Response From Andy Revkin, New York Times Reporter

Dear Dr. Pielke,

[you can post this if you like]

I only just learned today of your complaints about The New York Times story on your resignation from the CCSP troposphere trends committeee. I regret that you feel it misstated your stance on global warming and your reasons for stepping down.

I’m also sorry you felt you couldn’t discuss your criticisms directly with me, although I certainly don’t mind having you air them on your blog, as well. Our goal at The Times, more than ever, is to insure that our journalism, besides being accurate and timely, is interactive, responsive and transparent.

My sense is that some of the unavoidable limitations of daily journalism caused the story to fail to distill to your satisfaction a career’s worth of research and writing into a few words. This is always a challenge, but particularly so in your case becuase you have developed a valuable multi-disciplinary and nuanced view of the varied forces at play in the climate puzzle. If anyone got the impression I was lumping you with the so-called climate skeptics, or any other camp for that matter, that was certainly not my intent.

I will be writing more on the important question of how land use and greenhouse forcing may be affecting climate (in places like Costa Rican cloud forests, for example), and hope to draw on your expertise in a much more comprehensive way.

Some specifics: I was upset belatedly with my opening paragraph (but after story went to press) because I realized my intent was to refer to the dominant view that accumulating greenhouses gases were responsible for most of the recent global warming trend (not human causes more generally), as per the 2001 IPCC summary (…most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”). Just for the record, would you characterize yourself as agreeing or disagreeing with that conclusion of the IPCC?

Returning to what appeared in print, in your critique of my story, you wrote: To state that I have “long disagreed..that global warming stems from human activity” is a completely erroneous characterization of my perspective.

But that’s not what I wrote. I included the word mainly, as in “global warming stems mainly from human activity.’’

My sense from your past statements on this is that there are significant uncertainties in assessing the relative contributions to global warming from changes in landscapes and greenhouse gases (and uncertainties created in what thermometers register because of land-use changes).

For example, in this Land Letter article from 4/1/2004, you were quoted as saying: “[Land use] makes climate a much more complicated issue than just trying to infer what happens due to influxes of carbon dioxide alone.”

If it is correct that you feel human influences are the dominant cause of global warming and I got that wrong, I regret it and will be sure that we promptly publish a correction.

As for my description of why you resigned, I focused on the reason you yourself cited first, both in your letter to Dr. Mahoney at NOAA and in our interview: that you were upset with what you said were your peers’ premature and improper public discussions of the CCSP process and the importance of the Science papers to that process.

My story also clearly conveyed what you told me was another critical issue: that the problems in the report-writing process arose because specialists were essentially in charge of a review of their own work.

As for the third reason – the substitution of an alternate text for the chapter you worked on — I was completely unaware of the competing draft until you brought it up in your blog and our interview.

That was not something I was able to confirm and write about because – as they always have – all the other authors preparing this troposphere report have declined to discuss the substance of the drafting process with me. As I reported back on Aug. 11 when the Science papers on the troposphere trends were published, the authors I interviewed, ranging from Christy to Santer, only discussed the process, not the substance.)

Please contact me directly and we can work out any next steps.

– Andy Revkin

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