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Location: > Prometheus: Author: Others Archives

We don't create a seperate archive for authors until they have contributed multiple pieces to the weblog. In the meantime, those articles will be kept here by title and author.

Contents:
A brief account of an aborted contribution to an ill-conceived debate
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments July 25, 2008

Has German Policy Harmed Solar Power?
   in Author: Others | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 10, 2008

New Paper on Climate Contrarians by Myanna Lahsen
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics March 24, 2008

Guest Comment: Sharon Friedman, USDA Forest Service - Change Changes Everything
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Environment | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics February 01, 2008

RMS Response to Forecast Evaluation
   in Author: Others | Disasters | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments December 07, 2007

Advise Requested for Survey Analysis
   in Author: Others | Climate Change September 07, 2007

From a Reader: Blog Intolerance
   in Author: Others | Site News June 07, 2007

Chris Landsea on New Hurricane Science
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters April 18, 2007

A Defense of Alarmism
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 22, 2007

Benny Peiser Handicaps Climate Politics
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 15, 2007

Will Toor on the CU Power Plant
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy January 24, 2007

Hans von Storch on Political Advocacy
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | The Honest Broker January 21, 2007

Robert Muir-Wood in RMS Cat Models: From the Comments
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty January 09, 2007

Lahsen and Nobre (2007)
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 05, 2007

Scott Saleska on Tuning the Climate
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty December 06, 2006

Roger A. Pielke Jr.’s Review of Kicking the Carbon Habit: A Rebuttal by William Sweet
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy December 04, 2006

The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change: A Comment by Richard Tol
   in Author: Others | Climate Change October 31, 2006

Judy Curry in the Comments
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters August 21, 2006

Science Advisor Talk Tonight
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 11, 2006

Coping with Climate Change Symposium
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 03, 2006

Europe's Long Term Climate Target: A Critical Evaluation
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 14, 2006

Andrew Dessler on Uncertainty
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 13, 2006

More Info - Thanks Gavin!
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General February 12, 2006

Andrew Dessler on Climate Change
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 06, 2006

George Keyworth II to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge January 24, 2006

Why Does the Hockey Stick Debate Matter?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change November 14, 2005

Does the hockey stick "matter"?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change November 14, 2005

The Case for Scientific Assessments
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 20, 2005

Donald Hornig to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge October 20, 2005

New Nanotechnology Project
   in Author: Others | Nanotechnology October 19, 2005

CSPO/CNS Job Announcement
   in Author: Others | Job Announcements October 17, 2005

2006-07 UCSD Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Science Studies
   in Author: Others | Job Announcements October 17, 2005

Revisiting Bob Palmer on Partisanship in Science Policy
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 05, 2005

Excess of Objectivity Revisited
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 04, 2005

Reader Comments
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 04, 2005

Stehr and von Storch on Climate Policy
   in Author: Others | Climate Change September 29, 2005

Meade on Disasters and Research
   in Author: Others | Disasters September 28, 2005

Correcting Pat Michaels
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 22, 2005

Correction of Errors in Fortune Story
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Environment September 03, 2005

Finding God in Science
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General August 16, 2005

Letter from Boehlert to Barton
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 18, 2005

Summary of von Storch Talk
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 12, 2005

Hans von Storch on Barton
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 08, 2005

Andy Revkin Responds
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 09, 2005

Letter in Science
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 13, 2005

A Climate of Staged Angst
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General February 07, 2005

What is the scientific consensus on climate change?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 28, 2005

Bob Park on ISS
   in Author: Others | Space Policy January 25, 2005

Landsea on Hurricanes
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 19, 2005

Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 17, 2005

Naomi Oreskes Misquoted by VOA
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 05, 2005

State of Fear Part II
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

State of Fear
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

More on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 25, 2004

Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 07, 2004

Ask Prometheus: OTA
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others July 30, 2004

Hiding Behind Science
   in Author: Others | Biotechnology | Health | Science Policy: General May 25, 2004

We Need a Better Bullet-Bucket
   in Author: Others | Space Policy May 03, 2004
By Author:

von Storch, Hans and Nico Stehr
   A Climate of Staged Angst
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General February 07, 2005

von Storch, Hans (website)
   Hans von Storch on Barton
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 08, 2005

von Storch, Hans (website)
   Summary of von Storch Talk
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 12, 2005

Yulsman. Tom (email)
   Finding God in Science
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General August 16, 2005

Yulsman, Tom & R. Pielke Jr.
   State of Fear
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

Stehr, Nico and Hans von Storch
   Stehr and von Storch on Climate Policy
   in Author: Others | Climate Change September 29, 2005

Sarewitz, Daniel CSPO
   Excess of Objectivity Revisited
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 04, 2005

Sarewitz, Dan. CSPO
   Hiding Behind Science
   in Author: Others | Biotechnology | Health | Science Policy: General May 25, 2004

Sarewitz, Dan. CSPO
   State of Fear Part II
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

Revkin, Andy
   Andy Revkin Responds
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 09, 2005

Pielke, R. & C. Landsea
   More on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 25, 2004

Pielke Jr., Roger (RP) and Kerry Emanuel (KE)
   Correction of Errors in Fortune Story
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Environment September 03, 2005

Pielke Jr., Roger (RP) and Kerry Emanuel (KE)
   Correcting Pat Michaels
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 22, 2005

Pielke Jr., R. Consensus About Climate Change? Oreskes, N. Response
   Letter in Science
   in Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 13, 2005

Park, Bob
   Bob Park on ISS
   in Author: Others | Space Policy January 25, 2005

Oreskes, Naomi
   Naomi Oreskes Misquoted by VOA
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 05, 2005

Oreskes, Naomi
   What is the scientific consensus on climate change?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 28, 2005

Meade, Charles
   Meade on Disasters and Research
   in Author: Others | Disasters September 28, 2005

McEvilly, Kerry, P. Komor & R. Byerly
   Ask Prometheus: OTA
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others July 30, 2004

Landsea, Chris (chris.landsea@noaa.gov)
   Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 17, 2005

Landsea, Chris (chris.landsea@noaa.gov)
   Landsea on Hurricanes
   in Author: Others | Climate Change January 19, 2005

Krider, Dylan Otto (website)
   Reader Comments
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 04, 2005

Hall, Joseph Homepage
   We Need a Better Bullet-Bucket
   in Author: Others | Space Policy May 03, 2004

Byerly, Rad.
   Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 07, 2004

Boehlert, Sherwood - Chairman US House of Representatives Committee on Science
   Letter from Boehlert to Barton
   in Author: Others | Climate Change July 18, 2005

Last April, recently-retired minority (Democratic) staff director for the House Science Committee gave an excellent talk here on the state of contemporary science policy. Recent...
   Revisiting Bob Palmer on Partisanship in Science Policy
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 05, 2005

The UCSD Science Studies Program invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship as part of an NSF Research and Training Grant in "Proof, Persuasion and...
   2006-07 UCSD Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Science Studies
   in Author: Others | Job Announcements October 17, 2005

The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University (ASU) seeks to fill one or more open rank faculty positions in the...
   CSPO/CNS Job Announcement
   in Author: Others | Job Announcements October 17, 2005

The CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder will collaborate on a new National Science Foundation (NSF) project exploring...
   New Nanotechnology Project
   in Author: Others | Nanotechnology October 19, 2005

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...
   Donald Hornig to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge October 20, 2005

**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....
   The Case for Scientific Assessments
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General October 20, 2005

Post by Steve McIntryre Stefan Rahmsdorf and others (including Roger Pielke, the proprietor of this site) have taken the position that the Hockey Stick is...
   Does the hockey stick "matter"?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change November 14, 2005

Post by Ross McKitrick Roger Pielke Jr. has posed a challenge to Michael Mann and us to briefly explain why each of us thinks the...
   Why Does the Hockey Stick Debate Matter?
   in Author: Others | Climate Change November 14, 2005

For you local folks: George Keyworth II, White House science adviser to former President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1986, will speak at the University...
   George Keyworth II to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge January 24, 2006

Guest Post by Andrew Dessler Ed.- Professor Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, has been a frequent and substantive contributor to...
   Andrew Dessler on Climate Change
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 06, 2006

Ed.- This comment from Gavin Schmidt of NASA appeared in the comments and I thought important enough to bring to the top. Thanks Gavin very...
   More Info - Thanks Gavin!
   in Author: Others | Science Policy: General February 12, 2006

Guest Post by Andrew Dessler Ed.- Professor Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, has been a frequent and substantive contributor to...
   Andrew Dessler on Uncertainty
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 13, 2006

Ed.- Richard Tol, a professor at Hamburg, Vrije and Carnegie Mellon Universities. has written an interesting paper forthcoming in the journal Energy Policy critiquing the...
   Europe's Long Term Climate Target: A Critical Evaluation
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 14, 2006

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein): "Coping with Climate Change: A Symposium Highlighting Activities at the University of Colorado to Help Decision Makers Prepare...
   Coping with Climate Change Symposium
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 03, 2006

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein): Dr. Frank Press, science advisor to President Jimmy Carter 1977-1980, will be the final speaker in the year-long...
   Science Advisor Talk Tonight
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 11, 2006

[The below is an excerpt from a comment provided by Judy Curry, which I thought worth highlighting as our conversation has spanned several threads. RP]...
   Judy Curry in the Comments
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters August 21, 2006

Richard Tol, a prominent economist with appointments at Hamburg, Vrije and Carnegie Mellon Universities, has written a review of The Stern Report, which we are...
   The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change: A Comment by Richard Tol
   in Author: Others | Climate Change October 31, 2006

[It is our pleasure to provide a rebuttal by William Sweet, author of Kicking the Carbon Habit, to a review on Mr. Sweet's recent book...
   Roger A. Pielke Jr.’s Review of Kicking the Carbon Habit: A Rebuttal by William Sweet
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy December 04, 2006

[Scott Saleska of the University of Arizona has asked an interesting question in the comments of a post from last week. We have elevated it...
   Scott Saleska on Tuning the Climate
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty December 06, 2006

A Summary, by Myanna Lahsen Lahsen, Myanna and Carlos A. Nobre (2007), "The Challenge of Connecting International Science and Local Level Sustainability: The Case of...
   Lahsen and Nobre (2007)
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 05, 2007

[We think that Robert Muir-Wood's comments on the Tampa Tribune article that we discussed yesterday deserve to be highlighted. Robert thanks much for participating and...
   Robert Muir-Wood in RMS Cat Models: From the Comments
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty January 09, 2007

[Hans von Storch posted this very thoughtful comment on the thread from last week on the recent partnership of leading climate scientists and the National...
   Hans von Storch on Political Advocacy
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | The Honest Broker January 21, 2007

Will Toor, Boulder County Commissioner (and former Mayor of Boulder and Director of the CU Environmental Center) has provided a thoughtful response to our commentary...
   Will Toor on the CU Power Plant
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy January 24, 2007

Benny Peiser kindly offered a number of comments on a recent thread in which we were less-than approving of the Bush Administration's trans-Atlantic diplomacy on...
   Benny Peiser Handicaps Climate Politics
   in Author: Others | Climate Change February 15, 2007

[The thoughtful comment below is from David Adam, Environment correspondent for The Guardian was made in response to Mike Hulme's letter to Nature on press...
   A Defense of Alarmism
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 22, 2007

Chris Landsea has submitted a guest post today on a recent paper on hurricanes and global warming. We share Chris' comments below, and welcome reactions...
   Chris Landsea on New Hurricane Science
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters April 18, 2007

[A long-time reader who wishes to remain anonymous asked us to post the following excerpt from a Joe Klein column in Time magazine. -Ed.] This...
   From a Reader: Blog Intolerance
   in Author: Others | Site News June 07, 2007

Guest Submission by Hans von Storch and Dennis Bray In the following we outline a research strategy to characterize sub-groups of climate scientists; the idea...
   Advise Requested for Survey Analysis
   in Author: Others | Climate Change September 07, 2007

Robert Muir-Woods of RMS has graciously provided for posting a response to the thoughts on forecast verification that I posted earlier this week. Here are...
   RMS Response to Forecast Evaluation
   in Author: Others | Disasters | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments December 07, 2007

It is true that the calculus of environmental tradeoffs will be inevitably and irretrievably changed due to consideration of climate change. Ideas that were convenient...
   Guest Comment: Sharon Friedman, USDA Forest Service - Change Changes Everything
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Environment | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics February 01, 2008

I'd like to alert readers of this blog to an article of mine just out in this issue of Global Environmental Change. It analyzes a...
   New Paper on Climate Contrarians by Myanna Lahsen
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics March 24, 2008

A Guest Post by Greg Nemet, University of Wisconsin. The Economist has an article this week with the title "bureaucratic meddling has harmed solar power."...
   Has German Policy Harmed Solar Power?
   in Author: Others | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 10, 2008

A guest post by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch The July 2008 newsletter of the American Physical Society (APS) opened a debate concerning the...
   A brief account of an aborted contribution to an ill-conceived debate
   in Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments July 25, 2008



July 25, 2008

A brief account of an aborted contribution to an ill-conceived debate

A guest post by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch

The July 2008 newsletter of the American Physical Society (APS) opened a debate concerning the IPCC consensus related to anthropogenic induced climate change. We responded with a brief comment concerning the state and changing state of consensus as indicated by two surveys of climate scientists. Data was presented concerning climate scientists assessments of the understanding of atmospheric physics, climate related processes, climate scientists level of agreement with the IPCC as representative of consensus and of the level of belief in anthropogenic warming. (The full manuscript is available here .) Our comment was summarily dismissed by the editors as polemic, political and unscientific. The following is a brief account of this episode.

The APS Forum on Physics and Society states "The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters". The Forum on Physics and Society, Newsletter, July 2008 began a debate "concerning one of the main conclusions" of the IPCC. The intended debate was clearly evident in the statement,

There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming ...

There is no reference as to how this statement was determined or its validity known. It is very probably likely to be primarily ethereal.

The intended debate seemed to be aimed at prompting a discussion, or perhaps as the two papers to date seem to suggest, an evaluation of the methods employed in reaching the IPCC conclusion. Two invited articles were published to set off the debate, one pro and one contra to the IPCC conclusion. Oddly enough, neither paper appears to be authored by a climate scientist per se although both present a detailed discussion of atmospheric physics. Subsequent contributions were invited from the "physics" community for "comments or articles that are scientific in nature."

So here we have two editors (who are themselves not climate scientists) soliciting invited papers from authors who, as far as we know, have never had any peer reviewed publications pertaining to climate science, setting off a debate concerning the consensus in the climate sciences by what appears to be a mere declaration of the current state of the consensus. The editors of the newsletter should be commended however for at least stating that the "correctness or fallacy of that [the IPCC] conclusion has immense implications for public policy."

Our interests were drawn by statements found on the web page: 1. the Forums declaration that it is "a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters", and 2. the statement "There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming ...". We have been working for some time in the area of assessing the levels of consensus in the climate science community and therefore decided to submit a brief (and rapidly rejected) comment (PDF.) to the debate.

Our stance concerning "consensus" (on any matter) is:

1. Consensus and certainty are two different concepts, which sometimes are parallel, although often not.

2. Consensus is simply a level of agreement among practitioners and might be subject to change over time.

3. Consensus is a level of agreement in belief of the relevance of the theory to the issue and the casual relationship inherent in the theory

and in particular reference to climate science

4. Climate change science is considered to be multidisciplinary and therefore the knowledge claims comprising the consensus is considered to be multidimensional, that is, not able to be captured in a single statement.

In short, consensus is not as simple as a yes - no response. It is a negotiated outcome of multiple levels of expertise.

Now, returning to our submission, or more precisely, the rejection of our submission, the first rejection arrived in a matter of hours. Short and to the point, it said:

The original invitation was for participation in a scientific debate, not a political one. As your attached piece is not primarily of a scientific nature, we cannot consider it for publication in our newsletter. In my editorial comments for the July 2008 issue, I emphasized that we are not interested in publishing anything of a polemical or political nature.

The "emphasized" points are of interest. The paper was neither polemic nor political, as we invite the readers of the blog to verify, however giving the editors the benefit of the doubt, we asked for clarification. Again the APS response was quite rapid:

Your article [...] is not about technical issues concerning climate research. Instead, it is about the opinions of scientists. I would be glad to consider publication of articles, comments, or letters from you that address specific technical issues connected with climate research.

Now, aren’t the "opinions of scientists" the foundation of consensus? The "opinions of scientists" in our analysis represent not a political statement but a scientific comment. The data is empirical and the paper was deliberately devoid of political or polemic statement. Our paper does definitely not address a specific technical issue but it does provide a collective peer assessment of a number of specific technical issues (such as: representation of hydrodynamics and greenhouse gases). Indeed, our concern was to substantiate quantitatively the loose assertion of an anonymous APS officer:

There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming.

An estimate based on data can be read in our short comment.

April 10, 2008

Has German Policy Harmed Solar Power?

A Guest Post by Greg Nemet, University of Wisconsin.

The Economist has an article this week with the title "bureaucratic meddling has harmed solar power."

The article points out correctly that the cost of solar power has stopped falling in the past couple of years as a result of scarcity of purified silicon, the main material used to make solar panels. It's an informative article…as long as you ignore the headline and the conclusion that governments should not interfere with the development of new technologies.

