and my response.

New York Times question

“Looking at emissions trends for the major greenhouse gases, and what’s known about recent warming and the role of greenhouse gases in climate, would you say that the email disclosures have done anything to undermine the basic point that heading toward doubled levels of co2 from pre-industrial is bound to powerfully shape climate for generations.”

My Answer

The role of added carbon dioxide as a major contributor in climate change has been firmly established. However, as you know I have questioned its relative role and our ability to accurately predict its longer-term effects.  But that it has an effect is clear.


An important message from the e-mails, however, is that viewpoints that differ from these climate scientists have been deliberately ignored or even actively suppressed. This includes the perspective that major contributors to climate change are not limited to the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2), but include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation, the influence of aerosol deposition of soot, dust and nitrogen onto the Earth’s surface, and the role of changes in land use/land cover. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.

Policies focused on controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases are justified for many reasons beyond the climatic effect of CO2, so I want to be clear that the science questions are not necessarily directly translatable into policy implications.  But one implication of my own work and that of others is clear — however successful we are in reducing emissions, a significant problem of human-caused climate change will remain as the other equally or even more important major contributors to climate change are not addressed by emissions reductions.

 So I am urging that we take this broader perspective.  It is not an argument against reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, but it is recognition that the human role in the climate system is much more than just the added CO2. I have no problem with well thought out policies focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  I do have a problem with equating such policies with a comprehensive approach to climate change.

I am requesting that the New York Times post a correction.

UPDATE: The sentence that is in error was removed in the International Herald Tribune edition even before my post appeared so one or both of the journalists must have caught this error. Thanks!

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