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Is the Texas State Climatologist Doing His Job?

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John Nielsen-Gammon
State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon receives the Newsmaker Image Award from Texas A&M VP Jason Cook.

“Severe weather not due to climate change,” ran the comforting headline in a recent San Antonio Express-News interview with Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.

When asked in the opening question about the link between “climate change and severe weather patterns,” Nielsen-Gammon responded that U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is “essentially correct” to say that “long-term trends in weather disasters are not caused by human-made activity.”

While it would appear that he is denying climate change’s influence on severe weather (a perception bolstered by the headline), the nearly impenetrable reality is he was speaking about related economic losses from those storms. It’s not until the end of the interview that Nielsen-Gammon’s unequivocal position on global warming (“it’s real” and “mostly us”) becomes clear.

That performance by our state climatologist—tasked with monitoring and communicating Texas climate information from his Texas A&M University office since being appointed to the position by Governor Rick Perry former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000—led to a lot of grumbling among San Antonio environmentalists and beyond. The headline, with Nielsen-Gammon’s approval, was later changed to a more accurate, “Effect of man-made changes hard to quantify.”

“What I disliked on that one was the order of things,” said a Texas-based climate researcher who has worked closely with Nielsen-Gammon in the past and asked not to be identified by name. “I’m not sure he’s ever had any communication training.”

For years, scientists have warned that intensified heat and drought, more powerful storms and accelerating sea-level rise from unchecked climate change could challenge the ability of human society to adapt. It’s a warning that even the Pentagon has taken to heart.

But in Texas, that urgent message is denied outright by many of the state’s most prominent elected leaders and frequently downplayed in the media.

Environmental stories get little ink. And even when preeminent climate-change communicators get a platform in the press, as the Express-News flop shows, confusion can reign.

While Nielsen-Gammon is by all accounts a solid researcher and a prolific speaker, he rarely discusses climate change’s broader risks. When asked by the Washington Post this summer how he is able to perform his duties in a state where the leadership continues to dismiss the basic tenets of climate change, he responded:

“Generally what people care about [most] is the next few months or the next few years. … I get to focus more on adaptation and adaptation is something you have to do no matter what causes the climate to change.”

But some climate communicators say he’s missing an opportunity to educate.

“Nielsen-Gammon is right that most people are most interested about weather conditions in the here and now,” Tony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, “but there’s certainly a lot of people who are interested in putting their local experiences, especially of extreme weather, into the larger context of climate change.”

He’s also reticent to discuss the moral or ethical ramifications of our energy choices in Texas.

“I can’t get John to have that moral discussion,” said the Texas-based scientist, “at least not in the public sphere. And I don’t think he’s in any way an outlier in any way in this.”

Indeed, few scientists have chosen the life of an activist like James Hansen, who resigned his position at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in April in order to devote himself full time to fighting for federal climate action.

Responding to emailed questions from The Texas Observer about the interview, Nielsen-Gammon defended his approach. “Imagine yourself a climate change skeptic reading the Q&A. When would you have stopped reading? I submit that you may well have read through to the end, and would have been left with something to think about,” he wrote. To assert too quickly that global warming is real and caused by humans would be to turn off those who don’t believe the basic tenets of climate change, he said.

“My communications strategy is designed to get past the filters [of conservative ideology] you write about.”

While he did not respond to a request for clarification last week, he appeared to be referencing a 2011 research paper analyzing a decade of Gallup surveys to suggest that more information about climate change is unlikely to move hard-right conservatives.

Climate scientist Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, was dragged into the national spotlight when former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli embarked on what has been described as a “witch hunt” against him for co-authoring the infamous “hockey stick” graph popularized in Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth.”

While not speaking specifically of Nielsen-Gammon, Mann, now at Penn State University, said climatologists frequently suffer from “scientific narrow-mindedness” in their work by downplaying or denying climate links to specific severe weather events rather than driving home the larger message of climate change’s immediate hazards.