Any subsidy program will put upward pressure on prices in the near term, as people are generally willing to pay more for something when someone else pays part of the cost. The important question is what happens in the longer term. And despite the recent rise in prices, the subsidy program in Germany and the market for solar it has created over the past eight years, have set in motion promising trends: new purified silicon plants are coming on line that will make the input material for solar panels much cheaper, the rise in silicon cost has led to rapid reductions in the amount of material used, and the scale of demand has made it worthwhile for German machine tool companies to develop PV-specific manufacturing machinery that they now export to low-cost PV factories in China. These developments are highly promising for cheaper PV; and they are very closely tied to important policy innovations, also known as "bureaucratic meddling."

The bigger problem, that the article misses, is that the solar technology being used today is unlikely ever to get cheap enough for truly massive deployment, even if the factors above engender substantial cost reductions in the next several years. In a recent study (PDF), we compared the effects of subsidies and R&D on the cost of solar power and found that you can't get to really cheap solar with subsidies alone. Subsidies can help enable economies of scale and learning-by-doing, but they are not enough. Technology breakthroughs are also needed if PV is going to get cheap enough to compete with coal or gas or, eventually, nuclear power—even with high carbon prices. Some of the technical improvements that will enable commercialization of cheap PV are certainly best left to the private sector. But the history of technology policy suggests that the fundamental breakthroughs required will need to come from more bureaucratic meddling in the form of publicly sponsored R&D funding.

Posted on April 10, 2008 02:13 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Others | Energy Policy | Technology Policy

March 24, 2008

New Paper on Climate Contrarians by Myanna Lahsen

I'd like to alert readers of this blog to an article of mine just out
in this issue of Global Environmental Change. It analyzes a prominent
subset of US climate contrarians, providing a more multi-faceted and
complex account than generally available of why they chose to join the
anti-environmental backlash. One of them, Frederick Seitz, died recently, making this a poignant time to examine him as well as his
similarly influential colleagues in historical perspective, as I do in
this article. Below is the reference and the abstract of the article:

Lahsen, Myanna. "Experiences of Modernity in the Greenhouse: A Cultural Analysis of a Physicist 'Trio' Supporting the Conservative Backlash Against Global Warming." Global Environmental Change (2008), Vol. 18/1 pp 204-219. (PDF)

In the context of President George W. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto
Protocol intended to combat human-induced climate change, it appears
important to improve understanding of powerful efforts to reframe
global climate change as a non-problem. This paper draws on
ethnographic research among U.S. scientists involved with climate
science and politics to improve understanding of the U.S. controversy
over global climate change by attending to structuring cultural and
historical dimensions. The paper explores why a key subset of
scientists – the physicist founders and leaders of the George C.
Marshall Institute – chose to lend their scientific authority to the
"environmental backlash," the counter-movement that has mobilized to
defuse widespread concern about perceived environmental threats,
including human-induced climate change. The paper suggests that the
physicists joined the backlash to stem changing tides in science and
society and to defend their preferred understandings of science,
modernity, and of themselves as a physicist elite – understandings
challenged by recent transformations in American science and society
that express themselves, among other places, in the widespread concern
about human-induced climate change.

Posted on March 24, 2008 09:34 AM View this article | Comments (4)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics

February 01, 2008

Guest Comment: Sharon Friedman, USDA Forest Service - Change Changes Everything

It is true that the calculus of environmental tradeoffs will be inevitably and irretrievably changed due to consideration of climate change. Ideas that were convenient (convenient untruths) like “the world worked fine without humans, if we remove their influence it will go back to what it should be” have continued to provide the implicit underpinning for much scientific effort. In short, people gravitated to the concept that "if we studied how things used to be" (pre- European settlement) we would know how they "should" be, with no need for discussions of values or involving non-scientists. This despite excellent work such as the book Discordant Harmonies by Dan Botkin, that displayed the scientific flaws in this reasoning (in 1992).

What's interesting to me in the recent article, "The Preservation Predicament", by Cornelia Dean in The New York Times
is the implicit assumption that conservationists and biologists will be the ones who determine whether investing in conservation in the Everglades compared to somewhere else, given climate change, is a good idea - perhaps implying that sciences like decision science or economics have little to contribute to the dialog. Not to speak of communities and their elected officials.

I like to quote the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) governance principles:

Indigenous and local communities are rightful primary partners in the development and implementation of conservation strategies that affect their lands, waters, and other resources, and in particular in the establishment and management of protected areas.

Is it more important for scientists to "devise theoretical frameworks for deciding when, how or whether to act" (sounds like decision science) or for folks in a given community, or interested in a given species, to talk about what they think needs to be done and why? There are implicit assumptions about what sciences are the relevant ones and the relationship between science and democracy, which in my opinion need to be debated in the light of day rather than assumed.

Sharon Friedman
Director, Strategic Planning
Rocky Mountain Region
USDA Forest Service

December 07, 2007

RMS Response to Forecast Evaluation

Robert Muir-Woods of RMS has graciously provided for posting a response to the thoughts on forecast verification that I posted earlier this week. Here are his comments:

Scientifically it is of course not possible to draw any conclusion from the occurrence of two years without hurricane losses in the US, in particular following two years with the highest level of hurricane losses ever recorded and the highest ever number of severe hurricanes making landfall in a two year period. Even including 2006 and 2007, average annualized losses for the past five years are significantly higher than the long term historical average (and maybe you should also show this five year average on your plot?)

The basis for catastrophe loss modeling is that one can separate out the question of activity rate from the question as to the magnitude of losses that will be generated by the occurrence of hurricane events. In generating average annualized losses we need to explore the full 'virtual spectrum' of all the possible events that can occur. The question about current activity rates is a difficult one, which is why we continue to involve some of the leading hurricane climatologists, and a very wide range of forecasting methodologies, in our annual hurricane activity rate update procedure. In October 2007 an independent expert panel concluded that activity rates are forecasted to remain elevated for the next five years. While this perspective was announced and articulated by RMS, we did not originate it. Each year we undertake this exercise, we ensure that the forecasting models used to estimate activity over the next five years also reflect any additional learning from the forecasting of previous years, including the low activity experienced in 2006 and 2007. We don't 'declare success' that the activity rate estimate that has emerged from this procedure over the past three years (using different forecast models and different climatologists) has scarcely changed, but the consistency in the three 5 year projections is interesting nonetheless.

You may also be surprised to learn that our five-year forward-looking perspective on hurricane risk does not inevitably produce higher losses than all other models, which use the extrapolation of the simple long-term average to estimate future activity. This is as shown in a comparison published in a report prepared by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology for the Florida House of Representatives (see the Table 1 on page 25 of the report, which can be downloaded from here: http://www.sbafla.com/methodology/announcements.asp?FormMode=Call&LinkType=Section&Section=0)

Robert Muir-Wood
RMS

September 07, 2007

Advise Requested for Survey Analysis

Guest Submission by Hans von Storch and Dennis Bray

In the following we outline a research strategy to characterize sub-groups of climate scientists; the idea is to first propose a short operational list of certain interesting, mostly exclusive but not complete subgroups; these are related to three general criteria.

At this time we ask for comments on both the list of the four categories and on the three general criteria. When we have come to a conclusion with regard to the list and to these criteria, we will try to map the responses collected in our surveys of climate scientists to these groups and criteria – with the idea that in this way we may describe the a host of views , conceptions and perceptions held by these different groups.

We begin with operational definitions of the categories. They are:

1. Advocate Pro.

Scientists in this category are those who are convinced of the reality on ongoing and future anthropogenic climate change. It is the contention of these scientists that climate change will have catastrophic impacts if left unmitigated. This category of scientists perceive it as a moral and professional obligation to alert the public to the impending dangers of climate change and to lobby for political resolve in terms of significant reductions of GHG emissions and the necessary changes in lifestyle and global economy.


2. Advocate Con

Scientists in this category consider the concept of anthropogenic climate change as either insignificant or outright false. They consider the drive towards climate change policy as ill conceived and, sometimes, as a tool to push for a broader environmentalist agenda. Similar to the “advocate pro”, this groups sees lobbying as a necessity, but it is lobbying for goals that stand in opposition to the “advocate pro”.


3. Concerned Pro

Scientists in this category, like those in the “advocate pro” category, are convinced of ongoing and future anthropogenic climate change. They also contend that climate change will have significant impacts. This category differs, however, from the “advocate pro” in as much as these scientists, while accepting as a professional responsibility the undertaking of informing the public to possible dangers, do so without pushing for specific policy choices. In other words, they are information, not solution brokers.


4. Doubters

This category of scientists holds no strong conviction concerning anthropogenic climate change or its potential impacts. In this category, climate change is perceived of as a relevant scientific issue but the challenge is to generate more knowledge. Until further knowledge is available they consider anthropogenic climate change to be a significant, but albeit not dominant, issue.

We want to characterize these four categories by employing three dimensions of scientific perceptions. These dimensions are interpretation, consequence and action. Before providing dimensions we again provide operational definitions of these terms. They are:

1. Interpretation. By interpretation we mean an individual representation of the explanation and signification of climate change. This can range from denial of anthropogenic climate change to being fully convinced of man-made climate change.

2. Consequence. Consequence refers to the perception of climate change impacts. In this dimension, response can range from no or marginal impact through to disaster.

3. Action. This dimension refers to the political including medial engagement deemed appropriate in light of anthropogenic climate change. The range of this dimension is from puzzle solver to activist, with the puzzle solver content to remain within the context of science without public communication.

We would appreciate to hear comments and receive advice on our concepts and definitions.

Posted on September 7, 2007 07:39 AM View this article | Comments (4)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

June 07, 2007

From a Reader: Blog Intolerance

[A long-time reader who wishes to remain anonymous asked us to post the following excerpt from a Joe Klein column in Time magazine. -Ed.]

This is not the first time this kind of free-range lunacy has been visited upon me. Indeed, it happens, oh, once a week to each of us who post on Swampland (Karen Tumulty, Jay Carney and Ana Marie Cox are the others). A reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren't you pretty tough on the Bush Administration? Didn't you write a few months ago that George W. Bush would be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in history? And why on earth does any of this matter?

First, let me say that I really enjoy blogging. It's a brilliant format for keeping readers up to date on the things I care about—and for exchanging information with them. . .

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

And that is precisely the danger here. Fury begets fury. Poison from the right-wing talk shows seeped into the Republican Party's bloodstream and sent that party off the deep end. Limbaugh's show—where Dick Cheney frequently expatiates—has become the voice of the Republican establishment. The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.

Posted on June 7, 2007 08:10 AM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Others | Site News

April 18, 2007

Chris Landsea on New Hurricane Science

Chris Landsea has submitted a guest post today on a recent paper on hurricanes and global warming. We share Chris' comments below, and welcome reactions and alternative perspectives.

Guest post by Chris Landsea, NOAA

Today a new paper by Gabe Vecchi and Brian Soden has been published:

Vecchi G. A., B. J. Soden (2007), Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905. (PDF)

My reading of the paper by Vecchi and Soden is that this is a very important contribution to the understanding of how global warming is affecting hurricane activity. The study thoroughly examines how the wind shear and other parameters that can alter the number and intensity of hurricanes because of manmade global warming. What they found - surprisingly - is that in the Atlantic that the wind shear should increase significantly over a large portion of where hurricanes occur - making it more difficult for hurricanes to form and grow. This was identified in all of the 18 global climate models they examined. (Perhaps it's not that surprising given that Knutson/Tuleya 2004 showed some of the same signal for the more reliable models back then. Now the signal is in ALL of the CGCMs.) Even the MPI changes in the Atlantic appear mixed, due to the smaller SST increases there (with more uniform upper trop temp changes) compared with the rest of the global tropics/subtropics.

One implication to me is that this further provides evidence that the busy period we've seen in the Atlantic hurricanes since 1995 is due to natural cycles, rather than manmade causes. We've seen a big reduction in wind shear in the last thirteen hurricane seasons, which is OPPOSITE to the signal that Vecchi and Soden have linked to manmade global warming changes. Another implication is that this paper reconfirms earlier work that suggests that global warming will cause very small changes to Atlantic hurricanes, even several decades from now.

Posted on April 18, 2007 08:16 AM View this article | Comments (10)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters

February 22, 2007

A Defense of Alarmism

[The thoughtful comment below is from David Adam, Environment correspondent for The Guardian was made in response to Mike Hulme's letter to Nature on press coverage of the IPCC report in the UK media. -RP]

Alarmist and proud of it
(Alarm: to fill with apprehension; to warn about danger, alert)

David Adam
Environment correspondent
The Guardian

Some definitions from the Collins English dictionary

Catastrophic: a sudden, extensive disaster or misfortune

Shocking: Causing shock

Terrifying: extremely frightening

Devastating: to confound or overwhelm

Can anyone explain to me why any of those are inappropriate for a report than said human society will 'most likely' raise temperatures by 4C by 2100 unless it takes drastic action (my words, but how else would you desribe a complete overhaul of the lifestyles of millions, if not billions of people) to cut emissions?

here's another:

news: interesting or important information not previously known.

attacking newspapers for picking out the bits of the report that appear to take the debate forwards (the effects of carbon cycle feedbacks for example, which only seem to be shifting the estimates in one direction) is as pointless and idiotic as complaining that a library won't sell you fish.

does the 2006 report not paint a picture that is "worse" than the 2001 report?

again, to the dictionary:

worse: the comparative of bad

Mike accuses us of "appealling to fear to generate a sense of urgency"

Guilty as charged. Is it not frightening? Is it not urgent?

Alarmist and proud of it
(Alarm: to fill with apprehension; to warn about danger, alert)

Posted on February 22, 2007 07:03 AM View this article | Comments (28)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Science + Politics

February 15, 2007

Benny Peiser Handicaps Climate Politics

Benny Peiser kindly offered a number of comments on a recent thread in which we were less-than approving of the Bush Administration's trans-Atlantic diplomacy on climate change. In order to provide a range of perspectives on the current state of climate politics, which is very much in flux, we have asked Benny Peiser to expand on these comments and offer a perspective on climate politics, particularly U.S.-Europe relations. We welcome posting a range of other perspectives here as well, simply send them to me by email and we'll post them up. Here are Benny's comments:

Post-Kyoto: A whole new ballgame

By Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)

It is hard these days to keep up with the accelerating reworking of national and international climate policies. On Monday, the US Administration pre-empted a preparatory G8/climate meeting between Angela Merkel and Tony Blair by announcing, in Berlin no less, an energetic, new approach to international climate policy: 'We're doing better in recent years on reducing greenhouse gas emissions than you folks - so why don't you join our technology-driven path to success instead of sending Chinese communists billions of Euros for worthless carbon credits? ' (excuse my rather rough translation of diplomatic niceties)

Today, the European Parliament, in one of its emblematic consensus votes, decided by a majority of 615 - by 25 votes against - that instead of getting wobbly on Kyoto, the EU should enforce a 30% emissions cut by 2020 - and a staggering 80% reduction by 2050. (http://euobserver.com/9/23496). Not that anybody in Europe would take note, given the routine nature of such show of hands.

Tomorrow, Canada's three opposition parties will most likely succeed in winning its Kyoto vote in the House of Commons, thus possibly triggering new elections that may be decided on the contentious climate treaty. http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=2de17e3f-76c1-4cd4-8d8c-849c5d7c872a&k=5894

What these developments have in common is that they are taking place in a significantly reshaped political landscape where traditional positions and habutual disparities on climate change policies have been diluted beyond recognition - if not abandoned for good. In short, what we are witnessing is the internationalisation of what I call the 'Cameron-Effect.'

By this I mean the greening of the conservative parties of the Anglo-Saxon world. This strategy is a mainly PR driven restyling of conservative parties in the European fashion that has transpired over the last ten years or so. What Australia's, Canada's and America's political right is beginning to learn from their British counterparts (and have had to learn under pressure from political opponents) is the need for environmental camouflage - in more or less exactly the same mode socialist, labour and even traditional free market liberals have painted themselves in populist green varnish.

Now that everyone is outdoing each other in green spin and rhetoric, now that every single government on the planet is clamouring for the green vote (left, right and centre), it has become increasingly frustrating for the political left to attack their opponents on environmental credentials. This is one of the reasons why the ostensible conversion of Presidents Bush as a champion of environmental protection is regarded as suspicious if not outrageous as David Cameron's original scheme to don the eco-mantle and call Labour's green bluff.

Which brings us to the touchy Kyoto game. As the economic burden and hurt of EU's Kyoto experiment becomes progressively palpable for ordinary citizens, common businesses and whole sectors of European industries, the opposition to Europe's unilateral policy is mounting. Whether it is growing hostility by the energy intensive manufacturing industry, Europe's airline or Germany's car industries, the traditional ritual of keeping tight-lipped on Kyotoy owing to political correctness has been shattered in recent months. Even Germany's once powerful trade unions have begun to publicly voice their concern about (and started to march in protest against) the detrimental impact of Europe's unilateral climate policy on economic stability and job security.

All things considered, Europe seems to be suffering from a severe bout of Kyoto-schizophrenia. Its governments and political elite (not to mention its science establishment) have invested incalculable amounts of political capital and prestige on the Kyoto Protocol. In more than one way, it has become the foremost and tragic symbol of Europe's "leadership role." A political failure of the Kyoto process would, without a shadow of doubt, cause incalculable trauma to European pride and standing.

Which is why the widely anticipated climb-down on Kyoto-style mandatory emissions cuts and short-term targets that will almost certainly feature in any post-Kyoto agreement that aspires to include China, India and the US is now carefully presented as Angela Merkel's accomplishment or Tony Blair's lasting legacy, etc. In reality, international climate policy will have to become much more realistic (as in Realpolitik). It will almost have to start from scratch if a truly global, transparent and cost-effective agreement is to be achieved in the real world of highly disparate and conflicting interests. As far as I can judge, it remains to be seen whether a face-saving and economically viable compromise can be achieved in the next few years among the world's superpowers.

