A recent rather scary example of the speed of blogs and how even small mistakes can be amplified in service of serial axe grinding. It is also a story of how news organizations and reporters can behave ethically in timely correction of mistakes.
It may come as a surprise to many bunnies, but Joe Romm is really despised by many out there in Blogland. The obvious come to mind, Tony Watts, Hans v. Storch, Keith Kloor, Roger Jr, etc., but in this particular case, David Appell (here, here and now here), and also many of the Kool Kids (that's you Weasel and James). The latter class think that one should be, well, cerebral about the threats of major global warming, and well, Joe is hot. Eli was holding off on this little tale to give it a chance to settle after the original small burn, but it has gone thermonuclear and needs to be discussed immediately.
Recently an article appeared in Reuters which quoted the Chief Economist of the IEA, Fatih Birol, as saying
"When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet,"Joe Romm picked this up but omitted the (2050) which turns out to be correct. David Appell on the other hand, went into full attack mode on Romm for predicting a 6C change by 2050. As the subsequent comments show, Romm did no such thing.
In fact, after reading the Appell post, Eli asked a question at ThinkProgress
Now one of the annoyances of blogs is that people would rather discuss endlessly what they thought somebunny said, rather than ask that bunny. Eli and others finally got Appell to write to Birol, but Birol is a big cheese, and no reply yet. It occurred to the Rabett to write to the person whose byline appeared on the Reuters piece. So he did (much more background below in the letter)
Dear Sirand received this useful reply from the reporter, Michael Rose
In a recent article published with your byline in Reuters
Fatih Birol is quoted as follows
"When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet," Fatih Birol, IEA's chief economist told Reuters.
To be frank 6C by 2050 is risible, and there are good reasons to think that Birol simply said 6 degrees Celsius without a date including the IEA 2011 World Energy Report and a recent panel discussion in which he participated, where he said “the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”
This has been picked up in several places, particularly by David Appell
who explains why 2050 is not reasonable by going through some of the numbers. Joe Romm while using the 6 C figure did not quote the date and, indeed there is some published work out there that there really is a chance of 6 C by 2100, though they predict a median of 5.1 C (not much of a difference).
The question is what is the source for the 2050 date?
Thanks for your attention to what may on the surface appear to be a minor matter, but which, given the politicization of climate issues is likely to spread and to be used badly
Dear Eli,It is so bad to be proven right. Eli had hoped that with a quick resolution this would go away and was waiting for Reuters to catch up with Fatih Birol and get this straightened out, with perhaps a note on the original article, but alas, Hans von Storch put the boot in
Thank you for your email. As you said in your message, Birol did not specify a date for that 6°C increase, and that’s why “by 2050” was between brackets in the story, to show that this was added by Reuters for context. Considering the target for a 2°C trajectory is 2050 and this is the timeframe always referred to in climate change discussions, we thought Birol was comparing like for like, or else why give a number and no date. After reading what you sent me, I’ll certainly check that with him and issue a correction if need be.
A forth [sic] interesting issue is that climate science has become irrelevant; it shows up in passing, when "limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers" is mentioned, and the quote "the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (by 2050)" is made.This is a pretty bold prediction, given that we have so far less than 1 degree warming since pre-industrial times, so that the warming must be more than 5 degrees/38 years, i.e., about 0.7-0.8 deg/decade. I consider this pure alarmism, which is related to the timing, and a misuse of scientific analysis for creating some unsustainable short term drama for the Bonn-negotiations. I wonder if this 6-degrees claim is really from IEA, or just an addition by Fatih Birol, because is no not mentioned in the IEA's announcement.Eli got there a bit late in the comments
This attack on Joe Romm and Fatih Birol is an argument in bad faith which originated in David Appell's dislike of Joe Romm and which you are amplifying for similar reasons. The 2050 is an insertion by Reuters based on a misunderstanding.It had already bled over from the Pielkesphere into the Blogs of Denial and from there, but a short hop to the Capital, Wattsville
On Appell's blog, Eli pointed this out and suggested that Appell ask Birol. In the discussion there scientific sources were found by others for the 6C claim in 2100. Eli himself has asked Reuters and received a response
Tony Watts has now leveraged your bad faith posting into an attack on Joe Romm.
This is sad. Joe Romm promotes another overt fabrication, and some poor kid writes in despair, hoping all the “oil/coal people” here die “a horrible death, preferably caused by climate disasters”. If that were sent to somebody at ANU, it would by the Appell/Stokes rule, be declared a “death threat”. Since it’s on Romm’s site, the poster gets sympathy and counseling instead of admonishment. See below.and they are off!!! and how. But Reuters has issued a correction
11:41 30May12 RTRS-CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Global CO2 emissions hit record in 2011 led by China-IEA
(Corrects MAY 24 story to fix timeframe reference in fourth paragraph)
* CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 pct last year
* China the biggest contributor to the global rise
* Trend could have "devastating consequences" -IEA's Birol
By Michel Rose
PARIS, May 24 (Reuters) - China spurred a jump in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to their highest ever recorded level in 2011, offsetting falls in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.
CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 31.6 billion tonnes, preliminary estimates from the Paris-based IEA showed.
China, the world's biggest emitter of CO2, made the largest contribution to the global rise, its emissions increasing by 9.3 percent, the body said, driven mainly by higher coal use.
"When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (towards the end of this century), which would have devastating consequences for the planet," Fatih Birol, IEA's chief economist told Reuters.
Scientists say ensuring global average temperatures this century do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is needed to limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.
They believe that is only possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.
Negotiators from over 180 nations are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until Friday to work towards getting a new global climate pact signed by 2015.
The aim is to ensure ambitious emissions cuts are made after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of this year.
Procedural wrangling and a reluctance to raise ambitions to cut emissions due to economic constraints is threatening progress, however. (ID:nL5E8GLCRU]
"I think it would be unrealistic to think that there will be major breakthroughs very soon," Birol said.
"Climate change is sliding down in the international policy agenda, which is definitely a worrying trend."There are several morals here, certainly Reuters and Michael Rose, the journalist, behaved responsibly when informed of the issue, investigating and then issuing the correction. Similar action may limit the damage that Appell and v. Storch are doing to their reputation. In Watts' case the Bunnies strongly suspect what the answer will be.