“It would be like finding Lance Armstrong innocent of doping because you couldn’t prove that the steroids he had taken were responsible for him winning any particular race,” Mann said. “Many scientists in my view are far too reticent in the way they characterize the linkage between climate change and extreme weather.”

However, expecting Nielsen-Gammon to be a firebrand crusader is unfair, according to Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, who frequently works with Nielsen-Gammon. A stark distinction exists between climatologists, who don’t typically come from hardbasic-science backgrounds (Nielsen-Gammon hails from meteorology), and climate scientists who do, she said. It’s a difference she likened to that which exists between a family doctor and a specialist like an oncologist.

“A climatologist’s job is not to look to the future. Their job is historical data analysis. They don’t study the physical drivers of climate. They don’t do modeling. They don’t do any kind of extrapolation. That’s not what they do,” said Hayhoe. “You’re expecting him to be something he’s not. He is a climatologist: His expertise is not future projections, future risks and future impacts.”

Nielsen-Gammon gave the big picture a shot last week at a climate change forum in San Antonio. Asked about our chances of keeping global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius and thereby preventing the most severe impacts of climate change, he said, “If we’re lucky … we’ll have a few more decades. If we’re unlucky, we’re already past it.” The room broke out in nervous laughter as the meeting wound down.

Meanwhile, a leaked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that climate change will not only slow global economic growth this century, but increase death, famine and disease worldwide.

Just the sort of talk Nielsen-Gammon likes to avoid, but people in Texas—where only 44 percent of residents accept the scientific consensus viewpoint that humans are the main driver of global warming—need to hear.

“Perhaps,” Hayhoe suggested, “we need a state climate scientist.”

  • Elaine Kurpiel

    I am not a right-wing conservative by any stretch of the imagination. I am a liberal. After talking to others, I tend to agree with them that we are not necessarily influenced by all the scientific research, because we don’t totally understand it, but we are influenced more by the results of that research. What to expect in the future and what we can do in the here-and-now to implement change. In other words, similar to the words of Denzel Washington in the movie Philadelphia,” talk to me like I’m 4 years old.” Not because we are stupid but leave the big words at home and tell us the truth and what we can do. Give us examples of results of the research. As far as most of Congress, you probably do have to talk to them as if they are 4 years old….because they are stupid.

  • Mike Smith

    Sorry, but Mr. Nielsen-Gammon is correct. Here is a summary of the latest science. His position is supported by the IPCC which was the co-winner of the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

    A summary of the “storms are not increasing due to global warming” science is here: http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/as-predictably-as-sun-rising-in-east_12.html

    And, here is an article about how Big Climate exaggerates the science to keep the funding coming.

    http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/how-big-climate-generates-support.html

    FYI: I am a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a board certified consulting meteorologist.

    • greg harman

      What N-G is talking about in that first statement is not the climate links between storm frequency or intensity but economic losses associated with severe weather events. You seem to be lending unintended support to my critique of this Q&A as being unnecessarily obtuse. And, yes, his next statement that increased heavy rainfall and heatwave events are linked to climate change is correct — as is his concluding statement that the majority of added heat in the climate system in recent decades is our fault alone.

      • Mike Smith

        Agree that humans have warmed the climate, that is not in doubt. It is also not in doubt the world’s atmosphere stopped warming in the late 1990’s. Ocean temperatures, in total, have been warmed 0.04°C by “global warming.”

        Neither is it in doubt there, to date, has been no increase in tornadoes, hurricanes, or aggregate storm damage. The world had record harvests this past year. Meteorological famine is nearly unknown in recent years.

        Finally, there is an increasing number of scientists that believe global cooling is the real problem: http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2013/05/disquieting-story-about-global-cooling.html

        History clearly shows humanity prospers during warm periods and suffers greatly during cold. Shorter growing seasons = famine.