Posted on February 15, 2007 01:29 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

January 24, 2007

Will Toor on the CU Power Plant

Will Toor, Boulder County Commissioner (and former Mayor of Boulder and Director of the CU Environmental Center) has provided a thoughtful response to our commentary earlier this week on the new University of Colorado power plant. Here are Will's comments:

Thanks Will!

Will Toor on the CU Power Plant

I think what this issue illustrates is the difficulty of achieving GHG reduction goals without regulatory authority. The City of Boulder, like other local governments, has a number of tools it can use; building codes to compel lower energy use in new and remodeled buildings; incentive programs to encourage investments in increased energy efficiency within existing buildings; transportation programs aimed at reducing vehicle miles travelled; incentive programs aimed at encouraging a shift to more efficient vehicles; and working with the utility to get more renewable energy on the grid. The city may have the ability to require that existing buildings be brought to a higher efficiency standard over some time period. But the city does not have the legal (or practical) ability to set up a cap and trade system, to tax motor fuels, to mandate vehicle standards,or to mandate the fuel mix of the utility. Also, as a state institution, CU is exempt from most regulations that the city may impose. While city action is important, it is pretty clear that regulatory requirements at the state and preferably national level are required.

What is rather fascinating to me is that this is an issue where CU could so easily reduce emissions by purchasing windpower from the local utility, at least during a transition period to some longer term solution, at a very modest cost. All of the moves towards renewable energy at CU have been driven by the university's customers - the students. Students not only voted to tax themselves to pay for windpower for the student controlled buildings, but also taxed themselves to set up funds to invest in energy efficiency and solar, and agreed to a very large fee increase to build new academic buildings only with a commitment from the campus administration that those buildings meet the LEED Gold standard of the US green building council and that the electricity for these buildings come from 100% Green-E ertified renewable sources. CU is unusual in that is has taken significant steps towards sustainability, but these have been driven from the bottom, not by leadership from the level of the chancellor or the president. So it may not be surprising that the chancellor is, at least initially, proposing to ignore the impact of the power plant decision on carbon emissions. However, given the very modest costs involved, I am guessing that the final outcome will be quite different. The surrounding community and students are likely to put some significant pressure on CU to take a different approach; and as a public institution CU now faces a new state administration and legislature that has a clean energy and climate change agenda, and is unlikely to agree to provide tens of millions of dollars of state capital funding for this project without the carbon emissions being addressed.

Posted on January 24, 2007 07:54 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy

January 21, 2007

Hans von Storch on Political Advocacy

[Hans von Storch posted this very thoughtful comment on the thread from last week on the recent partnership of leading climate scientists and the National Association of Evangelicals to advocate for political action on climate change. We think that Hans' comments deserve a bit more prominence so have reproduced them here. -RP]

I remember that there was a few years ago a web page in UK, which made public a statement of a religious group about climate change; a very concerned statement. It was signed by, among others Sir John Houghton (who signed in his capacity of former IPCC chair), Bob Watson and other brass of the IPCC guild [The UK statement referred to can be found here. -RP]. Thus, the disclosure of the encroachment of religion into top climate science levels is nothing new. It would have been better if this group had been open about this fact earlier.

We all are bound by certain culturally constructed values; religion is just one, and it has been particularly barbarian in times. In other times rather humanitarian. For a scientist the problem is that these values interfere with our analytical skills; not in the sense that we would execute statistical tests in a biased manner or that we would fail in our maths. But in the way we ask; in our preparedness to accept certain answers or to remain skeptical to certain answers. And finally, it may lead us to misuse our scientific authority to push for conclusions, which are beyond the realm of science.

None of us is free of this interference: this group is to be applauded for being explicit and honest. But they should also accept that claims of independence have to be given up when speaking about the social implications of anthropogenic climate change. They are, and likely have been, issue advocates. They are certainly still scientists, but they are advocates as well. In a sense they are publicly paid NGOs. NGOs play an important and welcomed role in the public discussion and decision process, like most other lobbying groups – but everybody knows what their agenda is.

Those of us who want to try to limit the influence of our values on our scientific analyses, should try to analyze these values and their potential influence on our professional performance. We should see our present activity in a historical context and reflect upon our cultural and social conditioning. We may be able to limit the degree of subjectivity of our work to some, maybe just a very minor, extent.

Posted on January 21, 2007 04:43 PM View this article | Comments (33)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | The Honest Broker

January 09, 2007

Robert Muir-Wood in RMS Cat Models: From the Comments

[We think that Robert Muir-Wood's comments on the Tampa Tribune article that we discussed yesterday deserve to be highlighted. Robert thanks much for participating and adding this context from RMS. -Ed.

Robert Muir-Wood
RMS

It might be useful to provide some more measured background to this story than is to be found in the Tampa Tribune.

The idea for holding an expert elicitation on hurricane activities emerged at RMS during the summer of 2005. Expert elicitations are commonplace in the earthquake community, but, this was the first time (we believe) one had been attempted among climatologists. All those invited to the Oct 2005 meeting were told in the invitation that the purpose of the meeting was 'to predict the activity rate of hurricanes, relevant to impact and loss modeling .. over the next 3-5 years'. Four scientists agreed to attend; Jim Elsner, Mark Saunders, Kerry Emanuel and Tom Knutson. Through the meeting, and in email exchanges in the days thereafter, a consensus was achieved around expected rates of Cat1-5 and Cat3-5 storms in the Atlantic Basin and at US landfall for the period 2006-2010. This consensus does not mean that everyone walks out of the meeting having agreed an identical answer but that everyone's view has been equally weighted in arriving at an expected activity rate.

RMS then took these findings and prepared to implement them in the RMS Hurricane Cat model. In the model Atlantic hurricanes are split into five separate populations according to the area of formation and track. The research to determine which track types were expected to show predominant increases was undertaken by Manuel Lonfat and based on his findings the 'increment of activity' was distributed among the track types to preserve the overall activity rate budget at landfall. There are alternative perspectives on regionalization (as emphasized by Jim Elsner), but as such a high proportion of intense hurricanes affect Florida, the Gulf and the Southeast, for the same increase in activity rates, modeled loss results in these regions are relatively insensitive to reasonable alternative regionalizations.

At the end of this process (in March 2006) a press release was issued along with a white paper describing all the work that had been undertaken - both after being checked with the four experts. Ultimately the results of the implementation of the increase in activity rates were the responsibility of RMS and we did not look to get the experts to endorse the outcome around changes in modeled losses. A scientific paper describing the whole procedure is now in process of being published in a peer reviewed journal.

In October 2006 the expert elicitation was repeated to cover the period 2007-2011. All four original experts were invited and only Jim Elsner declined, citing that he was ‘under contract’ with another modeling organisation. At the second expert elicitation there were seven climatologists, who were presented with results from twenty statistical/climatological forecast models, each being assigned 100c of probability to be assigned among the different models. The results from this exercise (in terms of expected levels of Cat1-5 and Cat 3-5 landfalling activities) were within 1-2% of the mean expected activity rates of the first expert elicitation. Again all the models, their results and the outcome of the elicitation will be published in scientific journals.

The political response to the ‘insurance crisis’ currently underway in Florida is looking for someone to blame. Cat modelers are simply the messengers relaying news concerning the significance of a period of significantly higher hurricane activity that has persisted in 9 out of the last 12 years and that climatologists, as polled at the most recent expert elicitation, expect to continue for a decade or more longer. There is a need to get journalists and politicians in Florida to focus more attention on the reasons for the increase in hurricane activity and, in particular, the role of climate change.


January 05, 2007

Lahsen and Nobre (2007)

A Summary, by Myanna Lahsen

Lahsen, Myanna and Carlos A. Nobre (2007), "The Challenge of Connecting International Science and Local Level Sustainability: The Case of the LBA," Environmental Science and Policy 10(1) 62-74. (PDF)

This paper identifies some central challenges involved in bringing about applications-oriented research and associated institutions related to sustainability on the basis of “global change science”, using the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) as an example. The LBA is an integrated regional study carried out by an international science program – indeed, the largest program in international scientific cooperation ever focused on the Amazon region. Over the last decade, the LBA has carried out over 120 studies and contributed quantitative and qualitative understanding of the functioning of tropical ecosystems and their linkages to the Earth System. It has produced over 700 peer-reviewed publications, the vast majority in international science journals. Additionally, LBA has trained hundreds of young scientists, most of them from Amazonia. In this and other ways, it has self-consciously sought to improve past models of “scientific colonialism” involving Northern-funded science experiments in less developed countries which did little, and usually nothing at all, to improve the knowledge and infrastructure in the latter (note: henceforth, “North” and “South” refer to the global North and South unless otherwise specified).

The LBA fell short in other respects, however, in particular in its explicit goal to produce sound scientific understanding in support of sustainable development. Deforestation of the tropical forests of Amazonia has increased to clearly unsustainable levels and at great social and environmental cost. Sustainable management of ecosystems requires appropriate public policies and regulatory frameworks. Yet translating the scientific knowledge created in LBA into public policies has proven to be much more difficult than its planners anticipated. Key to overcoming the obstacles is greater knowledge and capacity to develop and disseminate appropriate technologies and methodologies for sustainable management of the environment. Few developing countries are making substantial investment to develop this capacity. This is of huge consequence as the funding-structures, interests and incentive structures – and even the knowledge base – of developed-country-dominated international scientific efforts are inadequate to meet present challenges. The LBA serves to illustrate this inadequacy.

Aside from merely identifying humans’ environmental impact, the LBA’s mission, as stated in its planning document, was to help safeguard the Amazon’s basic ecological processes. In addition to its scientific capacity building component, the sustainability dimension is the most obvious point where LBA research could bring benefits at the national and local levels. It is also the least developed dimension of the LBA. An independent mid-term review concluded that the program had performed weakly in the area of identifying and developing social, political and economic implications of the findings, especially as concerns sustainable development in the Amazon region.

One may trace part of the root problem to resource disparities between the global North and South at the levels of human and material resources related to knowledge production and mobilization. These disparities complicate the science-policy interface in less developed countries (Lahsen in press; Lahsen forthcoming (a); Lahsen forthcoming (b) and as such can weaken the effectiveness of efforts to assess and combat human-induced climate and associated effects. It also limits the level of participation and input of less developed countries in international scientific programs and policy efforts, allowing Northern nations, and especially the United States, to overwhelmingly dominate the production and framing of science underpinning international environmental negotiations. Studies suggest that this dominance can translate into political gain and that it at times weakens less developed country representatives’ trust and regard for international environmental assessment and negotiation processes (ibid).

Simply modeling science agendas in the South on those in the North would be a mistake to the extent that this would perpetuate the evaluation criteria and incentive structures that result in high quality research, yes, but without the necessary connection to applications at the regional, national and local levels. Had an Amazon-based institution led the LBA from the planning stages on, for instance, this would not have guaranteed that sustainability concerns would have been more central. Brazilian scientists – especially in the richer South of the country but also those in the Amazon – are increasingly hooked into international science and subject to the same incentive structures as their Northern peers.

Ways must be found to link excellence in research more tightly to urgent environmental and societal problems, attending to the perverse effects of presents incentive structures and heeding insights captured in calls for “sustainability science” (Cash, et al., 2003; Clark 2003; Clark and Dickson 2003; National Research Council 1999).

References:

Cash, David W., William C. Clark, Frank Alcock, Nancy M. Dickson, Noelle Eckley, David H. Guston, Jill Jäger and Ronald B. Mitchell (2003), `Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development,' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 100, No. 14, 8 July, pp. 8086-8091.

Clark, William C. (2003), Institutional Needs for Sustainability Science link in PDDF

Clark, William C. and Nancy M. Dickson (2003), `Sustainability Science: The Emerging Research Program,' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 100, No. 14, 8 July, pp. 8059-8061.

Fogel, Catheleen A. (2002), `Greening The Earth With Trees: Science, Storylines And The Construction Of International Climate Change Institutions,' Doctoral Dissertation (Environmental Studies: University of California, Santa Cruz).

Lahsen, Myanna (in press), `Distrust and Participation in International Science and Environmental Decision Making: Knowledge Gaps to Overcome,' in Mary Pettinger (Ed.), The Social Construction of Climate Change (Ashgate Publishing).

Lahsen, Myanna (forthcoming (a), `Knowledge, Democracy and Uneven Playing Fields: Insights from Climate Politics in - and Between - the U.S. and Brazil,' in Nico Stehr (Ed.), Knowledge and Democracy (Transactions Publishers).

Lahsen, Myanna (forthcoming (b), dependent on acceptance of completed revisions). "Science and Brazilian environmental policy: The case of the LBA and carbon sink science" Climatic Change.

December 06, 2006

Scott Saleska on Tuning the Climate

[Scott Saleska of the University of Arizona has asked an interesting question in the comments of a post from last week. We have elevated it so that it does go unnoticed. Thanks Scott! -Ed.]

Let's say air capture, or any of the many geoengineering options being widely discussed (e.g. my colleague here at the UofA, Roger Angel's recent idea* to block 1.8% of the incoming energy with a gadget at the L1 Lagrange orbital point), ends up being feasible in a few decades. And let’s say we actually reach the point where we can, as Roger [Pielke, not Angel] suggested, tune the atmosphere’s CO2.

What level do we tune it to? And who gets to decide that level? The "worst off" individual (to follow Rawls famous "Theory of Justice")? Then we probably let the Maldivians decide, since under current projections, sea level rise could completely wipe them off the map. Places like Russia, on the other hand, would probably prefer to have some moderate global warming, because that probably would give them better agriculture in Siberia, and ice-free ports on the north Atlantic.

[* Roger Angel, 2006. Feasibility of cooling the Earth with a cloud of small spacecraft near the inner Lagrange point (L1), PNAS: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/103/46/17184 (subscription require). Or see the free podcast of his recent talk at our Global Climate Change series at University of Arizona, in which he reviewed a whole range of options from solar cells to Paul Crutzen’s aerosols, to his satellites: http://podcasting.arizona.edu/globalclimatechange.html or any of the others who spoke, focusing mostly on science of climate change]

Posted on December 6, 2006 03:47 PM View this article | Comments (38)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty

December 04, 2006

Roger A. Pielke Jr.’s Review of Kicking the Carbon Habit: A Rebuttal by William Sweet

[It is our pleasure to provide a rebuttal by William Sweet, author of Kicking the Carbon Habit, to a review on Mr. Sweet's recent book by Roger Pielke, Jr. which recently appeared in Nature. Mr. Sweet's book can be found online here and purchased through at a discount through Amazon and other online retailers. Pielke's review can be found here in PDF. We thanks Mr. Sweet for his contribution and welcome your comments. -Ed.]

What Just Ain’t So…Also Just Wasn’t Said in the First Place

In a review that appeared in the Oct. 19, 2006 issue of Nature, Roger A. Pielke Jr. praised my Kicking the Carbon Habit for recognizing that there are uncertainties in climate science and yet arguing convincingly that a reasonable person can "still believe that human influence on climate is a problem worth our attention and action." But then he proceeds to claim that the book’s discussion of policy is "regrettably grounded in a fundamental error that surprisingly was not caught in the review process" — an error having supposedly to do with the way the Pacala-Socolow carbon mitigation wedges is presented.

I am not aware that any such error exists, and in a personal communication, Robert Socolow has declared my capsule summary of the wedges model "exemplary." But that is really beside the point. The important thing is that my policy argument, which Pielke radically misconstrues, is not in fact grounded in the Pacala-Socolow model. Rather, it is grounded in story I tell at the critical juncture in Chapter 8 of the Book, the chapter called not coincidentally "Breaking the Carbon Habit." The story has do with Enrico Fermi and the issue of whether Hitler might be able to build an atomic bomb, as seen by Fermi and others at the beginning of World War II.

In a nutshell: Fermi had told the graduate student Isodor Rabi that the idea of an atomic bomb was "nuts." Rabi conveyed that opinion to Leo Szilard, who was sounding the alarm about the possibility of a Nazi nuclear weapon. Szilard suggested Rabi ask Fermi just why he thought the idea was nuts. Rabi did so, and Fermi told him he considered the possibility of a bomb being made successfully was ”remote.” So Rabi asked Fermi what he meant by that. Fermi said that the possibility of a bomb being built successfully was perhaps only about 10 percent. To which Rabi said: "Wait a minute. If I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me that there’s a remote possibility I might die, and that it’s 10 percent, I get excited."

Instantly—and this is mark of intellectual greatness and greatness in leadership as well—Fermi completely changed his mind about the issue. He started to work around the clock on graphite moderation, leading a couple of years later to the famous Chicago pile in which a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was first demonstrated.

The argument in my book is that even if the probability of a climate cataclysm in this century is very small, perhaps (say) only 1 percent, the magnitude of that cataclysm could be so dire, concerted action is warranted right now.* To say, by the way, that I characterize human-induced climate change something worthy of our attention and action is rather an understatement. I consider it the most urgent problem facing humanity today. But my argument about the case for strong immediate action is of a statistical character and is essentially identical to the one laid out by Richard Posner in his book Catastrophe (Oxford, 2004).

This brings me to a second drastic misunderstanding on Pielke’s part — and here I take some responsibility for not having made myself clearer. Kicking the Carbon Habit makes no claims about what is needed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the long run. In fact it makes no claims about the long run whatsoever, except that the possibility of cataclysmic climate change cannot be ruled out. What the book does is make a case for the United States’ immediately joining in the Kyoto regime and, to that end, for its adopting a program to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent right away.

