Archive for October, 2005

Invitation to McIntyre and Mann – So What?

October 31st, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Over the weekend I read with mild amusement and increasing frustration the latest exchange in the “hockey stick” battle. Given that the “hockey stick” has occupied the attention of climate researchers in professional journals, been discussed on the pages of leading newspapers, and been the subject of a Congressional investigation, you might think that the latest exchange would be over something important. If you happen to be thinking along these lines, you’d be wrong.

Increasingly the back-and-forth over hockey sticks is beginning to look like a testosterone-fueled fight between different cliques of pimple-faced junior high school boys, egged on by a loud group of close observers who for various reasons want to see a brawl. And just like those boys on the playground, these guys are too wrapped up in their own vanity to see that they are making us all look bad, and are risking having our recess cancelled. From my perspective — that is, one focused on decisions about climate policies or climate science — the continuing pettiness of the debate on the “hockey stick” suggests that the time might be appropriate for the participants to explain to the rest of us why we should care about their continuing smarminess, else they should all be sent to detention where they can continue their bickering while the rest of us stay on the playground.


Welcome Kevin Vranes

October 28th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Through a complicated process involving discerning the significance of goat entails and astrological interpretation, the CIRES visiting fellows committee decided at the beginning of 2005 to offer a visiting fellowship/post-doc to Kevin Vranes, who some of you may recognize as an occasional contributor to Prometheus. Well, let me say I’m glad they made this decision. Kevin is smart, has excellent training and experience in both science and policy, and is going to add some color around here, I have no doubt.

Check out Kevin’s most recent posts over at his group weblog, Here is an excerpt:

“It was May 2004 and I had been a Senate staffer for about eight months. Word went out on the wire that there would be two staff briefings on consecutive days for staffers with bosses on the Environment and Public Works Committee. [Yes, that EPW committee. The one chaired by James Inhofe (R-Pluto).] It wasn’t made explicit in the announcements, but I could tell that one would be a skeptics day and the other a “climate change is happening” day.”

Read the whole post for the whole story.

Vranes’ accompanies this post with his 2004 letter to Paul Epstein, which is a classic. If even 10% congressional staff is this thoughtful, then U.S. democracy is in good shape. Here is an excerpt:


Exchange in BAMS on Climate Impacts Attribution, Part 2

October 26th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Earlier this week I described an exchange in the October, 2005 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) on the subject of the attribution of the impacts of recent disasters to climate change. Our letter (PDF), which was prepared in response to a December 2004 paper by Epstein and McCarthy (EM), concluded, “Future research may yet reveal a connection between climate change and trends in disaster costs, but at present it is premature to attribute trends in disaster costs to anything other than characteristics of and changes in societal vulnerability.”

EM prepared a reply to our letter (PDF) which also appears in the October BAMS. Here I offer a point-by-point rejoinder to their reply.

1. Let’s start on where we agree. EM conclude, “The task is to harmonize adaptation with mitigation and do it in such a way as to stimulate the global economy.”

Response: Sounds good to me.

2. EM restate their original argument as, “We wrote that both increasing coastal populations and real estate prices have increased exposure to weather-related disasters and that the number of extreme weather events has risen worldwide… We do not attempt to quantify the relative importance of these factors in the well-documented increase in insured and uninsured losses from weather-related disasters. We believe our statement is balanced and true to the current literature.”

Response: Where is the evidence that the number of extreme weather events has risen worldwide? The IPCC disagrees (with only one exception). Further, there is a literature that has sought to tease out a climate signal in the disaster record, which is simply ignored by EM. Their statement is in fact contrary to the current literature, including that in the most recent IPCC. Saying otherwise doesn’t make it so.


Ideology, Public Opinion, Hurricanes and Global Warming

October 25th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

According to a CNN/Gallup poll released today, a majority of Americans, and a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, “believe that global warming has been at least a minor cause of the number and strength of hurricanes in recent years.” The poll asked, “Thinking about the increase in the number and strength of hurricanes in recent years, do you think global warming has been a major cause, a minor cause, or not a cause of the increase in hurricanes?”

Specifically, the poll found that 60% of respondents believe that global warming was either a major or minor cause of “the increase in hurricanes,” — 53% of Republicans, 60% of Independents and 82% of Democrats. Clearly, ideology shapes how one views the science.

Interestingly, 36% of respondents think that global warming is a “major cause”, 25% of Republicans, 34% of Independents, and 48% of Democrats. On the flip side, 30% of respondents to the poll believe that global warming was “not a cause,” 44% Republicans, 34% Independents and 12% Democrats. Let’s assume that the most up-to-date state of the science is presented in the recent work of Emanuel and Webster et al. (and, yes, yes, I know that there are responses to these papers in the pipeline, but they are not published yet, and this poll was taken just recently, for a full assessment of the current state of the literature see this paper (PDF)). These works are suggestive that global warming has had at best, only a minor influence on the storms of the Atlantic in recent years (i.e., no one has asserted effects on frequency, and Emanuel claims that an intensity signal at landfall has not been seen, and Webster et al. claim that attribution has not yet been achieved). As Kerry Emanuel, who has asserted that a global warming signal exists in the data on hurricane intensity, notes, “There has been a large upswing in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes, beginning in 1995. This is owing to natural cycles in North Atlantic climate that we have observed for many decades and, to the best of our ability to discern, has nothing obvious to do with global warming.”


Exchange in BAMS on Climate Impacts Attribution, Part 1

October 24th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The October issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) has an exchange of letters on trends in climate impacts and the attribution of those trends to human-caused climate change. Our letter was prepared in response to a December paper in BAMS by Paul Epstein and John McCarthy (EM04). EM have a reply (PDF) to our letter which I will discuss in detail in a subsequent post. Here is a list of the authors of our letter.