        If the cooling people are correct (and I have no opinion one way or another), we are going to want every bit of CO2 we can get into the atmosphere to mitigate cooling’s effects.

        • LannySinkin

          The idea that a pause in the upward climb of temperatures means global warming has stopped is contradicted by the historical pattern of pauses on a continual climb upward. As one scientist stated: “The current pause is consistent with numerous prior pauses. When walking
          up stairs in a tall building, it is a mistake to interpret a landing as
          the end of the climb. The slow rate of warming of the recent past is
          consistent with the kind of variability that some of us predicted nearly
          a decade ago” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/opinion/a-pause-not-an-end-to-warming.html?_r=0

          As far as storm damage increases: “Economic losses from extreme weather
          events have risen from an annual global average of about $50 billion in
          the 1980s to close to $200 billion over the last decade, according to
          the report released today by the World Bank.” http://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/11/18/climate-change-losses-cost-200-billion-over-last-decade/

          Climate models predict severe and lengthy drought in the Southwest United States. The current drought in Texas has cost us 300 million trees.

          • Mike Smith

            Lanny, there is so much incorrect here I hardly know where to begin.

            The period of about 1350 to 1850 AD was the Little Ice Age. Of course, temperatures were going to rise when it ended. The question is how much of the rise is natural and how much manmade. It appears world temperatures were warmer than today in the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman Optimum than today (we aren’t sure).

            The only known “pause” was 1944 to 1978. A sample of one is hardly conclusive. The record before about 1900 is in such dispute that those ‘pauses’ are nearly meaningless. By the way, this is the HADCRUT data (red line), the same that is used by the IPCC. You can see the downward slope in temperatures since 1998.

            The increase in disaster damage is ENTIRELY due to inflation and increases in national wealth. A tornado could not destroy a big screen TV home theater in 1950 because such a thing did not exist.

            The IPCC, in NONE of its previous reports, forecast a pause nor did any of its computer models. I have attached a second graph showing the IPCC’s 95% confidence forecast (light gray) and you can see temperatures are outside of it. That is known as a falsified hypothesis as the chance of this occurring, with the hypothesis being correct, is far less than 1%.

            I’m afraid you have been influenced by the media’s one-sided coverage rather than the real science.

            By the way, I am a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a board certified consulting meteorologist. I have extensive background in these subjects. That is NOT true of most ‘climate scientists.’

            Mike

          • texasaggie

            Mike, there is so much incorrect here I hardly know where to begin.
            No one is talking about the Little Ice Age or similar occurences. The topic under discussion is the short periods of time where temperatures only went up slightly due to human behavior instead of the rates that characterized the last 50 years. Those short periods often were related to La Niña and El Niño, so that human forces were either reinforced or counteracted. As you must know, being a weatherman, the recent La Niña was the warmest one on record. You can’t argue that each decade for the last 50 years has been warming than all preceding decades. Picking just one year, 1998, is the difference between weather, which you do, and climate, which climate scientists do.
            Wiping out whole towns isn’t something that used to be characteristic of tornadoes. They just weren’t as wide as the two that recently hit the Midwest, which, despite your protestations, were in fact record setters. Two tornadoes, each over a mile wide from the same storm, are not found in the past records. Then Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines is also a record for wind speed. The damage it caused wasn’t because of inflation. The damage was because it hit such a large área with such destructive winds. The same can be said about Sandy and Katrina which were as bad as the one hurricane that hit Galveston.
            It seems that all your talking points have come from the right wing talking machine. The cherry on top is that you, a weatherman, claim to know more about climate than actual scientists who study climate and the factors that affect it.

          • 123spencer

            Mr. Smith,
            Selecting the most aggressive warming version of the various RCP models while ignoring other model versions from the same agency is hardly an objective way to evaluate the valuable insights that the models might offer us. Please see the following link to an animation that does a good job of illustrating the point:

            http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/~ed/bloguploads/hiatus.gif

            I do agree with you that some of the damage costs that we are observing in weather related events is a function of inflation, greater wealth and terrible policy (i.e. – federal flood insurance warping the market place and mis-placing the consequences of risk). None the less, how exactly can we deny that ocean acidification, ocean warming, sea level rise, expansion of insect range and all the other forms of climate change manifestation will have an impact?