That means using the low-carbon and zero-carbon technology we can deploy right now, which happens to be the subtitle to the third section of the book. Contrary to what Pielke says in the review, I do not "dismiss the prospects for renewables and carbon sequestration." What I do is show that sequestration, solar energy, and hydrogen-economy technologies are not market-ready at this time and therefore not relevant to what the United States can do to cut its emissions by 25 percent today.

The zero-carbon and low-carbon technologies that are market-ready are conservation (of course in the widest sense), wind energy, natural gas, and nuclear energy. My position is that the United States should adopt a very stiff carbon tax that would result promptly in economy-wide conservation (including in the auto sector), and rapid replacement of dirty coal by some combination of wind, gas, and nuclear.

I do appreciate the positive things Mr. Pielke said in his review. But I would have been a lot happier if it had begun it more like this:

"In a book addressed squarely at American readers, William Sweet argues for prompt ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the United States, which implies -- and this is the really important point -- adopting a program to immediately cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 percent. Sweet proposes adoption of a stiff carbon tax, to induce rapid conversion of the coal industry to some combination of nuclear, natural gas and wind, and to prevent any further growth in U.S. energy demand.

"In building his case for that intrinsically controversial position, Sweet presents some important science in a way that's often interesting and even entertaining. However, he fails to address the question of how his aggressive program of U.S. carbon cuts would lead to long-term global stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations. In my view that is a serious shortcoming, because without that link being made, it's hard to see why the United States should do anything at all."

Having not explicitly addressed that important last point in my book, let me do so now. My view is that when we project future energy demand and greenhouse gas production out to the end of the century, relying on reasonable extrapolations from the situation we’re in today, the prognosis is utterly hopeless. I see any attempt to develop a comprehensive, global, long-term solution as not merely futile but as a recipe for inaction.

Therefore, frankly borrowing a principle from 12-step philosophy, my view is that when confronting a problem that is impossibly big and impossibly tangled, we should simply look at our part of it and address that. Accordingly, the United States, as the world’s main source of greenhouse gas emissions (about 25 percent), the world’s richest country, and the advanced industrial world’s most extravagant user of energy, should step up to the plate and do what it can as fast as it can.

The United States is in a position right now to do much more than any other country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But instead of doing the most, it is doing the least. That is my message.

—Bill Sweet
December 4, 2006


* By a cataclysm I mean a spontaneous reorganization of the world’s climate system, of a scale and magnitude similar to the ice ages, such that life could become unsustainable for a large fraction of the people living on earth. The change in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide associated with the onset and termination of ice ages has been about 100 ppmv; since the industrial revolution began, the concentration has increased by about that same amount, and in the next 50-100 years it could increase by as much as twice that amount again, unless we take radical actions to curtail its growth.

Posted on December 4, 2006 08:59 AM View this article | Comments (19)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Energy Policy

October 31, 2006

The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change: A Comment by Richard Tol

Richard Tol, a prominent economist with appointments at Hamburg, Vrije and Carnegie Mellon Universities, has written a review of The Stern Report, which we are happy to make available for comment and discussion.

Richard's review can be downloaded here as a Word file.

Posted on October 31, 2006 06:32 AM View this article | Comments (80)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

August 21, 2006

Judy Curry in the Comments

[The below is an excerpt from a comment provided by Judy Curry, which I thought worth highlighting as our conversation has spanned several threads. RP]

100 years from now, if global warming proceeds as expected, there is a risk for whopper hurricanes with sea level rise making the risk even worse for our coastal cities. The elevated risk in terms of hurricane activity may already be upon us. No one wants to see coastal cities disappear. You are right that actions like limiting greenhouse gas emissions cannot help the hurricane situation in the short term (20 years or maybe even 50 years), but on the century time scales there should be some impact at least on the rate of sea surface temperature increase (it is the century time scales that the washington post editorial addresses). Hurricane Katrina, even tho there was no direct causal link with global warming, has served as a huge wakeup call to the American public that global warming might actually have some seriously adverse impacts if we were to see such storms more frequently in the future (this issue seems to have a much greater impact on the public than melting of polar ice gaps). The risk is there, science is important to the public and decision makers, and people are starting to talk about policy options both for the short term and the long term (e.g. the washington post editorial). Surely this is a good thing. Step back for a minute and reflect on why your position on this is so often misrepresented, misunderstood or ignored. There would be more traffic on prometheus on this issue if you would be more reflective about what the other people are trying to say, rather than trying to fit everything into something that supports your thesis (not sure how our BAMS article fell into that category) or makes no sense because it doesn't support your thesis (e.g. the washington post editorial).

Posted on August 21, 2006 09:27 AM View this article | Comments (15)
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change | Disasters

April 11, 2006

Science Advisor Talk Tonight

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein):

Dr. Frank Press, science advisor to President Jimmy Carter 1977-1980, will be the final speaker in the year-long lecture series "Policy, Politics, and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisors." He will speak tonight, April 11, at 7 pm in MCD Biology Room A2B70 on the CU-Boulder Campus. The event is free and open to the public. For more information visit the series website.

Posted on April 11, 2006 10:44 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

April 03, 2006

Coping with Climate Change Symposium

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein):

"Coping with Climate Change: A Symposium Highlighting Activities at the University of Colorado to Help Decision Makers Prepare for the Future" will identify and highlight research and other activities at the University of Colorado designed to assist decision makers in responding to and coping with the coming impacts of climate change. The symposium will feature several half-hour presentations from faculty and students in various CU departments and programs about in progress or planned activities. It will provide an opportunity to learn about climate change-related ?decision support? activities at CU, identify gaps and constraints in current activities, and discover possibilities for future research and collaboration.

The symposium will be held Tuesday, April 4, from 8:30 am - 3:00 pm in the CIRES Auditorium. It is free and open to the public - registration is not required. Stay for as many sessions as you like. Lunch provided.

For more information, a schedule, and directions visit the symposium website, or contact Bobbie Klein, bklein@colorado.edu. Sponsored by the Western Water Assessment, a NOAA-CU project to provide usable climate information for decision making.

Posted on April 3, 2006 11:10 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

February 14, 2006

Europe's Long Term Climate Target: A Critical Evaluation

Ed.- Richard Tol, a professor at Hamburg, Vrije and Carnegie Mellon Universities. has written an interesting paper forthcoming in the journal Energy Policy critiquing the scientific basis for Europe's temperature target for responding to global warming. Frequent readers of this blog will be familiar with discussions of the FCCC and "dangerous anthropogenic interference." Prof. Tol adds to the diversity of perspectives here at Prometheus and offers a challenging, rigorous critique. Richard was kind enough to summarize his recent paper for us, so please read on. RP

The European Union have set a goal for international climate policy: The world should not warm more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. This is an ambitious target. As the warming response to the enhanced greenhouse effect is so uncertain, it may imply that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide could not rise much above 400 ppm, only some 20 ppm above today. If recent trends continue, the 400 ppm level would be reached by 2020. A 400 ppm target may require zero carbon emissions, worldwide, by 2050.

One may of course dismiss the European target. Who are they to decide on a global target? Perhaps the target is just political posturing and wishful thinking, or maybe it is just the opening bid in international negotiations. Perhaps European policy makers have been led to believe that deep emission reduction is easy and cheap. However, the European Union is a major player in international climate policy, and its 2°C target deserves serious discussion.

Unfortunately, the European Union seems unprepared for such as discussion. The 2°C target can be traced back to a 1995 report of the German government’s Scientific Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU). Estimates of the economic impacts of climate change are a crucial argument in the WBGU report. At that time, the best guess for economic damages due to a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was 1.5% of global income. The WBGU raised this to 5.0% without any supporting analysis. Since 1995, economic impact estimates have been revised downwards, but the WBGU has not changed its target.

The WBGU continues to play a substantial role in setting targets for European climate policy. The German government follows its advice. The advisors to the Dutch government just translate its findings. The European Commission leans heavily on its reports. In its latest, 2003, report, the WBGU sticks to the 2°C target. It did revise the justification, however. For this, the WBGU commissioned a report by Bill Hare, a climate campaigner on the payroll of Greenpeace International. The Hare paper is in typical Greenpeace style: Selective citation, quotations out of context, and a focus on alarming examples.

The UK government has not explicitly adopted the 2°C target, but it has been arguing vigorously for stringent emission abatement. The UK position largely rests on two model results, by Nigel Arnell for water and by Pim Martens for malaria. The models predict hundreds of millions of people at risk of malaria and water stress. Unfortunately, these models omit adaptation. Bed nets and perhaps a vaccine could reduce the burden of malaria. Improved irrigation efficiency and desalination can overcome water shortage. Other modellers have been able to include such adaptation, and show that the Arnell and Martens models dramatically overestimate the impacts of climate change

The UK government is obliged to do a cost-benefit analysis of every major project or policy. On climate change, it duly issued a well-crafted report on the social cost of carbon, that is, the target price for carbon permits. The report was well in line with the academic literature, but its summary recommended a number that was an order of magnitude higher than what is typically found in other papers. This has left people wondering, and a review is underway.

The European Commission is also obliged to do a cost-benefit analysis. Its report support the 2°C target. Whereas the UK analysis is sound apart from an unfortunate zero in the summary, the report by the European Commission would fail as a term paper in a course of cost-benefit analysis. In a cost-benefit analysis, one wants to equate the marginal costs and benefits, but the report only looks at total costs and benefits. In fact, the report does not estimate benefits either; it includes all impacts of climate change, not the ones that can be avoided. The impact estimates are over 10 years old, although newer and better studies are available. On the abatement side, the analysis stops in 2025, even though only a fraction of the needed emission reduction will have been achieved by then. The EU report does not review the cost-benefit literature, which reaches different conclusions. A commissioned paper that reached an opposite conclusion was similarly ignored.

I do not believe that there is anything in the literature on the impacts of climate change or the costs of greenhouse gas emission reduction that justifies the deep cuts in emissions necessary to meet the European 2°C target. However, that is not my main point. If policy makers believe that the 2°C target is justified, then they should support that with arguments. Sloppy methodology, selective citations, and exclusive input from environmental NGOs do not make for strong arguments. A democratic government should support its policies with sound science and reasoned judgements. The European climate policy falls short.

A more elaborate account of the 2°C target has been accepted for publication by Energy Policy. An early version can be downloaded here.

Posted on February 14, 2006 12:06 AM View this article | Comments (23) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

February 13, 2006

Andrew Dessler on Uncertainty

Guest Post by Andrew Dessler

Ed.- Professor Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, has been a frequent and substantive contributor to discussions here at Prometheus for a while now. On the occasion of the publication of his new book (The Science and Politics of Climate Change, co-authored with Edward Parson, Cambridge University Press, 2006), we thought it might be valuable to ask Andrew to present his views of science and policy in the climate issue to stimulate discussion and debate among our readers, and to give Prometheus readers a little diversity in the perspectives presented here. Andrew introduced his book here. This is part two, on uncertainty. RP

Anyone familiar with the climate change debate is familiar with the “scientific uncertainty” argument, which usually goes something like this:

The response to climate change must be based on sound science, not on speculation or theory. There is too much uncertainty and too much that we do not know about climate change. It would be irresponsible to undertake measures to reduce emissions, which could carry high economic costs, until we know that these are warranted.

Political analyst Frank Luntz suggests that this argument can aid in convincing people to oppose action on climate change, especially when used as part of a broader set of arguments that include economic and standard rhetorical components. The foundation of the argument – that there is uncertainty in present scientific knowledge of climate change – is uncontroversial. But is there so much uncertainty that we should delay action on addressing climate change until we know more? According to this argument, the answer is yes.

To dissect this argument, let’s consider three different arenas of decision making under uncertainty:

(1) Criminal trial: Anyone who’s watched TV knows that a criminal defendant in the US is presumed innocent unless the prosecution succeeds in demonstrating guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, the decision to act (i.e., convict) requires a high standard of proof. The requirement of overwhelming proof is based on a value judgment about the relative severity of the two possible ways a criminal verdict can err — either by convicting an innocent defendant, or by acquitting a guilty one. Society has long judged it worse to convict an innocent defendant than to acquit a guilty one, so the criminal trial has been biased to make that outcome less likely.

The crucial point here is that the standard for conviction is based on a normative judgment about the relative harm of the two possible errors. The worse we judge a particular error to be, the more we try to make it unlikely by biasing the decision-making process against it. In doing so, we willingly accept a heightened risk of making the other type of error, because we judge it to be less bad.

(2) Civil trial: In civil law – private suits by one party against another, in which usually only monetary damages or requirements to change behavior are at stake – society has judged that there is no clear basis to believe one type of error or the other (i.e. errors that favor the plaintiff or the defendant) to be worse. As a result, civil suits are decided without bias, according to “the preponderance of the evidence.”

(3) National defense: In matters of national security, US policy often takes action based on threats that are not just uncertain but unlikely. In other words, even a slight risk of a threat is sufficient to justify action. The reason is that our government judges that the cost of being unprepared to meet a threat that does materialize is much worse than the cost of preparing for a threat that never materializes. This is well articulated by Secretary of State (at the time) Colin Powell when discussing why the USA was pursuing national missile defense: “[T]here is recognition that there is a threat out there . . . And it would be irresponsible for the United States, as a nation with the capability to do something about such a threat, not to do something about [it] . . . you don’t wait until they are pointed at your heart. You start working on it now.” (Remarks at the International Media Center, Budapest, Hungary, May 29, 2001). This can be considered as a strident articulation of the “precautionary principle”.

What do these three examples tell us about climate change? The “uncertainty” argument we presented at the beginning of this post argues that we should wait until we have overwhelming evidence before acting to address climate change, adopting a standard similar to that for a criminal trial. On the other hand, environmentalists often use Powell’s missile defense argument to advocate immediate action on climate change despite uncertainty.

Which standard for action should we adopt? The choice is not scientific; rather, it reflects a judgment about the relative costs of the possible errors. The argument that climate science is too uncertain to merit action would be appropriate if one judged it a worse mistake to limit GHG emissions too much than not to limit them enough — i.e. that the economic losses from too much mitigation were much worse than the costs of unavoided impacts of climate change.

It is our opinion that this is not the case and that, in fact, the reverse situation appears more likely. If uncontrolled climate change and its impacts turn out to lie at or below the bottom of the present projected range, then an aggressive mitigation program would impose substantial unnecessary costs, presently estimated to lie between a few tenths of a percent and several percent of future GDP. But if climate change and impacts lie near or above the top of the present projected range, then not pursuing aggressive mitigation would likely expose the world’s people to much more severe costs and risks, including a possibility of abrupt, catastrophic changes.

Thus, at its heart, the “scientific uncertainty” argument is not about science at all, but about a judgment about whether it is worse to under or overreact to climate change. Further, the argument is worded so as to imply that the “criminal trial” standard should be applied to GHGs — that GHGs are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We believe that a strong argument can be made that this standard is inappropriate and that overwhelming evidence is not necessary in order for us to begin taking action on climate change. We have enough evidence now.

Posted on February 13, 2006 08:13 AM View this article | Comments (37) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

February 12, 2006

More Info - Thanks Gavin!

Ed.- This comment from Gavin Schmidt of NASA appeared in the comments and I thought important enough to bring to the top. Thanks Gavin very much, RP

A couple of points for clarification. Around 20 of the scientific staff at GISS work directly for NASA as civil servants (including me). The rest work for Columbia University or the contractor.

GISS's mission is to research long term climate change, rather broadly defined, it is not to implement government policy. Thus there is no contradiction in Hansen continuing to work on climate science while disagreeing on policy.

The problem with NASA public affairs was not limited to Hansen, but also impacted the rest of us even on issues and media requests that had absolutely nothing to do with any policy questions. Simple requests to explain 'global warming' or discuss the difference between weather and climate were turned down by Deutsch and company, presumably because they felt the mere mention of the science was political.

Posted on February 12, 2006 03:29 PM View this article | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

February 06, 2006

Andrew Dessler on Climate Change

Guest Post by Andrew Dessler

Ed.- Professor Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, has been a frequent and substantive contributor to discussions here at Prometheus for a while now. On the occasion of the publication of his new book (The Science and Politics of Climate Change, co-authored with Edward Parson, Cambridge University Press, 2006), we thought it might be valuable to ask Andrew to present his views of science and policy in the climate issue to stimulate discussion and debate among our readers, and to give Prometheus readers a little diversity in the perspectives presented here. So I’ll now turn it over to Andrew. RP

During 2000, I was a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. I was OSTP’s staff atmospheric scientist, and one of my jobs was to explain to White House policymakers the scientific importance of newly published research as well as the truth or falsity of scientific arguments made in mainstream media outlets. Several times per week, I would run across the most ridiculous, obviously erroneous arguments about climate change in the media. I began to wonder why such outlandish arguments were being made and, more importantly, why these arguments got traction in the public debate.

By the end of my OSTP adventure, I decided that advocates make baseless and erroneous scientific arguments in policy debates because they work. The public does not understand how science works and therefore cannot interpret conflicting scientific claims in policy debates. If one scientist says, “the climate is warming” while another says, “no, it’s not,” most people just throw up their hands and tune out of the debate. The net result is an ill-informed electorate on these issues, which in turn leads to policy decisions that are not as informed by science as they could be.

When I returned to the Univ. of Maryland from my year at OSTP, I began teaching an introductory class for non-science majors on climate change and the Earth system. Part of the class was on how science and policy worked, and I noticed that the students were far more interested in those lectures than any lecture about sigma T^4. And I was quite impressed that with just a few lectures, I sensed that they became much more sophisticated consumers of science in policy debates.

