Revkin on climate change

Andrew Revkin has been covering global climate change for the New York Times

since 1988. Today, he gets the front page of the Week in Review section to try

to answer the key questions, which he puts this way:

Is global warming now a reality? What do scientists know for sure and when

are they just guessing?

The resultant article is very disappointing. Revkin is happy to concede that

"seas have risen about six to eight inches globally over the last century

and the rate of rise has increased in the last decade," but he resolutely

refuses to admit that such warming is man-made. Instead, he tells us twice that

we can’t be sure that recent hurricanes and other extreme weather are the fault

of anthropogenic global warming.

Of course, proving anthropogenic causality behind any given weather phenomenon

is basically impossible. But by emphasizing that impossibility and ignoring

the anthropogenic warming we do know about, Revkin creates the impression

of controversy in the outlines of a science where there is actually surprising


The headling of the article is "Yelling ‘Fire’ on a Hot Planet" –

clearly giving the impression that Al

Gore and his apologists are being more alarmist than reasonable about the

whole subject. I understand why the NYT would want to run a think-piece on global

climate change around the time of Earth Day. But I don’t understand why they

have to be so milquetoast on the subject, and emphasize the controversy at the

margins rather than the unanimity at the center.

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3 Responses to Revkin on climate change

  1. David Weman says:

    “But I don’t understand why they have to be so milquetoast on the subject, and emphasize the controversy at the margins rather than the unanimity at the center.”

    Isn’t taht the opposite of being milquetoast. His pov strikes me as slightly extremist.

  2. Felix says:

    Good point, David. I meant milquetoast in the sense of caving in to the “teach both sides of the controversy” rhetoric of the right wing denialists (and J-school profs around the country).

  3. Andy Revkin says:

    Belatedly catching up with your blog about “Hot Planet.” You must have jumped right by the heart of the piece — which was precisely about the fact that those yelling at the edges of the debate are distracting from the profoundly important body of very clear understanding in the middle: that humans are clearly warming the earth and this will have profound consequences later in the century.

    My critique was focused on those on the environmental left who’ve tried to drag the discourse away from what is known with crystal clarity toward the “here and now” events where the science is far more equivocal and there is legitimate disagreement.

    I was trying to say (obviously not clearly enough) that this is a counterproductive distraction that takes the fight back into the “he says, she says” realm that foes of curbing greenhouse gases prefer.

    I elaborate on all of this at

    and i encourage you to explore my new book on the issue, THE NORTH POLE WAS HERE. You can read first chapter here:

    — andy revkin, the new york times

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