            I’m not certain that your credentials are the best demonstration of objectivity. I point you to the following research from the University of Texas regarding bias from the meteorological profession where political affiliation proved the strongest indicator regarding climate change opinion over other factors such as education or experience.

            http://enx.sagepub.com/content/6/4/208.abstract

            But I’ll end with a positive reference regarding the 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society:

            http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/06/11/climate_change_denial_zombies_ams_president_marshall_shepherd_talks_global.html

          • Mike Smith

            Mr. Spencer:

            The current President of the AMS, Dr. Marshall Shepherd is a personal friend and a very, very nice guy. He was kind enough to invite me to spend the day at the UGA campus last month and I gladly did so. Nevertheless, we disagree on a number of aspects of the climate change issue. That said, Marshall and I would agree on:

            — There is, so far, zero connection between tornadoes and increasing temperatures. I use this language because I offer no predictions about the future.

            — There is, so far, no upward trend in worldwide hurricane numbers or strength. Marshall would say he believes they will increase. Marshall and I discussed this very issue at some length after the recent Philippines hurricane. By the way, that hurricane, while a category 5, was not the strongest in history as one of the commenters contends. There was some speculation about that, but “strongest” has been disproven.

            — There is SOME evidence, although still tentative, that there are more droughts but that is hotly disputed. Marshall would 100% agree with me that a particular drought (i.e., west Texas) cannot be attributable to global warming. Droughts have always happened.

            — There is WEAK evidence that flash floods are on the increase. I don’t know what Marshall thinks of that, we haven’t discussed it.

            You talk about my credentials. I don’t know what you what you think meteorologists study. I have 3 hr each. of upper division: Atmospheric physics, atmospheric chemistry, urban climate and biometeorology.

            The head of the United Nations IPCC has a PhD in railroad engineering and no earth science. Dr.James Hansen, recently retired as head of NASA’s climate group is an astronomer and has never studied earth science. PLEASE do not take my word for this, look them up for yourselves so you will be convinced.

            The reason meteorologists add an important voice to the climate issue is that we are not easily impressed by computer models. Other climate scientists, because they do not understand the workings of the atmosphere, tend to believe whatever the model tells them even if it is atmospherically implausible.

            Finally, a word about good faith. I presume everyone commenting here wants to learn until proven otherwise. Please give me the benefit of the doubt. Look at each of the four graphs I have posted and be sure to look up page 9 of the IPCC’s SREX report where it will tell you there is no correlation between tornadoes and hurricanes and global warming (to date).

            I invite you to Google me and my qualifications. Mike Smith Wichita AccuWeather should get you quite a bit. Here is a piece published in the print and online editions of “The Washington Post” earlier this week that I wrote: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mike-smith-the-invisible-successes-of-meteorology/2013/11/19/42520ad4-5142-11e3-9e2c-e1d01116fd98_story.html

            I must break off and do other things. Have a good weekend everyone!! Mike

        • texasaggie

          It is somewhat less than legitimate to pick 1998 as the date that you use for deciding whether or not the temperatures have changed. If you pick 1999, then yes, indeed, temperatures have increased since then. Temperatures have NOT stopped warming. And the number you use for increased ocean temperatures is off by a factor of over ten.
          About the lack of storm damage, there were just two record setting tornadoes in the Midwest and a record setting typhoon in the Philippines. As a meterorologist, you must be aware that the projections are for increased strength, not increased numbers of storms, so talking about increase in numbers is merely a distraction from an uncomfortable truth.
          About meterological famine, here in the US midwest, especially TX, there has been and continues to be a drought that has killed off a lot of the corn crop and pasture so that ranchers have had to sell off their stock resulting in beef prices never before seen. Corn prices of over $7.50 a bushel have been driving dairy farms into the ground despite decent milk prices.