The strong and positive reaction of my UMD students to these lectures convinced me to write a book about the climate change debate. To add some depth to the book, I recruited a former colleague from OSTP, Ted Parson, presently a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Ted is an expert on environmental policy, particularly its international dimensions, the political economy of regulation, the role of science and technology in policy and regulation, and the analysis of negotiations, collective decisions, and conflicts. I can attest that he knows a lot more about these things than I do. Before joining the Michigan faculty, Ted spent ten years on the faculty of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

With our book, The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate, now out, Roger graciously invited me to write a few posts describing some of the arguments we make in the book. Some of these we’ve already discussed on Prometheus, such as our opinion that the reliance on scientific assessments greatly reduces the scope for partisan distortion of science in policy debates, and I won’t repeat them. But I thought that there were two other topics that Prometheus readers might want to discuss: 1) the use of “scientific uncertainty” in policy debates, and 2) elements of an effective GHG reduction plan. Look for posts on these topics over the two weeks, and perhaps one or two other posts, if I can think of good topics.

Posted on February 6, 2006 06:27 AM View this article | Comments (16) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

January 24, 2006

George Keyworth II to Speak at CU

For you local folks:

George Keyworth II, White House science adviser to former President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1986, will speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. in room 270 of the Hale Science Building.

The free, public event is part of a yearlong 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.

Keyworth, who played a key role in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative known as "Star Wars," will speak on science and the presidential decision-making process. Following his remarks, CSTPR Director Roger Pielke Jr. will interview Keyworth about topics like the role of scientific information in the Star Wars initiative. The event will conclude with a question-and-answer session with the audience.

As the senior technical member of Reagan's staff, Keyworth led efforts to capitalize on U.S. science and technology and strengthen industrial competitiveness. He was instrumental in establishing strong budgetary priorities for basic university research, strengthening university engineering programs and stimulating more productive industrial participation in university research and education.

He also played a key role in the modernization of strategic military forces, and was deeply involved in initiatives to use science and technology to support U.S. foreign policy interests, especially with the People's Republic of China.

Keyworth's scientific contributions include pioneering work in high-resolution spectroscopy. Most recently, he has focused on the broad implications of distributed computing and digital connections. Keyworth received a doctorate in nuclear physics from Duke University in 1968.

The CU-Boulder series previously hosted science advisers to Presidents G.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. Frank Press, science adviser to Jimmy Carter, will conclude the series with a public talk at CU-Boulder April 11 at 7 p.m. in room A2B70 of the MCD Biology Building.

Additional information about the series, as well as webcasts, transcripts, audiotapes, photographs from past talks and a library of background materials are available at the series website.

**Posted by Bobbie Klein

Posted on January 24, 2006 11:48 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

November 14, 2005

Why Does the Hockey Stick Debate Matter?

Post by Ross McKitrick

Roger Pielke Jr. has posed a challenge to Michael Mann and us to briefly explain why each of us thinks the ongoing hockey stick debate matters. The technical content of the debate is summarized elsewhere (here and here; Our papers are linked under the heading “articles” (right hand column), and an overview paper by Ross McKitrick is here) and I won’t re-cap it here. That it matters is demonstrated by the enormous traffic on blog sites, the volume of comments to science journals, the opening of a Congressional investigation, etc. Obviously a lot of people find that it matters.

So: why does it matter?

1. It matters because it concerns the validity of an influential scientific paper. Mann’s 1998 and 1999 papers (which I’ll call “MBH”) have been heavily cited and highly influential. The paleoclimate field seems to have organized itself around them: other papers since then have gained prominence in proportion as they appear to back up MBH, whereas papers that contradict it have little prospect of being published or are relegated to lower-profile outlets. A popular icon in paleoclimate circles these days is what can be called a “spaghetti graph,” showing a pastiche of climate reconstructions from a small group of authors who call themselves the “Hockey Team”. They agree on few details, other than that the Medieval Warm Period is not as warm as the 20th Century.

Yet MBH turns out to have major flaws that fundamentally undermine its conclusions. These issues are interesting in their own right because MBH is a famous paper. But they also have wider scientific implications. MBH was “helped” along to its conclusions by some very convenient decisions about small changes to methodology, small edits to data series and not-so-small decisions about using contaminated bristlecone data. Maybe some of the other studies that appear to confirm MBH were also “helped” along so they would appear to agree with it. Efforts to evaluate the whole spaghetti graph has encountered maddening secrecy by the other authors concerning their data and methods, just as with MBH. But enough has been discovered to support a couple of assertions.

(a) The other spaghetti graph diagrams lack robustness. They all depend on delicate editing of weak data and just-so methodology. None are al dente: these are very soft noodles, and a plateful of weak results does not add up to a strong conclusion.

(b) There is an unexamined problem of spurious statistics in multiproxy constructions. Hockey team methods mine autocorrelated proxy data for simple correlations with autocorrelated temperature data. It is a classic recipe for spurious results, as has long been known in econometrics following the seminar studies of Granger, Engle and Phillips. What was predictable on theoretical grounds is now emerging empirically: proxies that extend past 1980 have no explanatory power for recent temperatures. And by implication, the existing corpus of multiproxy studies provides spurious information about the historical climate. Despite occasional claims of technical rigour, none of the spaghetti graph lines come from papers where the spurious regression problem was dealt with.

2. It matters because it exposes the uncomfortable reality about journal peer review. MBH(98) was published in Nature, considered by some the world’s “leading” scientific journal. Nature never verified that data were correctly listed: as it happens they weren’t. Nature never verified that data archiving rules were followed: they weren’t. Nature never verified that methods were accurately stated: they weren’t. Nature never verified that stated methods yield the stated results: they don’t. Nature undertook only minimal corrections to its publication record after notification of these things, and even allowed authors to falsely claim that their omissions on these things didn’t affect their published results.

In light of this, it is far past time for a wide-ranging discussion on what ‘peer review’ actually is. Policymakers routinely appeal to it as some kind of quality assurance guarantee. But obviously it isn’t. It serves some purpose internal to the world of scientific publishing, but policymakers’ beliefs about what peer review guarantees are for the most part sheer fantasy.

3. It matters because it exposes the uncomfortable reality about the IPCC. The IPCC’s use of the hockey stick was not incidental: it is prominent throughout the 2001 report. Yet they did not subject it to any independent checking: revealing an astonishingly cavalier attitude to the quality of their case. This raises the question of whether anything in the report was subject to serious, independent checking. They allowed chapter authors to heavily promote their own work with little or no oversight. They published false claims about the hockey stick’s statistical robustness and have never made any effort to retract them. On the basis of the MBH claims, their 2001 report reversed their 1990 conclusions about the MWP, and over-rode their 1995 warnings about not relying on bristlecone data, in order to promote the conclusions implied by the hockey stick. They encouraged governments around the world to rely heavily on a graph they themselves had not independently checked. One reason the hockey stick debate matters is because it exposes as worthless the guarantees given up to now about why the world should rely on the IPCC.

In this light I have no patience for the reaction by scientists to the Barton investigation. Why shouldn’t legislators begin asking questions about how the IPCC (and its allies in the science community) produce their reports? Policymakers have strong evidence that the IPCC process did not actually involve the rigorous checks and balances that they boasted of when releasing their 2001 report. It would be negligent of lawmakers not to open a wide-ranging investigation of this. Anyone who thinks the Barton investigation is unnecessary must think that IPCC reports don’t really matter: but they do, which is one reason why the hockey stick debate also does.

4. It matters because it exposes the uncomfortable reality about how governments use scientific information Canada (and many other countries) used the hockey stick heavily in their promotion of the Kyoto Accord. It is still prominent in government publications. Canada boasts of having spent $3 billion on climate change initiatives, much of it going to research. Yet for all the billions of dollars spent, and for all the proliferation of staff working on the matter, no one in government checked the hockey stick. Even when Canada’s chief climate science advisor and the Prime Minister’s own scientific advisor were personally informed about flaws in the hockey stick, no effort was made to remedy the government’s error. We have never been contacted by a single federal government scientist or other staff member for information on this topic, even though Environment Canada has in the past made heavy use of the hockey stick and more recently has issued communications supposedly providing “expert” commentary on my work, commentary that is predictably fallacious. Governments apparently use science when it suits them, as a promotional policy tool, with little regard to the facts of the matter. Perhaps it is naïve of me to have expected otherwise, but the realization still disappoints.

5. It matters because it exposes an uncomfortable reality about the culture of climate science. It took two outsiders to do all this work. Climate scientists in the field ignored the glaring problems in MBH for five years, and only seemed to get engaged after Stephen McIntyre and I began publishing our work. Since then the “engagement” of climate scientists has primarily consisted of ridicule, nitpicking, obstruction and catcalls from prominent scientists, especially those involved with the IPCC and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research on Colorado. The few who have offered support tend to do so privately or anonymously.

We have tried to get data and methods from a long list of IPCC scientists who published prominent papers. The near-universal response is a hostile refusal to disclose, followed by stonewalling, delay and excuses. Lately a few have taken to publishing gripes and grievances about me in Eos. They complain that they don’t have time to archive their data sets, yet they seem to have lots of time to write editorials complaining about my inquiries.

These climate scientists seem to want to have things both ways. They are demanding that society set costly policy based on their work, yet they refuse to allow scrutiny of it. As a resident alien in IPCC-land, I have found it to be a culture of secrecy and conformity, to a degree that is incompatible with a healthy, vigorous intellectual culture. They can’t escape external investigation forever, and when it happens I believe a lot more skeletons will fall out of the closets.

And I do not believe I am alone in drawing such conclusions. The opening of the Barton investigation is the tip of the iceberg. The big scientific organizations that hyperventilated about it failed to note the ridiculous contradiction in their position. They insist that the scientific community should be left alone to handle the task of reviewing and critiquing influential studies, yet they not only failed to do it when it was needed, but routinely acquiesce in the widespread culture of secrecy that effectively prevents it from happening. It was only a matter of time before these issues got put on the table and subject to a top-to-bottom examination. The hockey stick debate seems to have been a catalyst, one more reason it matters to so many.

Posted on November 14, 2005 06:03 AM View this article | Comments (77) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

Does the hockey stick "matter"?

Post by Steve McIntryre

Stefan Rahmsdorf and others (including Roger Pielke, the proprietor of this site) have taken the position that the Hockey Stick is irrelevant to the great issue of the impact of 2xCO2 on global climate. Even the originator of the Hockey Stick, Michael Mann, who received many awards and honors for its construction, ironically has taken the position that it doesn’t “matter”. (I do not believe that he has not returned any of the honors.) I’m inclined to agree that, for the most part, the Hockey Stick does not matter to the great issue of the impact of 2xCO2. However, I believe that it matters (or should matter) to IPCC, to governments that relied on IPCC and to climate scientists who contributed to and supported IPCC and to people who may wish to rely on IPCC in the future.

The Hockey Stick was not, as sometimes portrayed, an incidental graphic, buried in IPCC TAR. Nor was it an icon resurrected by sceptics purely to torment poor Michael Mann. It could almost characterized as the logo for IPCC TAR. Figure 1 below shows Sir John Houghton, at the press conference releasing IPCC TAR, standing in front of the Hockey Stick. The graphic was used repeatedly in IPCC TAR and was one of the most prominent graphics in the Summary for Policymakers. Some governments (and, the Canadian government in particular) relied upon it in their promotion of Kyoto policy even more than IPCC. In the lead-up to adopting Kyoto policy, Canadians were told by their Minister of the Environment that “1998 was the warmest year of the millennium and 1990s the warmest decade”. So even if the Hockey Stick did not “matter” to the scientific case, it mattered to the promotion of the scientific case. Scientists may want to “move on”, but institutions cannot, if they want to maintain any credibility. If the Hockey Stick was wrong, it would be as embarrassing as the failure to find WMD in Iraq. In both cases, the policy might well be justified on alternative grounds, but the existence of the alternative grounds does not mean that responsible agencies should not try to isolate the causes of intelligence failure and try to avoid similar failures in the future.

The issues surrounding the MBH Hockey Stick are complicated by IPCC TAR statements and decisions, which, in retrospect, seem misguided, although there is little to suggest that IPCC AR4 is taking to steps to avoid similar potential problems. The most questionable IPCC statement about the Hockey Stick is that the MBH98 reconstruction had “significant skill in independent cross-validation tests”. I added bold to highlight the plural—a second level to the misrepresentation contained in this claim. The statement appears to have been written by Michael Mann about his own work. It is now known that the MBH98 reconstruction in the controversial 15th century portion failed the majority of cross-validation tests, including the standard R2 test [McIntyre and McKitrick, 2005a]; the source code provided to the Barton Committee shows that the adverse cross-validation R2 statistics were calculated, but not reported. It is also now known that the MBH98 reconstruction does not live up to its warranty that it is robust to the presence/absence of all dendroclimatic indicators, as the reconstruction depends on the inclusion of bristlecones, a series known to be potentially contaminated as a temperature proxy. Again, this adverse information was known to the authors and not reported.

If I were in Houghton’s shoes, I would be mad as a boil about all this. Since Houghton has a sincere belief that the impact of 2xCO2 is the great issue of our times, then, if I were Houghton, I would be particularly angry at being placed in a position where I used this logo and wasn’t fully informed about adverse information pertaining to it. I also wouldn’t be leaving it up to some probably adversarial committee like the Barton Committee to sort this out. I’d be all over the problem so that my community, the community of climate scientists, was not further embarrassed and so that government institutions would be able to rely confidently on the opinions of IPCC.

If I were Houghton, one line of argument that I would not accept is that the other “independent” studies all say similar things. It was the Mann study that I stood in front of. If there are serious problems in it, which were known ahead of time and I didn’t know about them, I would carve everyone involved a new you-know-what. Now for public purposes, I’d feel a lot happier if I could at least retreat to the safe haven of other studies that showed something at least similar to the Mann study. But I’d be pretty worried about them on a couple of counts and I’d want them torn through from top to bottom. The first thing that would worry me is that the studies were not really “independent”. The coauthors all seem to swap places: you see Mann, Jones, Briffa, Bradley, Cook, Schweingruber – all well-known scientists, but all having coauthored together. I’d be worried about a monoculture and want a fresh set of eyes. The second thing that would worry me is that the same proxies are used over and over – the bristlecones, the Polar Urals etc. I’d be worried about systemic problems. I’d be worried that no one seemed to have gone through these other studies like M&M had gone through the MBH studies. Maybe there are more time-bombs. I wouldn’t just passively wait for them to go off.

If I were Houghton, I would be enraged at the public refusal by IPCC authors to show their data and methods. When I read in the Wall Street Journal that Mann had said that he would not be “intimidated” into showing his algorithm, I’d have taken immediate action; I’d have told Mann to stop acting like a prima donna, to archive every line of code and data used in MBH98 and stop fighting a pointless battle that simply embarrassed IPCC and the entire field of climate science. I’d have done more than that. I’d have notified everyone contributing to IPCC that we did not expect the same kind of nonsense any more, that anyone contributing to IPCC would have to ensure that their archives of data and methodology were complete or else we couldn’t use their articles. I’d have done so before I heard from some redneck Republicans.

I would also review how we were checking studies in IPCC AR4. If our very logo for IPCC TAR blew up on us, then something was wrong with our procedures for review. I wouldn’t go around patting ourselves on the back and telling everyone that this was the most “rigorous” review procedure in the history of science, since we’d goofed on such a prominent issue. I’d want to know why we goofed and how to avoid it in the future, or at least, how to minimize the chances of a recurrence. So when some redneck tried to use the Hockey Stick fiasco against IPCC, I’d at least have an answer.

A final thing that I’d ask myself: if this damn chart is “irrelevant” to the great issue of 2xCO2, why did we use it at all? And why did we rely on it so much in our sales presentations? Why didn’t we just talk about the issues that were important and stay away from little irrelevant stuff? Maybe I’d find out, when I investigated, that someone had decided that this was merely for sales promotion – the climate equivalent of a sexy girl sitting on a car. If that were the case, I wouldn’t necessarily be happy about it, but at least I’d understand it. Then I’d want to make sure that we were also selling steak as well as sizzle. I’d sure want to make sure that we’d really done a good job on the issue which Ramsdorff and others now say was the “real” issue: climate sensitivity to 2xCO2.

Here I’d be bothered by how little guidance we actually gave to policymakers interested in an intermediate-complexity analysis of whether 2xC02 will lead to a temperature increase of 0.6 deg C or 2.6 deg C or 5.6 deg C. When I re-examined the TAR, I’d notice that we’d virtually skipped over these matters. I’d think: it’s not enough just to list all the results of different models; let’s try to figure out why one model differs from another, what are the circumstances under which a model gives a low sensitivity and what are the circumstances that a model has high sensitivity – if that’s the “real issue”. When I saw that we’d barely touched this sort of analysis in IPCC TAR, I’d be pretty embarrassed. I would certainly vow that in AR4, we would not repeat the mistake of ignoring the “real issues” in favor of hood ornaments.

The other thing that I wouldn’t do is simply ignore the problem and hope that it goes away of its own accord. I wouldn’t rely on the assurances of Mann and similar protagonists that the various alleged defects do not “matter”. No corporation would do so in similar circumstances and IPCC shouldn’t either. I would long ago have got some independent statistician to see if there really was a problem that I should be worried about. I wouldn’t have stood still for this water torture. I’d tell Mann to co-operate with the investigator and request McIntyre to cooperate. I’d try to get the parties to sign off on an exact statement of points and issues that everyone agreed on and ones that were in dispute. Once I saw what was in dispute, I’d ask for what would be involved to determine once and for all who was right on specific issues. I would long ago have gotten tired of barrages from both sides, where I couldn’t be sure that they were not at cross-purposes.

