Tobis and Pielke
Posted by Jeff Condon on April 23, 2010
Pielke has recently written a piece which is forcing me to bite my tongue until I get time to write. In the meantime Tom has again provided us with a comparison of two Weblogs who occasionally battle. -Jeff
By Tom fuller:
People looking for logical reasons why alliances and enmities form in the climate blogosphere will be disappointed. Our next pair of weblogs shows why.
Only in it for the Gold and Roger Pielke Jr.’s eponymous weblog would have their owners facing each other at dawn with pistols in hand. And yet there seems to be very little science they disagree on. Alexa ranks Only In It For the Gold at 359,414 (out of billions) and Roger Pielke Jr. is not ranked.
Both Michael Tobis (principal contributor to Only in it for the Gold) and Roger Pielke are scientists, Tobis with a PhD in Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, Pielke with a B.A. in mathematics (1990), a M.A. in public policy (1992), and a Ph.D. in political science, all from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to his positions at CU-Boulder, from 1993 to 2001 he was a staff scientist  in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research), both are convinced that global warming is real, a problem and should be addressed in the very short term (like now).
But the two fight like cats and dogs.
Personal bias declaration: I fight with Tobis like cat and/or dog as well, and Pielke’s policy preferences are almost a perfect match with mine. When I first read his weblog I wondered if he had been reading my columns–or my mind, before I found out he’d been doing this for years, long before I ever wrote on the subject.
Michael Tobis actually has 4 blogs, one being on software, one on photography and one just general interst. Pielke is focussed on just the one. Pielke has published extensively on the damages done to property as a result of storms and floods, and because that has been used to argue that warming temperatures will cause more damage, he has been heavily involved in the political debate about climate change. Tobis has been more of an observer, and picks and chooses the subjects he will get involved in.
Only in it for the Gold is, in my opinion, not intended for the general public. Rather, it seems to be sort of a home away from home for weary warriors fighting on behalf of the consensus, who will understand inside jokes and are part of a crew. (I am not trying to be critical here–to the extent that I’m right, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate and probably valuable use of a piece of Internet real estate.) I have noticed that the shared assumptions that work perfectly well amongst the regulars at his site don’t serve Mr. Tobis well when he carries them outside his own domain, so when he ventures onto other weblogs to engage with the rest of the world, he gets into trouble and into fights regularly. I’m not sure if he does this intentionally or not–it’s happened at my column more than once, and I’ve seen it happen at places like Lucia Liljegren’s Blackboard, as well. I have characterized Tobis as sort of a well-meaning grumpy bear who always seems surprised at the trouble he gets himself into, and I still sort of have that opinion.
Roger Pielke’s weblog is an advocacy site, but it’s advocating a different way of looking at the policies we use to deal with climate change. It’s really a non-partisan political weblog with the purpose of convincing us that instead of worrying about caps on emissions and imaginary limits on CO2 concentrations that will never be achieved, we should aggressively pursue the ‘decarbonization’ of our economies through conversion to greener energy sources and conservation. As that’s pretty much word for word what I think we should be doing, it should be obvious that I feel very much at home there.
As with Deltoid, which I reviewed a couple of days ago, Tobis is often spending most of his time criticizing ‘deniers’ (which apparently includes everyone who disagrees with Tobis) and very little time talking about climate science. As he is a climate scientist, I think this is a real loss to the public discussion of these issues. And Pielke takes advantage of a target-rich environment to post on a wide range of topics, although he returns to his favorites frequently.
Only in it for the Gold has an extensive blogroll, Pielke does not. Tobis’ site also has a good feature–shared items, where he can post links to pages he’s visited. Pielke links to his recently published work and sites related to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he works.
The interesting difference is in comments. Pielke is lightly commented on, mostly by passers-by. Tobis has a network of like-minded souls that have a common frame of reference, who work hard at policing the accepted norms of behaviour and (my personal prejudice says) beliefs.
Both sites appear to receive similar amounts of traffic and comments.
Recent posts on Only in it for the Gold:
1. Spot the Error #2: (Cryptic criticism of a blog post)
2. Uncertainties Greatly Reduced: (Reposting of Geological Society of America’s reaffirmation of the climate science litany)
3. Spot the Denier Bug: (Criticism of Roger Pielke Jr.’s post on a program to reduce CO2 emissions)
4. Infographic: (Mandatory Iceland volcano post–which reminds me, I have to do one or lose my blogging license)
5. Still Bupkis: (Celebration of Oxburgh findings of investigation into Climategate)
6. The Danger of Climate Denial: (Reposting of Michael Specter’s speech at TED)
7. An Alarming Shortfall in Foolishness: (Concerns about continuous economic growth)
8. Monbiot Starts to Get It: (Media criticism)
9. Boundaries: (Limits to growth)
10. Climate Disruption: (Description of his point of view of debate on climate change)
Recent posts on Roger Pielke Jr.
1. Steve Schneider Responds (Climate scientist Schneider responds to Pielke’s review of Schneider’s book)
2. What Climate Science? (Restatement of importance of ‘decarbonization’)
3. Pachauri at Yale 360: (Commentary on IPCC chief’s statement)
4. The Missing Heat: (Discussion of difficulties in finding heat presumed to have been generated, but unaccounted for in observations)
5. Two Views on Improvements in Maternal Health (Discussion of advocacy groups reluctance to publicize improvements prior to funding decisions)
6. Carbon Dioxide at $800 per Ton in Boulder (Criticism of city plan to finance home improvements for CO2 reductions. This is the article Tobis criticized.)
7. Look East: (Reposting of Economist chart showing demographic shifts.)
8. Judy Curry on the Oxburgh Report and IPCC (Reposting Judith Curry’s comments)
9. Xtreme Science Advocacy: A Guest Post by Sharon Friedman (criticism of land use calculations)
10. Carbon Dioxide at $1,000 per Ton in NSW: (Commentary on expensive mitigation project)
These two sites capture the tragedy of current debate on climate change. They don’t disagree on the science, but Pielke’s advocacy of ‘decarbonization’ rather than acceptance of the consensus view on capped emission and permits for trading has put him beyond the pale. Tobis laments the state of science communication, but doesn’t communicate about the science. These two should be allies. Instead they’re ‘enemies’ (I doubt if it gets personal at all).
If semantic landmines (which abound in discussion of global warming, including the term global warming) were removed, these two would have much more in common than differences. But Tobis dismisses all who don’t toe the line with very real ill-humor, and Pielke, who often comments on Tobis’ site, tends to make one effort to communicate and then get annoyed. Kind of like me, in that respect.
If this doesn’t change, we might as well hand the keys to the car to Senator Inhofe. Which many readers here at The Air Vent might applaud. But I wouldn’t be one of them.