          • Mike Smith

            @Texasaggie: I’m happy to clarify the science but please read and learn rather than posting irrelevant information about recent weather (as opposed to climate.)

            In no way have temperatures warmed since 1999, just look at the graph above (click on “see more” if you need to).

            Last weekend’s tornadoes were in no way records. Long term trends in violent tornadoes (blue graph) is DOWN!

            Hurricane number and strength are DOWN. That is the gray graph which goes back to the beginning of the satellite era (this data was not possible prior to that time). The United States, every day, sets another record for — by far — the longest interval without a Category 3 hurricane or stronger. This record, approaching 8 years, goes back 200 years.

            The hurricanes in the Philippines and India were unfortunate but “weather.” We’ve always had hurricanes and always will.

            Yes, much of Texas has been in an unfortunate drought. All of these things are WEATHER.

            It is true there are many climate advocates that masquerade as scientists. But, no serious climate scientists disagrees with any of this.

            Mike

          • texasaggie

            Mike, you keep talking about graphs but you don’t link to them. The ones I’ve seen contradict your statements.
            The drought in the US midwest hardly counts as weather unless you claim that weather encompasses multiple years. In that case, what is climate? And dismissing Yolanda as just the usual ignores that the record for typhoon wind speed is being broken at ever shorter intervals.
            Your statement that no serious climate scientists disagree with you is contradicted by the climate scientists who say that things are indeed getting worse and will continue to do so unless things change drastically.
            And taking the word of a weatherman over a climatologist’s isn’t something that I’m prepared to do, especially when that weatherman picks and chooses his facts to fit his agenda.

    • texasaggie

      There is a question that the denialists never consider answering. They go on about “how Big Climate exaggerates the science to keep the funding coming” but when you ask them whether EXXON or the US government pays better, they never answer. If money were a factor, it is more than obvious which side is using it. To claim that real climatologists are motivated solely by ulterior motives means that you have no place in the discussion. And when even the ones working for the fossil fuel industry flat out say that their research shows that man-made global warming is real, then it is difficult to argue that their statements are motivated by financial gain.

  • Michael Quirke

    Dear Mr. Harman,

    I have some issues with your article. First off, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon was appointed as Texas State Climatologist on merit by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000 (see http://climatexas.tamu.edu/index.php/about-us/staff). To erroneously say that he was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry borders on libel, especially since every Perry appointee that has an opinion on the matter (that I know of) doubts man’s contribution to climate change (see, e.g. TCEQ Commissioner Byran Shaw). I expect a higher standard from the Texas Observer and hope to see a retraction and acknowledgement of the error.

    I have known Dr. Nielsen-Gammon personally for a few years now and am currently working with him and other climate scientists on a journalistic initiative called Climate Change National Forum and Review (see ClimateChangeNationalForum.org). The purpose of this project is to educate fellow Texans and Americans on not only the science of climate change but also its policy implications. Dr. Nielsen-Gammon has courageously and voluntarily taken a leadership role in this project, which will end with experts and policymakers discussing and debating what can or should be done about climate change as a nation. He is not of the Dr. Michael Mann or Dr. James Hansen variety, but I have found him to be pretty blunt about his position that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a substantial driver of global warming.