So does the Hockey Stick matter? Yes, if you’re a climate scientist that believes that the IPCC is an important institution whose opinions should be valued. Mann now thinks that the Hockey Stick does not matter. As so often, life is full of ironies.

Posted on November 14, 2005 05:57 AM View this article | Comments (19) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

October 20, 2005

The Case for Scientific Assessments

**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.

Under this model, the questions investigated by the scientific assessment might have an obvious political agenda. This would not invalidate the non-political "honest broker" status of the assessment, however, since the political agenda is that of the policymakers who determined the questions, not the assessment scientists.

In one of Pielke’s “honest broker” posts, he posed a question about giving advice on where to eat. According to the assessment model described here, if a policymaker asks "where should I eat?", an expert advisor should balk. Answering this question clearly requires the expert make some value judgments about what kind of dinner the policymaker wants. Rather, the expert should insist that the policymaker reconfigure the request into a series of specific positive questions that can be addressed by facts alone, without any value judgments by the expert: "Where is the nearest vegetarian restaurant?” "Which restaurants have entrees under $20?" "Where can I get a dinner that follows the Atkin's diet?" etc. Such questions can be answered without the expert assuming any normative values because all necessary value choices were made by the policymaker in formulating the questions (e.g., decisions such as whether the dinner should be vegetarian or not).

One key assumption underlying this model is that policymakers are able to decide on a set of specific, well-phrased, positive questions for the assessment body to evaluate. For the climate change problem, this would require a values debate between and within national governments, which I believe would be extremely beneficial for the overall debate. It might be particularly beneficial to entrain skeptics like Joe Barton into the process of defining questions. This would allow them to pose their favorite questions to the assessment panel — e.g., Does the disagreement between the surface and satellite record invalidate the surface record? Is there any merit to Lindzen’s “iris” hypothesis? etc., etc., etc. (FYI, the answers are no and no).

For climate change policy, in the end I believe that it is possible to identify a set of pertinent scientific questions that most (but not all) policymakers would agree are the important questions for determining a policy — although this is supposition on my part. I should also note that defining a question is no guarantee that the scientific community can provide a good answer. Policymakers need to realize that policy still needs to be made, even if science cannot tell them everything they want to know. Uncertainty is a fact of life — deal with it!

Once one decides on a set of scientific questions, the IPCC Working Group I provides a good example of how the scientific community answers specific scientific questions without regard to the scientists’ normative values. [note: I’m not arguing that the IPCC TAR does or does not follow this model, just that the questions addressed in the Working Group I report are all answerable entirely from scientific facts.]

To summarize, if one could get all policymakers to agree to use assessments derived according to this model, then I believe that many of the problems of the politicization of science would disappear. I would be incredibly surprised, however, if it ever happened. There are simply too many incentives for policymakers to argue about science for them to willingly give up the opportunity.

Posted on October 20, 2005 09:06 AM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

Donald Hornig to Speak at CU

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

Posted on October 20, 2005 08:06 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

October 19, 2005

New Nanotechnology Project

The CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder will collaborate on a new National Science Foundation (NSF) project exploring the societal implications of nanotechnology. NSF recently awarded Arizona State University a 5-year, $6.2 million grant under its Nanoscale Science and Engineering Program to create a Center for Nanotechnology in Society. The CIRES Policy Center will contribute to this project by organizing a National Consensus Conference panel in Colorado to identify values intended to guide policymakers and then develop specific policy recommendations for the future development of nanotechnology. It will also help conduct exploratory research aimed at assessing the implementation of federal policies on the societal dimensions of nanotechnology at local university lab settings. To read more about the project see this news item.

**Post submitted by Bobbie Klein

Posted on October 19, 2005 10:37 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Nanotechnology

October 17, 2005

CSPO/CNS Job Announcement

The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University (ASU) seeks to fill one or more open rank faculty positions in the general field of science, technology, and society, available for August 2006. CSPO is a dynamic interdisciplinary center that conducts research, cultivates public discourse, and fosters policies aimed at enhancing society's capacity to grapple with the immense power and importance of science and technology. CSPO is also the home of a newly awarded NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center/Center for Nanotechnology in Society. CSPO and ASU offer an innovative environment for developing and testing research and teaching ideas related to the governance and conduct of science and technology in the public interest. The focus of the recruitment is at the level of Assistant or Associate Professor, however, candidates for Full Professor will be considered. The successful candidate will teach graduate and undergraduate courses, do research and publish in areas of expertise, participate in university, professional and community service activities.

Qualified candidates will have Doctorate in a related area and demonstrated research and teaching interests at the intersection of scientific and technological advance, public policy, and social impacts, appropriate to rank; and evidence of performance in both research and teaching appropriate to rank. Particular areas of specialization are open but could include: societal aspects of nanotechnology, other emerging technologies (genomics; robotics; etc.), biomedicine and health, technology and democracy, research policy, information and/or communication technology, technology and development, globalization, etc. Disciplinary approaches are also open but could include political science, economics, anthropology, sociology, design, communication, history, law, and cultural studies. Experience with policy, public engagement, technology assessment, or other applied areas is a plus. Natural scientists and engineers with significant relevant policy research experience will also be considered. The appointment will be shared between CSPO and an appropriate academic unit at ASU. Salary and start-up package very competitive. For more information about CSPO, go to this site.

Review of applications will begin November 15, 2005 (no electronic applications accepted), if not filled every Friday thereafter until the search is closed. Submit: detailed letter of application stating qualifications, experience, research plans, and teaching interests; a complete, detailed curriculum vitae; and the names and addresses of three references, to David Guston, Chair, Search Committee, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, PO Box 874401, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4401. AA/EOE

NB: A background check is required for employment.

Posted on October 17, 2005 06:14 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Job Announcements

2006-07 UCSD Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Science Studies

The UCSD Science Studies Program invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship as part of an NSF Research and Training Grant in "Proof, Persuasion and Policy." We welcome candidates in any historical period and any field represented in our program (history, philosophy, sociology, communication) whose research is relevant to the theme of the grant, particularly those whose work falls in the area of disease and health. The fellow will participate in the Program's weekly colloquium, teach or co-teach one course, help organize a workshop at the end of the year, and contribute to the intellectual life and activities of the program. Applicants must have completed Ph.D. before beginning their fellowship. The stipend is $41,400, plus health and other fringe benefits. For information on the UCSD Science Studies Program, and the "Proof, Persuasion, and Policy" initiative, visit this site. UCSD is an AA/EOE. Scholars who are women, minorities, veterans, and/or people with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply. Applicants who are not United States citizens should state their immigration status at the time of their application. Please send a detailed letter of application, c.v., and placement file or three letters of reference, to Dawn Murphy, Science Studies Program, MC 0104, University of California-San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0104. Review of applications will begin January 1, 2006 and continue until the position is filled.

Posted on October 17, 2005 05:58 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Job Announcements

October 05, 2005

Revisiting Bob Palmer on Partisanship in Science Policy

Last April, recently-retired minority (Democratic) staff director for the House Science Committee gave an excellent talk here on the state of contemporary science policy. Recent commentary here suggests that Bob Palmer's views are worth revisiting. Here is an excerpt from a short essay Bob prepared for our spring newsletter,

"While debates about S&T policy have never been center-stage in Washington, its current corrosively partisan atmosphere has driven them further underground. Partisan science fights began in the late 1980's, when S&T became politicized in Congress as part of a broader strategy - ironically formulated by the aforementioned Newt Gingrich - to fight Democrats on everything, including science. The partisan fight over science policy - exemplified today in reports by Congressman Waxman and the Union of Concerned Scientists - did not start during this Administration. It has been bubbling in Congress for 15 years... Why should this increasingly partisan atmosphere matter to science, when it will continue to perk along nicely, buoyed by tens of billions of dollars of Federal funding? It matters because S&T are key to helping us understand and respond to global changes unprecedented in their speed and scope. We have the largest defense budgets and among the largest Federal deficits in history. We also have the challenge of terrorism and the threat of attacks on our own soil from weapons of mass destruction. Health care costs continue to spiral upward, threatening our small businesses and our future fiscal stability, despite massive expenditures on health research, which seem to exacerbate the cost problem. We face an increasingly competitive Asia, whose ability to challenge our manufacturing base, even our high-tech base - and before long our research and development base - seems limitless. None of these challenges will be solved by science, but they will all require the wise application of science. In the current environment, they may not even get serious consideration, because of a fixation upon partisan advantage and a political culture which makes it increasingly difficult to reach across party and ideological barriers."

Posted on October 5, 2005 06:53 AM View this article | Comments (51) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

October 04, 2005

Excess of Objectivity Revisited

Here's Dan's response to the entry below:

Author: Daniel Sarewitz

I thank Dylan Krider for his interesting comments. His point, I take it, is that one side (that is, his side) values science and truth, and the other side (that is, I take it, the current political regime) is simply a bunch of totally duplicitous greedheads who don't give a crap about anything except feathering their own beds while the rest of the world suffers.

The problem, though, is that even if you accept this view of things, the ultimate political questions still have little to do with science, and everything to do with what kind of world each side wants to live in. Science can help you know if your path to a goal makes sense or not; it cannot determine what the goal ought to be. The question is this: Are the Republicans in power because they distort the science and so nobody realizes that they're screwing up the world? (Who, one must wonder, is actually being fooled in this manner?) Or are they in power because they speak to a set of values that, for some reason, a majority of voters seems to find preferable to the alternative?

Mr. Krider's true objection, I take it, is that he doesn't like the values and goals of the current regime. I'm with him. But he makes this argument in terms of the regime's use of science. He thus seeks to substitute science for politics.

So this is exactly my point. Now is not the time to argue about who is misusing the science; it's the time to be clear about one's values. Until the Democrats figure this out they're going to remain the minority party.

Put somewhat differently, I'm sure Karl Rove would much prefer to have his regime attacked for misuse of science than for the values and interests that underlie its policy choices.

For more, see: http://www.cspo.org/ourlibrary/articles/EnvironControv.htm

Posted on October 4, 2005 10:05 AM View this article | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

Reader Comments

In responding to this entry yesterday, Dylan Otto Krider offered this thoughtful comment responding to Dan Sarewitz's piece, Excess of Objectivity. We'd like to encourage the discussion by bringing Dylan's comment and a response from Dan to a larger audience.

Author: Dylan Otto Krider has written on science related issues for the Houston Press, Dissent, and Skeptic.

I have read the Excess of Objectivity paper, and agree with it wholeheartedly - at least, I think I do, until I see it put into practice.

Quote: "[Science] can alert society to potential challenges and problems that lie ahead. In fact, the threat of stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, and global climate change were brought to public attention and political prominence in part through the work of scientists. But, once an environmental issue becomes politically contentious, the geological view of nature accepts that science itself can become an obstacle to action."

Well, no science can't alert society if we're still arguing about whether the Earth is going through a "cooling" period, or whether Satellite data shows no warming trend at all.

Does anthropogenic warming necessitate Kyoto? Is reducing CO2 a realistic goal? Is a warmer Earth necessarily "bad"? By arguing the science, as this essay points out, we are avoiding the values debate. I, too, want the debate on values - but we can't get there if you keep jumping on guys like Krugman every time he points out that think tanks have distorted where the science is on this issue. To move to the geologic view, we must first state unequivocally that anthropogenic warming is occurring, just as we must first state unequivocally that evolution is good science before we have a discussion on whether it should be taught in class.

Quote: "Because consensus already exists, action can be taken along lines that all parties can more or less agree on -- the problem of excess objectivity is at least partly allayed. Politics has been allowed to do its job, and science becomes a tool to help determine if implemented policies are working as intended and if progress is being made toward agreed upon political goals."

Okay, for the sake of argument, lets say we actually do shut down the distortions of scientific consens to the point where we do have the policy debate, and implement some policy to address whatever issue. Again, I agree with what the paper says, but how is science to be a tool to determine that policy is a success if we sink studies that contradict our policies? How can we determine that progress is being made if we have no way of reaching those conclusions objectively, or if reached objectively, have no way of getting them into the public sphere?

What good is a study that shows benzene causes cancer if one party is going to sink or rewrite the report and instead tout their API funded study that their internal documents have already shown will conclude that benzene is perfectly safe? - before the experiments have even been conducted. If we have no means of determining what is "good" and "bad" science, well, then, nothing is safe or unsafe. It is a matter of opinion, my science vs. your science, and everyone has some scientific study in their pocket.

This is the problem you're avoiding. If one side sees no value in science that finds environmental problems, or says a commodity is not safe, then how can we ever have this policy debate? What role does science play if one party sees science only as a potential liability that will prevent them from achieving their ends? Is it for the other party to become just as postmodern about science, and get as good at faking studies as API?

You are operating on the faith that the people in control value science. They don't. They value loyalty, yes, and research that can develop technology to be sold, but not science. We will never reach the geologic view because no amount of data will ever convince these guys humans effect the environment for ill, a product is unsafe or that the Earth wasn't created in seven days. We'll never be able to determine if a policy works because they'll never accept any science that contradicts their policy. So what place is there for science in such an environment? None. They'll embrace science if it backs them up, and will apply whatever pressure to distort or subvert any science that doesn't.

And you say same old, same old. Everyone does it. Everyone can pull out some particular fact to back them up. If that was what they were doing, I wouldn't be quite so bothered, but they aren't just cherry-picking facts, they're making them up. They're pulling them out of thin air. Spinning requires some recognition that there are facts to "spin" - what fact is being spun when reports that say regulations on military bases "increase" combat readiness are change to say "decreased"? That's not spin. It's out and out invention.

We have a choice: either accept that this is how you "play the game", and have both sides go tit-for-tat in a postmodern war of press releases, or we can proactively make the case that science matters, that done correctly, we can learn things about the world that will inform us, and say unequivocally that subverting or rewriting scientific studies is a bad idea.

Just because politics is unavoidable does not mean we ought to embrace conflicts of interests, and throw up our hands and bring in whatever pressures interests want to bring to bear on scientists to distort their findings.

Because if we don't convince people that it's important to have a functioning scientific community, then it's let the best press release win. If that's how it's going to be, then we might as well be fighting a values debate over whether eating cheese causes thunderstorms.

Posted on October 4, 2005 09:44 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

September 29, 2005

Stehr and von Storch on Climate Policy

Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch have collaborated on another brilliant essay on climate policy. (Longtime Prometheus readers will recall their earlier essay on the danagers of overselling climate science, here.) We are happy to provide an English translation of their most recent collaboration below, which first appeared in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 21 September 2005. Your comments are encouraged. Read the whole thing.

The Sluggishness of Politics and Nature

Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch

Even before 11 September 2001, the American Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - of which little good has been spoken in the past days - published a list of the three most probable catastrophes threatening the US: a terrorist attack on the city of New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a direct hit by a hurricane on the city of New Orleans. The Houston Chronicle asserted in that the hurricane is the deadliest danger. There are not many similar examples of accurate predictions. And yet there was a criminal lack of precautions taken in New Orleans.

The disastrous results of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and in the surrounding states are a perfect example of a failed climate policy. The failure, however, does not lie in the Bush administration's refusal to agree to the Kyoto Protocol, as German Environment Minister Trittin has claimed.

It simply makes no sense, after the catastrophic force of Hurricane Katrina, to resort to new superlatives and to claim that this extreme weather event is proof that the force and duration of tropical cyclones will increase in the future. The first order of business should not be to wonder whether Katrina is an indicator that anthropogenic global warming is the immediate cause of the devastation in New Orleans. We can do without these debates, or we can happily leave them in the hands of science.

Climate researchers should be asked, however: Assuming for a moment that the US, as well as China, Russia and India, were radically to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases to a hitherto quite improbable degree, when might we be able to discern the fruits of this climate policy, when will the consequences of hurricanes such as Katrina be less grave, and exactly how large will these lesser damages be? Interesting questions. For our society and for others, however, it is much more important to ask: How can we protect ourselves in the coming decades from extremes of weather like Hurricane Katrina, heat waves, floods and other extremes; and what should a climate policy that takes just this as its goal look like? And how is it that climate policy up to now, particularly in Germany, has been almost exclusively devoted to the reduction of greenhouse gases, and thus can only comment on catastrophes like the one that occurred in New Orleans with an air of smug superiority?

In answering this question, we first come face to face with several interesting characteristics shared by environmental, education and research policy alike.

The gains or losses in these policy areas are difficult to calculate; their successes and failures become apparent, if at all, only after decades; coming generations reap their rewards or suffer from their mistakes. The voters, reinforced and fostered by politics, have a short-term memory. They will only pay for what affects them at first hand.

Environmental policy, however, like the other two policy areas, is something whose effects, in many cases, are only apparent in the long term. Because this is the case, it is at the mercy of current events. Extreme weather events wash the topic of climate policy to the surface. And there is one more common characteristic: Environmental, research and education policy are crucial policy areas in terms of power. Anyone who can make a name for himself or herself in these areas assumes one of the better positions in the future economic and political pecking order. This is power, and power is what interests politics. How, then, do we find solutions in spite of these difficulties? Let us examine climate policy.

The consensus on climate change that has prevailed up to now and the policy measures that have been drawn from this consensus lead to a dead end. The alternative to this way of thinking is called adaptation. This entails political measures devoted - not exclusively, indeed, but certainly primarily - to the question of adapting to the expected climate changes.

