Posted by: JohnnyRook | August 23, 2008

An Open Letter to the New York Times’ Andy Revkin

Before reading this letter, I recommend that the reader read Andy’s piece (and the comments on it) at the New York Times.

Dear Andy,

I’m going to be blunt. This post is a perfect example of why I have so little respect for you as a writer on global warming. Your wishy-washy prose and, worst of all your, failure to provide any context (and I know that you are perfectly aware of the context) for your stories make you a great source of comfort for the denialist ideologues and ignoramuses who frequent this site.

It is a fact that polar bears can spend long amounts of time in the sea and swim long distances. Historically, they have swum between chunks of sea ice, which they hunt from. One doesn’t need to do years of studies to understand that the huge summer sea ice melt of the last few years inevitably makes their lives harder, because there is less ice, it is farther from shore and the distances to be swum are greater. Are the bears drowning in greater numbers? We don’t know yet, but simple logic says that we ought to entertain the possibility and do the research.

But the big story in the Arctic isn’t the polar bears. It’s the rise in temperature and the melting of the ice and permafrost and the feedbacks from reduction of the earth’s albedo and the potential for methane release. Denialists want to talk about polar bears precisely because they don’t want to talk about these other issues where the evidence is irrefutable.

See my post, Temperatures Hit 80 Degrees in the Arctic: 2008 May See a Record Sea-Ice Melt After All, on this topic at

You write:

In the meantime, the latest news will serve, I’m sure, to heat up the climate fight, providing powerful imagery for climate campaigners and more ammunition for foes of greenhouse gas restrictions who argue that such imagery belies the marine mammals’ resiliency in both watery and frozen seas.

Explain to me, if you can, how the latest news provides ANY ammunition for foes of greenhouse gas restrictions. It may not provide evidence for those concerned about Climaticide (although it raises questions), but it provides N0 support for the denialist position.

Is it the faux sense of “balance” that hobbles the Traditional Media, which makes you write so tentatively that you end up distorting the truth? To report facts out of context is to enable people who have no real interest in facts at all, and, frankly, not much better than publishing out-and-out lies (which, by the way, you let people do in your comments section all the time).


Johnny Rook

Blogging for the future at Climaticide Chronicles

[I have also posted this letter as a comment to Andy’s post on his blog Dot Earth at the New York Times web site.]



  1. I don’t think you have thought clearly about the basic uncertainties regarding the feedback process involving trapped methane in warming tundra regions.

    While it makes sense that a spike in methane may occur and be a major sudden driver of climate change one must ask what evidence of this exists in recent inter glacial periods. When one looks into the subject they clearly find that there is no clear evidence of this occurring during a major interglacial period when massive regions of North America and Eurasia were undergoing a climate shift.

    So to say that evidence of an impending methane induced climate spike is irrefutable is very odd indeed.

  2. If you reread my post, you’ll see that I referred to the potential for methane release.

  3. The information about the Polar Bear project came across my desk and I was wondering if anything like my idea of substituting the floating ice with manmade flotillas/pontoons- such as the floating gardens and other such manmade resources are being utilized by your department and the project?

    I searched thru the WWF and other such
    organizations claiming to help the wild animals; but found nothing.
    Something as simple as substituting the ice platforms with manmade
    flotilla/pontoons. Get donators to pay for a flotilla rescue for
    polar bears. Place manmade pontoons/rafts with floats that support the
    weight of 2 or more polar bears, which floats around like the ice they
    are used to- can have an anchor weight that slows down the flow of the
    float too. Even use recycled goods to make these. Use the wood from
    boat hulls being destroyed or used for artificial reefs (found 100s are
    just in storage waiting to be used and costing US NAVY, US Coast Guard
    ,etc millions each year just in storage–**info from ANDREW LEE,
    Executive V. P. Marine Eco SystemsCommercial Marine Biology Institute)
    Seems simple but I can’t find any organization doing anything like
    this with donators’ money or even gov’t grants- just whining about
    losing the ice in AK and how we are all to blame.

    We interfered by destroying their habitat so we MUST interfere and
    assist the wild animals now! Add pontoons/flotillas out in their
    habitat so they do have substitutes for the lost ice and the research vessels or oil research vessels can be paid or pay for this extra cargo and distribute (I trust you are aware of how Exxon/Mobile and the like are looking for ways to promote the good they are doing for the environment?) Can be a win-win for everyone…

    Lauran Gangl-Plant,PhD
    Marine Biology-LMU
    Palos Verdes Pen, CA 90274
    310-495-0501 ofc

    Here are places to apply for grants to RESOLVE this immediate issue concerning the polar bears:

  4. Right on. Andy is infuriating. The damning praise surely being that of all the deniers who hang out at Dot Earth. I find Dot Earth almost unreadable.

    It seems at every turn he “flattens” the discourse. Of course Joe Romm has written quite a bit on the medias shortcomings and Andy’s in particular. You might appreciate my little post on an astonishing presentation he gave at UVM this past February, here:


  5. or i should characterize it as an astonishing interview – previewing the presentation….

  6. Thanks Kevin. Your post is just further confirmation of Andy’s mincing style.

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