    As to the claims by you and an unnamed scientist that Dr. Nielsen-Gammon is reluctant to speak in moral terms about this issue in the public sphere, please see the Q&A session of this joint-event by the Environmental Law Society and Federalist Society at the Univ. of Houston Law Center that I moderated last year. When I posed the fundamental question of what are we to do as a nation, he answered with the following:

    “… I can tell you the things that I worry about from a scientific point of view: [It's]
    [n]ot just the amount by which temperature might change, but the rate it is changing,
    which is another issue. It is not just an economic trade off … but also, I
    think — JUST RELIGIOUSLY [emphasis added] — that we have a responsibility to take care of the earth and not do things that endanger it in terms of throwing it out of balance. I’d be a
    lot more comfortable if we have CO2 on a reasonably constrained tract rather
    than its continued increase.”(46:29)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTKb4P8_pmY&feature=c4-overview&list=UU3rht1s6oKV8PnW1ds47_KQ_

    Michael Quirke
    Executive Director
    Climate Change National Forum and Review
    Houston, TX

    • Forrest Wilder

      You are correct that Nielson-Gammon was appointed by Gov. Bush, not Perry. The post has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

    • greg harman

      I do regret this midnight-hour error I made during the story’s final editing process. I’ve interviewed and written about Nielsen-Gammon enough to know better. And while I welcome news of this climate forum you link to, I am comfortable in my assertion that N-G has been historically reticent to speak of the “moral or ethical ramifications” of climate change. I believe any reasonable review of N-G’s media appearances would show the statement offered above to be an outlier — albeit one I celebrate in the possibility it holds of more to follow.

      • Mike Smith

        It is not the job of a scientist to “‘talk about moral or ethical ramifications’ of climate change.” The job of scientists is science. You want him to act as an advocate and it is admirable he is not doing so.

        • texasaggie

          On the contrary, it most certainly IS the job of a scientist to communicate their findings to the public. Who else is in a better position to talk about the subject that they spend their careers investigating? The attitude that scientists should just stick to science is what led people who study evolution to remain silent while the creationists took over. If climate scientists remain silent about what the rest of us are doing to the earth, then who will advocate for saving it?

          • Mike Smith

            I thought I was having a reasonable conversation which is why I have engaged you, but I guess not. I never said they should not talk about their results. Of course they should, that is their job.

            Mr. Harman wants him to talk about “moral and ethical ramifications” which is NOT a scientist’s job. Since you seem determined to misconstrue what I am saying there is no reason to continue to further waste my time.

            What I have conveyed is the state of the science as best we know it.

            Sorry that you choose to believe propaganda.

  • Daveatcollinda

    On the one hand I admire Dr. Nielsen-Gammon for being willing to
    bluntly acknowledge that reality of the almost entirely fossil fuel
    driven climate change in a state very hostile to being told that. On the
    other hand I agree with Mr. Harman that it would be a good thing if Dr.
    Nielsen-Gammon were to be more aggressive and blunter still in
    addressing the issue.

    Mr. Harman gets it right, in my view, that like many scientists I know and have known,, the State
    Climatologist would benefit from working with some who are skilled in
    communication strategy. For example, to expect the average reader to
    complete an article on a matter they are leery of to begin with is
    mighty wishful thinking. Agreeing with the paper’s editor to use a very
    misleading headline is also a mark of an inexperienced communicator.
    But, many highly qualified scientists in many disciplines are so
    conditioned by the very cautious communication style required for
    publication that the techniques required to communicate inherently
    complex and nuanced topics to a lay audience are quite foreign and
    uncomfortable.

    Further, there is a tendency among some scientists to be
    somewhat politically naive. I do not know if the latter applies to Dr.
    Nielsen-Gammon, but I feel pretty certain the former does.

  • Bill Hurley

    Very good conversation, and the MOST important to those of us familar (even a little) with the climate crisis. It reflects an issue that I’ve been bantering about for the last decade at least. I agree with N-G mostly in that he is considering how to talk to the conservative branch (those who don’t recognize the problem) – an effort that I don’t see enough of. We often assume that everyone knows the cause of environmental troubles. But we think (naively I beleive) they just need updating only on the solutions. The deniers, we just dismiss. I strongly disagree with that strategy. I beleive you must talk to them -not to convince them but to convince those in the middle Who are listening. To not do so is to further the votes for people like Ted Cruz, Lamar Smith…

    WHile I am not sure of the method N-G chooses to do this, I also feel strongly that the method that greens have traditionally communicated has been to play the “blame game” and good guy/bad guy with cries for the little guy. This tactic just doesn’t work anymore and ends up soft-selling only those who’re already sympathetic to our cause. It turns off everybody else. Aren’t we just preaching to the choir (or at least the congreation)? I say “yes”, we have been.

