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Daily Howler: Andrew Revkin has been thinking too hard about the science of global warming
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GLOBAL WARNING: Andrew Revkin has been thinking too hard about the science of global warming. In Sunday’s Times, he offered a ponderous metaphor about the state of knowledge RE warming. Stretching our beautiful minds to the limit, he explained how the science of warming would seem “if thought of as a painting:”
REVKIN (1/14/07): If thought of as a painting, the scientific picture of a growing and potentially calamitous human influence on the climate has moved from being abstract a century ago to impressionistic 30 years ago to pointillist today.
The scientific picture has moved from abstract to impressionistic to pointillist, Revkin explained. He was thinking much too hard.

Ordinarily, we’d just roll our eyes at such standard Sunday Times piffle. But then, consider the more troubling report which Revkin offered on New Year’s Day. In that piece, Revkin said that a sensible center is now emerging in the debate about global warming—a sensible center which he contrasted to all the “shouting” on the extremes. But Revkin’s picture of the current debate was quite startling. As he defined the new sensible center, he painted Al Gore as one of the shouters—and crackpot Jim Inhofe as another. Here’s how the scribe began:
REVKIN (1/1/07): Amid the shouting lately about whether global warming is a human-caused catastrophe or a hoax, some usually staid climate scientists in the usually invisible middle are speaking up.

The discourse over the issue has been feverish since Hurricane Katrina. Seizing the moment, many environmental campaigners, former Vice President Al Gore and some scientists have portrayed the growing human influence on the climate as an unfolding disaster that is already measurably strengthening hurricanes, spreading diseases and amplifying recent droughts and deluges.

Conservative politicians and a few scientists, many with ties to energy companies, have variously countered that human-driven warming is inconsequential, unproved or a manufactured crisis.

A third stance is now emerging, espoused by many experts who challenge both poles of the debate.
It’s the Silent Majority all over again! According to Revkin, “many experts” in the “usually invisible middle” are trying to counter all the “shouting” which has come from “both poles of the debate.” But, according to his remarkable construct, one “pole” in all this “feverish” shouting is represented by Inhofe, the Republican crackpot who has most famously said that warming is a “hoax.” And the other pole? It’s represented by Gore, who gets dissed by name (while Inhofe doesn’t)! That’s right—according to Revkin, An Inconvenient Truth represents one extreme in the current “feverish” “shouting.” Inhofe’s utterly crackpot rants represent the other.

What a remarkable bit of equivalence! Gore and Inhofe are the shouters! The shouters who many experts now challenge! Indeed, a number of people quickly questioned Revkin’s odd framing of the discussion (just click here, for example). Given this gruesome New Year’s performance, perhaps we should simply count our blessings when we’re told that the current knowledge of warming is much like a pointillist painting.

On the other hand, citizens should perhaps be concerned when the Times’ global warming reporter creates such an oddball framework. For ourselves, we’re even more concerned about Revkin’s work because of a Close-Up Foundation discussion in which he was recently featured. (The program aired on C-SPAN, as Close-Up’s programs do each week.) Here’s Close Up’s synopsis of the oddly unbalanced program it foisted on high school students:
Reporting on Climate Change
Friday, January 5, 2007
7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on C-SPAN 2


Andrew Revkin, Environment Reporter, The New York Times...

Patrick Michaels, Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies, The Cato Institute

The Close Up Foundation discusses and analyzes the media’s coverage of climate change with students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.
Now there’s a fair-and-balanced panel! On the one hand, the high school kids got Patrick Michaels, one of those “scientists with ties to energy companies” cited in Revkin’s report. Providing the balance, of course, they got Revkin—who had just finished equating Gore to the crackpot Senator Inhofe.

We only saw a small part of this discussion, but no, we didn’t get the impression that Revkin was “balancing” Michaels real well. (There’s no transcript or tape available on-line.) Of course, it isn’t Revkin’s fault if the Close-Up Foundation produces an oddly un-“balanced” panel. But his participation—and the small bit of the discussion we saw—made us wonder even more about his recent work.

Gore and Inhofe are the feverish shouters? The feverish shouters on the poles, the ones who many experts oppose? We don’t know what’s going on with Revkin’s picture of global warming. But the Times may want to take a look at its overheated correspondent. Clearly, Revkin has been thinking too hard—or perhaps, not hard enough.

TOMORROW: Part 1! An incomparable series.