What is the crucial difference? The present consensus on the cause of climate change always leads to one and the same result in terms of policy: reduce greenhouse gases, particularly emissions of carbon dioxide. CO2 is bad. This point is stressed incessantly. This mantra has little to do with the practical problem of protecting the environment and avoiding the dangerous results of environmental changes. It does explain, however, why the measures taken up to now have been so unsuccessful. They are strategies of moderation. The proper strategy, however, as New Orleans could hardly demonstrate more clearly, is one of adaptation.

Survival by adaptation means taking precautions by means of a multitude of concrete measures, with the goal of meeting past and expected weather extremes without massive damages in the future. The Dutch reaction to the devastating storm tide in a cold winter night in 1953 is exemplary. The Thames Barrier, which prevents flooding in London, England, is an obvious further example of the power of precautions.

Precautionary measures extend from the simplest provisions - where were the thousands of buses to evacuate poor, sick and old people from New Orleans before the storm hit? - to adaptive strategies effective in the long term; for instance, building codes, forbidding settlement in endangered areas, innovations such as intelligent dykes, the renaturalization of rivers, education and information campaigns regarding what to do in an emergency, etc.

Accommodation and precaution - in other word, adaptive measures - are essentially easier politically to enforce and to legitimize. And they have one enormous advantage compared to all strategies of moderation, whose success may (or may not) become apparent in the distant future: Adaptive processes have a relatively brief planning interval. When solutions to a problem must be found by means of innovations in science and technology, they can be produced much more easily if they are conceived as adaptive measures. The knowledge-based economy makes possible something that was long unimaginable: the reconciliation of ecological and economic aims. If, for example, the traditional objectives of entrepreneurial trade - that is, maximizing returns - are to be retained in the future, the resources of the old economy will be handled more sparingly, more efficiently and more productively. Accommodations will be made. The dynamic of social transformation has expanded, and so too have the opportunities to adapt to novelties and to dangers.

Adaptive strategies also allow several goals at once to be achieved more easily: improving quality of life, reducing social inequity and increasing political participation are not mutually exclusive. The risks and dangers associated with uncertainties - new technology, for instance - are fewer in the case of adaptive measures. Adaptive processes can become the motor of what we call sustainable management. Adaptation can lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases, because adaptation and moderation are not mutually exclusive. However: reduction does not necessarily lead to adaptation. Any form of sustainability is local.

We must learn to think in a new way. Nature is sluggish. The modest, politically enforceable forms of moderating greenhouse gases discussed up to now have hardly any influence on climate change, despite claims to the contrary. The reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases needed to "stop" climate change amounts to about 70 percent.

How such a reduction is to be achieved without ignoring the hopes and expectations of more than 80 percent of the world's population is not currently a topic of discussion. If these contradictions are resolved by stressing what is feasible, then it quickly becomes evident: the majority of politically realistic measures tend in any case to be adaptive strategies.

These strategies describe what is possible. One only has to consider the warnings that climate change will result in catastrophic famines and epidemics. In other words, it is health that is at stake here. But personal modes of behavior are much more crucial determinants of health than climatic conditions. And people can influence their own behavior more easily and sustainably than any attempt purposefully to change the global climate. Adaptation, then, means giving every individual the chance to be able to react to changes.

And yet: the fear of catastrophes, prompted by extreme weather events, is used to win public support for plans of moderation. This, however, is a very dubious strategy. In politically relevant timeframes, the measures of moderation propagated by science and sanctioned by policy have no effect on the probability and the force of extreme events. Thus it is imaginable that the public will rebel against the burdens imposed on it. The climatic dynamic demands politically enforceable adaptive strategies that will remain stable over much longer time periods. This degree of consistency can hardly be reached on the basis of fear of extreme events.

Paradoxically, the fact is: to the extent that our knowledge about the part human activity plays in global warming improves and expands, the opportunities in modern societies to negotiate sustainable and planned reductions of greenhouse gases actually diminish - to say nothing of the question of who should cover the costs and how the benefit should be divided.

Adaptation, by contrast, works. Precautionary and preventative measures are effective in preventing fatalities from heat, for example. While a tragedy occurred in Chicago in mid-July 1995, with more than 700 "heat deaths," in the same summer the so-called "hot weather health warning watch system" saved the lives of about 300 people in the city of Philadelphia. The occurrence of extremely high temperatures in Philadelphia in 1993 and 1994 prompted the development of an efficient warning system and social networks that benefited the elderly and other persons at risk. What does this mean? In reality, it was the isolation of elderly people in Chicago who did not know how to help themselves, or the poverty (and thus also: helplessness), which was much worse in this region ten years ago, that led to the high number of fatalities.

This is also the chief factor at the global scale: Anyone who battles poverty creates the basic conditions to ensure that climate change will not entail the catastrophes that politicians continue to invoke in promoting moderation. Adaptation means: disseminating knowledge nd creating new opportunities. Wherever people are completely at the mercy of changes, there will always be catastrophes - including those caused by climate change.

An environmental policy that has comprehended this would truly be of lasting effect. And enforceable. It would prevent another New Orleans from happening.

Professor Nico Stehr is Karl Mannheim Professor for Cultural Studies at Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen. Hans von Storch is a director of the Institute for Coastal Research, GKSS Research Center and a Professor of Meteorology at the University of Hamburg.

Posted on September 29, 2005 08:03 AM View this article | Comments (18) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

September 28, 2005

Meade on Disasters and Research

Charles Meade, from the Rand Corporation, had a thoughtful op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this week. Here is the full text, reprinted here with permission:

Get proactive with disasters

Charles Meade

Imagine if the Army's main strategy for protecting soldiers was to provide more ambulances, hospital beds, and doctors to treat the wounded - instead of relying on defensive measures such as fortifications, tanks, body armor and helmets to protect soldiers from being wounded in the first place.

The strategy of responding only after attacks instead of adequately preparing to defend against them sounds absurd. But it is exactly what the federal government, states and localities have done when it comes to protecting people from disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados and volcanoes.

Even if the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina had been far faster, bigger and better organized, the storm would inevitably have caused some death and severe property damage. But if more had been done earlier, New Orleans and other communities would have fared far better and many deaths would have been prevented.

In his Sept. 15 address from New Orleans, President Bush said: "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina." Emergency response was clearly improved during Hurricane Rita. But a strategy based primarily on responding to a disaster after it hits is a losing strategy. We are far better off taking action to reduce and prevent disaster damage before it occurs.

While we don't know exactly when and where these calamities will strike, we do know that hurricanes often hit communities along the Gulf of Mexico, tornados are common on the Great Plains, and earthquakes often take place in parts of California. This knowledge can enable us to take action.

Even before the 2004 hurricane season, natural disasters were costing the United States an average of about $300 million per week, as documented in a 2003 RAND Corporation report I prepared for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The number of natural disasters has clearly continued to rise in the last two years, but there has been only limited federal action to prevent these types of losses.

We should be able to use research to develop better policies that determine where homes, businesses and other structures can be constructed - and where new construction is a bad idea. We should also use research to decide what building standards new homes and businesses must meet to withstand the forces of nature. These steps can greatly reduce the need for massive evacuation, and emergency response and recovery operations like those seen in the cases of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A new national strategy to learn the lessons of Katrina and Rita about disaster preparation should do the following:

Focus scientific and technical efforts on reducing our vulnerability to disasters, changing the current emphasis on improving short-term weather forecasting. For example, as Katrina and Rita roared across the Gulf, they were extensively studied to predict landfall locations. But once the storms hit communities, there were virtually no measurements of wind force and direction near the ground. Such information could have been collected if instruments had been deployed ahead of time in areas likely to be hit by the storms. The information could be used to help develop better engineering and design standards.

Encourage tougher building codes requiring that new buildings be better able to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornados or other natural disasters. Such codes typically increase the initial costs of new construction, but they dramatically reduce future losses if disaster strikes.

Provide federal financial incentives that would prompt state and local governments and property owners to reduce disaster losses. Owners of homes and business could get federal tax breaks if they strengthened existing structures or paid higher construction costs to build safer homes and businesses.

We haven't seen measures like these because past policies and budgets have been reactive rather than proactive.

In the case of Katrina, this strategic failure proved extremely costly. Estimates are that the federal government could ultimately spend about $200 billion on recovery and rebuilding efforts. It would have been far cheaper to shore up levees in New Orleans, toughen building codes, change zoning laws, and take other actions that would have dramatically lowered the death and destruction.

In 1736, Benjamin Franklin famously stated that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If Franklin were alive today, he might say that "an ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of response." This is the most important lesson we can learn from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Charles Meade is a senior scientist with the Rand Corporation.

Posted on September 28, 2005 06:54 AM View this article | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Disasters

September 22, 2005

Correcting Pat Michaels

Posted by Roger A. Pielke, Jr. (RP) and Kerry Emanuel (KE)

In a column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Pat Michaels mischaracterizes the role of KE in a paper RP is lead author on forthcoming in BAMS (PDF). Michaels writes,

"A heavily cited paper, published recently in Nature by Kerry Emanuel, claims that hurricanes have doubled in power in the past half-century. It has been the basis for much of the association of Katrina with planetary warming. However, there are three manuscripts in review at Nature disputing this, as well as a recently published paper by Roger Pielke, Jr., in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, downplaying the notion. (As a measure of the acrimony among leading scientists on this subject, Emanuel removed his name as a co-author of this paper shortly before publication.)"

This is incorrect on two counts.

First, KE withdrew with no acrimony. Here is what the two of us jointly wrote on this a few weeks ago:

"The reason that KE decided to withdraw amicably from co-authorship had nothing to do with the paper's summary of research on the societal impacts of hurricanes, as implied here, but instead, a change in KE's views on the significance of global warming in observed and projected hurricane behavior. It is misleading to use KE's withdrawal to dismiss the entire paper. Here is how KE characterized his withdrawal to RP in an email:

"The awkward situation we find ourselves in is bound to occur when research is in rapid flux. Working with both data and models, I see a large global warming signal in hurricanes. But it remains for me to persuade you and other of my colleagues of this, and it is entirely reasonable for you all to be skeptical...it is, after all, very new. It is not surprising, therefore, that what I have come to believe is at odds with any reasonable consensus. The problem for me is that I cannot sign on to a paper which makes statements I no longer believe are true, even though the consensus is comfortable with them."

We remain close, collegial colleagues who are seeking to advance science by challenging each others ideas in the traditional fora of scientific discourse. We hope that the media will recognize that science is complex and legitimate, differing perspectives often co-exist simultaneously. This diversity of perspective is one feature that motivates the advancement of knowledge."

Second, the BAMS paper (PDF) does not "downplay" the relationship of hurricanes and global warming. The paper is an assessment of the authors' best judgments about what can and cannot be said about the relationship based on the peer-reviewed literature. Here is what the paper says about Emanuel (2005):

"Emanuel (2005) reports a very substantial upward trend in power dissipation (i.e., the sum over the lifetime of the storm of the maximum wind speed cubed) in the north Atlantic and western North Pacific, with a near doubling over the past 50 years. The precise causation for this trend is not yet clear. Moreover, in the North Atlantic, much of the recent upward trend in Atlantic storm frequency and intensity can be attributed to large multi-decadal fluctuations. Emanuel (2005) is just published as of this writing, and is certain to motivate a healthy and robust debate in the community."

There will be a place for debating and discussing Emanuel (2005) and its possible implications and that is in the peer reviewed literature.

September 03, 2005

Correction of Errors in Fortune Story

Post co-authored by Roger Pielke, Jr. (RP) and Kerry Emanuel (KE)
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Over this past week as the horrific disaster along the Gulf coast has developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we have both been quoted extensively in the media based on our various work on hurricanes. For the most part the reporting of our views has been accurate and responsible. With this short post, we'd like to correct some significant mischaracterizations and errors in a Fortune news story. We address them below.

1. The Fortune story states, "But Emanuel and other experts have warned for over a decade that global warming may be creating an environment prone to more violent storms, droughts and other weather extremes ... " This may be true of "other experts" but it is not an accurate characterization of KE's statements over the past decade.

2. The Fortune story states, "A forthcoming paper co-authored by University of Colorado researcher Roger Pielke Jr. argues that by 2050, hurricane losses due to both coastal population growth and the rising value of coastal property will be 22 to 60 times greater than those that are potentially caused by global warming's effects. Ironically, MIT's Professor Emanuel was a co-author of that paper. But after compiling the startling data on intensifying hurricanes, he says, "I changed my mind" and struck his name from the authors' list."

The reason that KE decided to withdraw amicably from co-authorship had nothing to do with the paper's summary of research on the societal impacts of hurricanes, as implied here, but instead, a change in KE's views on the significance of global warming in observed and projected hurricane behavior. It is misleading to use KE's withdraw to dismiss the entire paper. Here is how KE characterized his withdrawal to RP in an email:

"The awkward situation we find ourselves in is bound to occur when research is in rapid flux. Working with both data and models, I see a large global warming signal in hurricanes. But it remains for me to persuade you and other of my colleagues of this, and it is entirely reasonable for you all to be skeptical...it is, after all, very new. It is not surprising, therefore, that what I have come to believe is at odds with any reasonable consensus. The problem for me is that I cannot sign on to a paper which makes statements I no longer believe are true, even though the consensus is comfortable with them."

We remain close, collegial colleagues who are seeking to advance science by challenging each others ideas in the traditional fora of scientific discourse. We hope that the media will recognize that science is complex and legitimate, differing perspectives often co-exist simultaneously. This diversity of perspective is one feature that motivates the advancement of knowledge.

3. The Fortune story states, "Emanuel found that since 1949, the average peak wind speeds of hurricanes over the North Atlantic and the western and eastern North Pacific has increased by a whopping 50%... Meanwhile the duration of the storms, in terms of the total number of days they lasted on an annual basis, rose by roughly 60%." This is a mischaracterization of the recent research conducted by KE, which instead found an increase in the power dissipation of hurricanes, an integrated measure of peak wind speeds and storm duration; it is the cube of the wind speed that has increased by about 50%, not the wind speed itself.

4. Finally, the story misuses the term "hypercanes" which refers to theoretical research conducted by KE and colleagues in the mid-1990s. The term has nothing to do with the present or near-term future. Hypercanes require ocean temperatures of at least 50 C and may have formed shortly after collisions of large extraterrestrial bodies, such as asteroids, with the earth; they will not arise as a consequence of global warming.

Posted on September 3, 2005 09:23 AM View this article | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Environment

August 16, 2005

Finding God in Science

Tom Yulsman writes:

Is evolution compatible with religion?

People on opposite ends of the spectrum in the debate have shown in recent weeks that they do manage to agree on one thing: that the answer is ‘no.’ They frame the debate in black and white terms, leaving no room for nuance and ambiguity. In doing so, they pit religion implacably against science itself, harming both.

On one side of the debate stand proponents of intelligent design, most notably at the Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute. They say they do not reject evolution outright, just the idea that evolution of complex biological structures can happen without intervention by an intelligent designer.

In other words, evolution and religion are perfectly compatible — as long as modern evolutionary biology is rejected and replaced by a religious concept.

The center isn’t really all that shy about making this point, as its now infamous paper called the “The Wedge Strategy” shows. Published in 1999, the document plots a political strategy to replace what it calls the “scientific materialism” of traditional evolutionary biology with a “broadly theistic” worldview. The Wedge Strategy establishes a dichotomy between materialism, which it says has “infected virtually every area of our culture,” and what it describes as “one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built,” namely that human beings are created in the image of God.

“Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.”

The document describes a litany of horrors resulting from this infection, including the erosion of “objective moral standards,” the undermining of “personal responsibility”, and “a virulent strain of utopianism.”

Focusing on intelligent design, the Wedge Document states that it promises to replace the materialist worldview, as exemplified by evolutionary biology, “with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” (Emphasis added.)

Let’s put aside the obvious conclusion that the so-called “science” pursued by the institute is motivated not by a desire to seek the truth about nature but by a pre-determined political and Christian religious agenda, invalidating all claims to scientific legitimacy. The central point here is that evolutionary biology, as it is currently accepted by the vast majority of scientists, simply is not consonant with Christian convictions.

What’s so interesting is that polemicists on the opposite end of the political spectrum agree.

As Jacob Weisberg wrote in Slate recently, “That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument.” Claiming that evolution “destroyed the faith of Darwin himself” (a gross oversimplification see: here), Weisberg goes on to say that “the acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to the question of how we got here than religion does. Not a different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence.”

Both Weisberg and his intellectual opponents in the intelligent design community are objectively wrong when they claim incompatibility between evolution and religion. To borrow a turn of phrase from Weisberg, that millions of Christians and Jews, including many scientists, believe both in God and traditional evolutionary biology, seems almost too obvious to require argument. And they suffer neither from utopian fantasies and moral degradation, nor from a diminution of their spiritual feelings and belief in God.

Owen Gingerich is one of many prominent examples of scientists who manage to hold their religious beliefs in harmony with their science. A Christian and a research professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard, he told this to NPR recently: “I believe in intelligent design, lower case I and D. And I do have a problem with intelligent design, capital I and capital D, because it's being sold as a political movement, as if somehow it's an alternative to Darwinian evolution.”

Concerning his religious belief, Gingerich says, “When we talk about the concept of God, it is such an infinity it's not really possible for us to wrap ourselves around it and come to terms with precisely what we mean. It's not a father figure sitting up there with the big `on' button and pushing it and the big bang happens.”

Contrary to what Weisberg argues, Gingerich believes that science and religion give different answers about existence. Science is like looking at music written out on a page, Gingerich says. “If you see it on the page, you can analyze all of the notes in great detail, but you won't hear the melody, you won't understand its aesthetic appeal. Without a capital I and a capital D, I am saying that I believe there is purpose and meaning in the universe, that it's not all just a macabre mechanical joke.”