    As a result of that tactic, most of the moderate republicans I encounter don’t read or study past the first few lines once they see depictions of the rich evil corporations and the powerful and greedy who are conspiring against what’s fair and right. This may have worked in the past but that, in my opinion, is why most environmental summitts/meetings/events are filled with people near my age (old). Even those of my ilk who agree that these people are not evil claim they are ignorant of the facts. A friend of mine tells me “you can’t fix stupid.” This attitude just leads to doing nothing beyond throwing up your hands in disgust. I say “Of course they’re ignorant of the facts – it’s human nature not to listen after you’ve already dismissed the source!” We do that too. A famous man once said “Know they enemy”. We don’t.

    Perhaps it’s time that we realize that We are no longer in the guilded age. From what I read, our state climatologist is trying to address the people who recognize this but don’t take the time to go beyond our rants of who’s to blame. That’s the audience that we don’t know! They don’t go to our events or read our blogs – surprise, surprise!

    I do agree with Greg Harmen in the fact that the N-G talks/blogs/texts can be taken easily out of context and ARE by people like the representative Congressman Lamar Smith. Accordingly, I am not a fan of how N-G does it. Although, I don’t know what to do about this – I think he’d just be fired if he did otherwise. I do understand and agree with his motive. Perhaps, one way we can address this is to answer the question “How did we get here in the first place?” People need to understand that before they’ll beleive studies from this organization or that one. This, however is not a question for our state climatologist – it is a question for us and the green community to put out there.

    I don’t necessarily have the answer but I’m so grateful that Greg put the question out there. It is sorely needed if we are start winning hearts and minds.

  • WUSRPH

    To perryphrase our beloved governor…just another scientist XXX his data in order to get federal grants….That’s the way Rick would see it he our State Climatologist said anything more than he has.

  • Ken Fountain

    I’ve heard Nielsen-Gammon speak several times, most recently at a Houston event that I blogged about (see link). He may be more circumspect in his comments than most environmentalists, I don’t believe he skirts the issue when pressed. http://kenfountain.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/climate-change-in-houston/

  • Jere ocke

    Greg,

    Many thanks for the important and excellent article.

    When I started to work on the national climate bill in
    2008 one of the first thing I did was attend a two day scientific conference at
    the State Capital. John Nielsen-Gammon spoke about rain in Texas. Even I a
    non-scientist knew that he made a major error. When he finished a prominent
    climate scientist got up and said that “you seem to be more of a
    politician than a scientist”. After he finished another scientist talked
    about the error which was that the amount of rain isn’t as important as where
    it rains and if the rain is spread out over the year rather than occurring in
    huge rainfalls like recently.

    Again, your article is a real service to the people of
    Texas who need to be told about what lies ahead– something John Nielsen-Gammon
    and all the Texas relevant agencies (LCRA, TWDV, etc.)
    unfortunately aren’t doing. The leaders of these agencies are
    appointed by climate change/science deniers (both Bush and Perry) as was John
    Nielsen-Gammon who isn’t a denier but who does dumb down the science. Same can be said of many of the so-called green groups.

    Very tempted to reply to the deniers but there is little
    chance that they will change their minds even though 97-98% of scientists aren’t
    deniers and an even higher percentage of climatologists.

    Jere Locke

  • harrymallory

    “…It’s a warning that even the Pentagon has taken to heart.”
    Ah, more science from the arguments from authority school.
    The Pentagon is no different than any other government agency in that it will toe the line of whomever is in power.