-ROGER A. PIELKE JR. University of Colorado/CIRES, Boulder, Colorado
-SHARDUL AGRAWALA OECD Environmental Directorate, Paris, France
-LAURENS M. BOUWER Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
-IAN BURTON University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
-STANLEY CHANGNON University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois
-MICHAEL H. GLANTZ Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, NCAR, Boulder, Colorado
-WILLIAM H. HOOKE Atmospheric Policy Program, AMS, Washington, D.C.
-RICHARD J. T. KLEIN Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
-KENNETH KUNKEL Center for Atmospheric Science, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, Illinois
-DENNIS MILETI Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
-DANIEL SAREWITZ Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
-EMMA L. TOMPKINS Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
-NICO STEHR Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany
-HANS VON STORCH Institute for Coastal Research, GKSS Research Center, Geesthacht, Germany

Here is the opening paragraph of our letter (PDF):


Response from Judy Curry

October 23rd, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Judy Curry has taken us up on our offer to respond to my crticism of her comments reported in an online interview. I appreciate the response and accept her apology. Here is what she sent by email:


Thanks for pointing this out to me, I’ve been so busy i hadn’t even read the Thacker article (or most of the others). The words in the article attributed to me are not inaccurate, although excerpted and taken out of context. In my interview, on the contrary, I did not have negative things to say about you, I said you did good policy work in atmospheric science (the “prolific writer was intended to be a compliment), although I said that I didn’t like your BAMS article. I apologize if it comes across as a personal attack, that was not my intent.

The issue I was trying to make in the interview with Thacker was that there are three different sub groups here: the hurricane forecasters, the climate researchers, and policy scientists. The hurricane-climate change issue is very complex and needs the perspectives of all three. Each has a different perspective, and has the deep understanding of their own area, while having some knowledge of the other areas relevant to this issue. In this whole debate, there has been too much discounting by individuals of the other areas of expertise. To state that you do not have a degree in atmospheric science is not an ad hominem attack. I have stated that I am not an expert on hurricane dynamics. These are facts. Of course, if you put this in a certain context, it can look like an ad hominem attack.

We all have more important things to do than quarrel about the media, like doing more research, publishing papers, and educating the public.

Thanks for the opportunity to reply to this.


p.s. please feel free to post this wherever

Tag Team Hit Job

October 22nd, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

It can only be a good sign that one’s views are having some influence when your critics begin to focus on ad hominem attacks and cartoonish mischaracterizations of your work. This has happened to me in, of all places, an interview of Georgia Tech’s Judy Curry by journalist Paul Thacker of Environmental Science & Technology. Here we can set the record straight with respect to some egregious errors and misrepresentations.

Thacker says to Curry, “Another apparent rising media star is Roger Pielke, Jr. I noticed that in a recent news story in Science he was listed as a “climatologist”, and he made no attempt to correct that.” In fact, I emailed Richard Kerr September 15, 2005 immediately after the Science article came out correcting the mistake. Had Thacker just called me up, I could have easily confirmed this; instead he has tried to suggest something that is not. I have sent to Thacker my email to Kerr and asked Thacker to issue a correction.


Another View on Stem Cells

October 21st, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Thanks to Maxine Clarke of Nature who has directed our attention to another perspective on the significance of recent work on stem cells. The article, Irving Weissman, begins,

“Published online this week are two new methods for producing pluripotent stem-cell lines the great future hope of regenerative medicine. Both papers report proof-of-principle tests in mice of techniques that might be used for making human pluripotent stem-cell lines. The protocols each aim to satisfy the religious, ethical and/or political objections of groups that are opposed to some of the methods used in embryonic stem-cell research.”

I am no stem cell expert so I wonder, who is right here about the significance of the research reported in Nature, the American Journal on Bioethics or Nature?

The Case for Scientific Assessments

October 20th, 2005

Posted by: admin

**Post by Andrew Dessler

It has been argued on this web site that it is impossible to receive advice on science independent of political considerations. I disagree and suggest in this post a process for how it might be achieved. The process relies on scientific assessments: summaries of the scientific literature that are produced by expert scientists. Assessments connect the domains of science and democratic politics, but are distinct from both. They differ from science because rather than advancing the active, contested margin of knowledge on questions that are important for their intrinsic intellectual interest, they seek to make consensus statements of present knowledge and uncertainty on questions that are important because of their implications for decisions. They differ from democratic policy debate because they reflect deliberation over questions among scientific experts based on their specialized knowledge, not among all citizens or their representatives over what is to be done.

Here’s how the process would optimally work. Policymakers would determine the positive (scientific) questions of importance to them on some issue. This would likely be an iterative process, where scientists and policymakers together identify which scientific issues are most important for a particular issue. For the climate debate, the important questions might be: 1) is the Earth warming? 2) are human activities to blame? 3) what kind of warming do we expect over the next century? These questions would then be passed to the assessment body, which would use the existing peer-reviewed literature to determine the scientific consensus on those issues, and produce from that a report that is itself peer reviewed by outside experts. A good example of this process in action is the National Academy review of the IPCC Working Group I report initiated by the Bush Administration in 2001. The White House provided a list of questions, and the NAS panel responded to them.


Donald Hornig to Speak at CU

October 20th, 2005

Posted by: admin

For you local folks:

Donald Hornig, Science Adviser To Lyndon Johnson, To Speak At CU-Boulder Oct. 24

Donald Hornig, White House science adviser to former President Lyndon Johnson from 1964 to 1969, will speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel.

The free, public event is part of a year-long lecture series titled “Policy, Politics and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers,” sponsored by CU-Boulder’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research… Read more.

For more information visit the series website.

**Posted by Bobbie Klein