Sir John Polkinghorne:, a theoretical physicist turned Anglican priest sees things similarly: “The fact that we now know that the universe did not spring into being ready made a few thousand years ago but that it has evolved over a period of fifteen billion years from its fiery origin in the Big Bang, does not abolish Christian talk of the world as God's creation, but it certainly modifies certain aspects of that discourse,” he writes.

Polkinghorne seems to be completely comfortable with biological evolution: “Mutations occur through happenstance,” he says. “That produces some new possibility for life, which is then sifted and preserved in the lawfully regular environment which is necessary for the operation of natural selection.”

Science, he says, reveals this duality of existence — chance, which makes all manner of things possible, and necessity, which arises from the fundamental laws of nature. “In every stage of the fruitful history of the universe there is an interplay between chance and necessity. Now, the question is, ‘What do we make of that?’”

Not that blind, stupid chance alone is important. Or that we live in the numbingly mechanical world of biblical literalists. “I believe that the Christian God, who is both loving and faithful, has given to his creation the twin gifts of independence and reliability, which find their reflection in the fruitful process of the universe through the interplay between happenstance and regularity, between chance and necessity.”

Polkinghorne clearly believes in an intelligent designer, but one who operates through traditional evolutionary processes: “To acknowledge a role for tame chance is not in the least to deny the possibility that there is a divinely ordained general direction in which the process of the world is moving, however contingent detailed aspects of that progression (such as the number of human toes) might be.”

Those on the left, like Weisberg, who insist that religion ultimately is incompatible with evolution, seem to have a laughingly naïve view of what belief in God must entail: Not Polkinghorne and Gingerich’s God but a bearded white guy sitting atop a cloud and throwing thunderbolts at us. It goes without saying that the bible anthropomorphizes God, and many Christians and Jews certainly do take it all literally. But in more sophisticated religious conceptions, both Christian and Jewish — including my own Jewish tradition — anthropomorphic descriptions of God are mere metaphors for something beyond real knowing in any kind of literal human terms. In fact, spiritual feeling for many people, myself included, is motivated in part by the realization that everything in this amazing cosmos rests on simple, elegant laws stemming from a singular, ultimately ineffable source.

Grist contributor Dave Roberts argues that it was science that forced God to "retreat" to what he derisively calls this “level of abstraction.” But this just isn’t true. Countless generations of rebbes and devout Jews have been motivated in their spiritual practice by the realization that everything is a harmonious manifestation of what is described in Judaism's central prayer simply as “The One.” In its own way, the prayer anticipates modern cosmology.

Stephen Hawking once wrote that probing the most fundamental mathematical order of nature was like “glimpsing the mind of God.” And it was Einstein who said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.” No Bearded One for him. And certainly this is not Polkinghorne’s God. But neither did the “abstraction,” if it must be called that, diminish Einstein’s deep reverence. Einstein himself described this reverence as "cosmic religious feeling," and he said it was motivated by a “spirit manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

Another example of a scientist with a spiritual side to his scientific worldview is Joel Primack, a cosmologist who co-developed the 'cold dark matter' theory. He writes of a “sacred dimension to science.” And he once described the ripples observed in the cosmic microwave background radiation – the literal afterglow of the big bang itself — as the “handwriting of God.” These ripples are theorized to have given rise to all of the structure seen in today's universe (with a little help from some cold dark matter...). Primack writes, “When we interpret the ripples in the cosmic background radiation, we are reading God’s journal of the first days. What human action could be more sacred than that?”

There is no denying that an alarmingly large percentage of the population believes the Earth is some 6,000 years old, and that human beings and dinosaurs walked the Earth together. But it does not help the cause of enlightenment to be so anti-religious as to deny that science and deep religious feeling can not only coexist but flourish together.

Posted on August 16, 2005 08:03 AM View this article | Comments (47) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

July 18, 2005

Letter from Boehlert to Barton

July 14, 2005

The Honorable Joe Barton
Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing to express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation you have launched concerning Dr. Michael Mann, his co-authors and sponsors.

First, your Committee lacks jurisdiction over this matter. Both the National Science Foundation and climate change research are under the purview of the House Committee on Science. This is in no way my central concern about your investigation, but I raise it at the outset because it may have legal implications as you proceed. Jurisdiction is also relevant because the insensitivity toward the workings of science demonstrated in your investigative letters may reflect your Committee?'s inexperience in the areas you are investigating.

My primary concern about your investigation is that its purpose seems to be to intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to substitute Congressional political review for scientific peer review. This would be pernicious.

It is certainly appropriate for Congress to try to understand scientific disputes that impinge on public policy. There are many ways for us to do that, including hearings with a balanced set of witnesses, briefings with scientists, and requests for reviews by the National Academy of Sciences or other experts.

But you have taken a decidedly different approach - one that breaks with precedent and raises the specter of politicians opening investigations against any scientist who reaches a conclusion that makes the political elite uncomfortable.

Rather than bringing Dr. Mann and his antagonists together in a public forum to explain their differences, you have sent an investigative letter to Dr. Mann and his colleagues that raises charges that the scientific community has put to rest, and ask for detailed scientific explanations that your Committee undoubtedly lacks the expertise to review.

This is utterly unnecessary given that Dr. Mann's articles have prompted a spirited and appropriate (and often technically complex) debate in the scientific community that has played out in readily available journals. Moreover, the only charge that has been leveled against Dr. Mann that might prompt Congressional notice - that he was refusing to share data - has been soundly rejected by the National Science Foundation, and those who continue to raise the charge are well aware of that.

Therefore, one has to conclude that there is no legitimate reason for your investigation. The investigation is not needed to gain access to data. The investigation is not needed to get balanced information on a scientific debate. The investigation is not needed to prompt scientific discussion of an important issue.

The only conceivable explanation for the investigation is to attempt to intimidate a prominent scientist and to have Congress put its thumbs on the scales of a scientific debate. This is at best foolhardy; when it comes to scientific debates, Congress is "all thumbs."

The precedent your investigation sets is truly chilling. Are scientists now supposed to look over their shoulders to determine if their conclusions might prompt a Congressional inquiry no matter how legitimate their work? If Congress wants public policy to be informed by scientific research, then it has to allow that research to operate outside the political realm. Your inquiry seeks to erase that line between science and politics.

There are numerous scientific debates ongoing about climate change. Data and conclusions get challenged all the time. Are we going to launch biased investigations each time a difference appears in the literature?

I hope you will reconsider the investigation you have launched and allow the scientific community to debate its work as it always has. Seeking scientific truth is too important to be impeded by political expediency. That's a position that Members on all sides of the climate change debate should share.

Sincerely,

SHERWOOD BOEHLERT
Chairman

Posted on July 18, 2005 07:41 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

July 12, 2005

Summary of von Storch Talk

The following is a summary of the July 8 Hans von Storch talk and panel discussion, by Erika Engelhaupt, Nat Logar, and Marilyn Averill.
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Hans von Storch presented an analysis of climate reconstruction and climate science politicization titled “Hockeysticks and the sustainability of climate science” at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Friday, July 8. Dr. von Storch discussed both scientific and political implications of the well-known “hockey stick”, the name given to a reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperature over the past 1,000 years by Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues R.S. Bradley and M.K. Hughes , which displays a long period of relatively stable temperature over most of the past millennium (forming the handle of the hockey stick) followed by an abrupt rise in temperature over the past century (the business end of the hockey stick). The hockey stick was made famous in Mann et al’s 1998 paper in Nature and was featured prominently in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers (TAR, 2001). Since then, the hockey stick has sparked significant controversy among climate scientists and policy makers as an important piece of the case for unprecedented 20th century warming. Dr. von Storch presented a critique of the Mann “hockey stick” curve, and then used his comparative modeling findings to ask more subjective questions about the nature of the scientific enterprise in general and of climate science in particular. A panel of respondents provided comments following his talk.

First, von Storch discussed his work with Eduardo Zorita and others, published in 2004 in Science, on a millennial-scale climate simulation that tested the methods used in constructing Mann’s model. The authors asked whether the hockey stick model is reliable in reconstructing low-frequency variability. In essence, the magnitude of this variability helps determine how dramatic that rise in the past century looks relative to the 900 years before it. Dr. von Storch emphasized that his work represents a critique of Mann’s methods, not of his results. A millennial run with von Storch’s model generates temperature variations considerably larger than Mann’s reconstruction, but similar to some other models (giving a fatter stick, though still showing increased temperatures in the 20th century). For full details, see the paper here (for those with access to Science). Critics have complained that von Storch’s curve may be no more accurate than the hockey stick, but von Storch was quick to point out that his message is not that his curve is the truth and Mann’s is not, but instead says that his curve “could be the truth” and that Mann’s methodology did not stand up to verification. Thus, von Storch says, “Do not believe advanced complex methods when they are advanced as magic bullets.”

The second part of von Storch’s lecture concerned politicization in the field of climate science, with the goal of organizing the science in a more sustainable manner. von Storch began by contrasting the traditional, truth-based perception of science with a climate science that has higher stakes, is more closely intertwined with practical considerations, and that has increased incentives for people to pursue motives other than truth. He then presented evidence of the political nature of climate issues, and of the way this has affected both the science and what is said about the science. Dr. von Storch presented examples in the form of a statement by renewable energy advocates that “Global warming is a more insidious and longer-term danger than Hitlerism”, along with concerns that the House of Lords have about the IPCC’s objectivity, and the letters sent by U.S. Representative Barton to MBH, the IPCC, and the NSF. For more of von Storch’s commentary on the Barton letters, see the Prometheus entry , “Hans von Storch on Barton”. von Storch was attempting to draw attention to “ongoing slight exaggeration [which] results in the formation of significant misinformation in the public realm.” He warns climate scientists that this overselling of scientific results is unsustainable in that it damages the social institution of science, as members of the public perceive that climate scientists have an agenda, whether true or not.

The hockey stick, according to von Storch, has become a symbol so central to the climate change debate that it cannot be challenged without undermining other aspects of climate science. He argued that the climate debate is constrained by a concern for “evil” skeptics, hopes for a successful Kyoto process, the putative infallibility of the IPCC, the idea that any theoretical failure threatens the authority of climate science in general, and the fact that many reject any statement supporting the climate change skeptics. Such constraints undermine climate science in particular, but also damage the social institution of science by eroding trust. Dr. von Storch called for more counseling from the social sciences, a decrease in the power of alarmists, and the engagement of climate skeptics in constructive dialogue.

The talk was followed by a panel discussion with von Storch, several NCAR climate scientists and modelers, and Roger Pielke, Jr. from the Center for Science and Technology Policy. The audience prompted a lively discussion of climate science and its role in policy. In opening statements, Warren Washington (NCAR) expressed faith in the iterative nature of science by contending that science is always helped by controversy, as scientists sort out the truth by finding and fixing flaws in the data. Washington said that if Mann et al. produced a flawed paper, they should admit it and science will move forward. Caspar Ammann (NCAR) discussed his own climate reconstruction work; Ammann has found similar results to von Storch, but with a smaller difference from MBH. Roger Pielke, Jr. spoke about the role of the hockey stick as a condensational symbol, one which evokes emotions and represents more than is held in its data (more here. Doug Nychka (NCAR) pointed out that it is human nature to want a single estimate of something, and we therefore tend to pay attention to the mean and ignore the variability around it. For example, Nychka said that the “hockey stick” refers to a single line, but the grey fuzz around it is the important part, which the IPCC tends to ignore. Others in the audience said that in the case of the hockey stick, the scientific process is working correctly, with continual refinement of models and new ideas. As one audience member noted, even Dr. Mann has moved on to refined techniques that don’t underestimate low-frequency variability as much as his 1998 model did. Dr. von Storch summarized by stating that the inner workings of science are functioning well, but that climate scientists need to think about how to interact with the public and policy in a way that benefits all.

Posted on July 12, 2005 12:04 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

July 08, 2005

Hans von Storch on Barton

Guest posting by Hans von Storch

My reaction to Rep. Barton's requests is split. In his five letters, he is asking for information from two different groups, namely institutions with reviewing responsibilities (IPCC, NSF) and individuals with scientific responsibilities (M, B and H). I find his inquiry of the performance of the institutions IPCC and NSF valid, but the interrogative questioning of the individual scientists is inadequate.

a) Scientists. The scientists have the task to be innovative, creative, to try new avenues of analysis and the like. They have the right to err, the right to suggest explanations and interpretations which may need to be revised at a later time. They should document what they have done, so that others can replicate.

However, this documentation often can not take the form of keeping runnable old codes of the applied algorithms, simply because the software is no longer consistent with quickly replaced hardware. For instance, most of the state-of-the-art coupled AOGCMs used in the mid 1990s are simply no longer available and running at, for instance, the German Climate Computer Center. After replacing a high performance computer with a new system, the standard model codes, including community models, need to be adapted to the requirements and possibilities of the new system, and the old code will often no longer run. This has nothing to do with the norms of the community but simply with technological progress. Also specific commercial libraries of specialized algorithms may no longer be accessible. Data and codes written on old magnetic tapes or even floppies are usually no longer readable.

Therefore the documentation must take the form of a mathematical description of the algorithms used. This is in many if not most cases sufficient for replication. Also, the intention of replicability is not to exactly redo somebody's simulation and analysis, but to find the same result with a similar code and different but statistical equivalent samples. The problem is usually not that the codes contain errors (even if many of the more complex ones likely contain minor, mostly insignificant errors), but that specific elements of implementation and specific aspects of the considered sample of evidence will lead to conclusions, which do not hold if another sample is considered or a different but equally good algorithm is employed. The reason is that we want to learn about the dynamics of the real world, and these insights should not depend on random choices in sampling and implementation. We generally do not expect scientists to manufacture results, or that unintended but significant errors will affect the eventually published conclusions.

Having this situation in mind, I consider Rep. Barton's requests to the three scientists as inadequate and out-of-scale. However, the language used by Rep. Barton makes me perceiving this request as aggressive and on the verge of threatening.

The situation is different with the second groups of recipients, the:

b) "Reviewers". Reviewers have a different role, namely they shall make sure that the standards of scientific reporting are held up. They have to ensure that the proposed explanations are considered by independent experts as to whether the presented analysis seems valid and in principle reproducible. "Independent" means that the reviewers have no vested interests for or against the case presented. In the conventional set-up these interests usually refer to academic schools of thought, but in the unfortunate, post-normal case of climate science independence from the political utility of the case should be established.

In this case, I find the inquiry of Rep. Barton to be valid. The IPCC has failed to ensure that the assessment reports, which shall review the existing published knowledge and knowledge claims, should have been prepared by scientists not significantly involved in the research themselves. Instead, the IPCC has chosen to invite scientists, who dominate the debate about the considered issues, to participate in the assessment. This was already in the Second Assessment Report a contested problem, and the IPCC would have done better in inviting other, considerably more independent scientists for this task. Instead, the IPCC has asked scientists like Professor Mann to review his own work. This does not represent an "independent" review.

The NSF seems to have failed to ensure that sufficient information is provided about work done under its auspices.

Rep. Barton should also have asked the editors of "Nature", why the original manuscript was accepted for publication even though the key aspect of replicability was obviously not met by the MBH manuscript. Actually, MBH could not meet this condition because of the strict length limitation of that journal (nowadays one would ask for extensive Supplementary Online Material). One should ask why the manuscript was accepted nevertheless - and not, as in many other cases, the manuscript was recommended to be published in a "normal" journal without the severe length limitations. I believe the reasons for Nature were the journalistic reasons - namely the expected broad interest in the subject. One should also ask why after the critique von McIntyre and McKitrik only MBH got the opportunity for a correction of his paper, whereas the short manuscript of their opponents was rejected.

To conclude - the requests to M, B and H are not fair but may unfortunately lead to a repressive atmosphere within climate science; the requests to NSF and the IPCC, however, are appropriate, as these institutions may have failed in a primary task, namely to guarantee an open scientific discourse. And, Rep. Barton should have included the editors of Nature in his analysis.

Posted on July 8, 2005 12:02 AM View this article | Comments (22) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

June 09, 2005

Andy Revkin Responds

[Note- This comment received by email from Andy Revkin, in response to a "heads up" from me, is posted with his permission (granted in a subsequent email to the one below). It is a response to my critique of his story in yesterday's NYT - RP]

"Actually I kind of like it!

You do realize, though, that the norms of journalism still require me to cover something like this, right?

Sadly, the White House is so hermetically sealed on such matters that it has essentially created such stories by making scraps of tea-leaf-like information noteworthy.

Piltz is far less significant than the documents themselves. And while the edits are subtle, as I explained, they create a different tone than the one that was there before. And tone does matter in policy debates, doesn't it?

Also, i interviewed some members of the NRC review panel and they were none too happy to see how the report they assessed was 'pre-spun' to heighten uncertainties. even the most careful reviewer would be apt to read thru some of these changes and never realize the overall pattern created in the document.

Every White House edits reports. No brainer. But shouldn't the characterization of the state of science be assessed by those in the White House with scientific background, i.e, OSTP? Why an ex-oil lobbyist with an economics bachelor's degree?

As for Our Changing Planet 2004-5, same deal. This admin, whether by inattention or on purpose, can't seem to get its story straight on the science of climate change, in part, perhaps, because it's petrified of crossing that next bar and accepting there is a human influence (even though you seem to think they'd have more strategies to fall back on to avoid co2 curbs).

I might consider letting you post this."

May 13, 2005

Letter in Science

I've got a letter in Science this week on Oreskes/consensus. Naomi has a response. I've reproduced both in full below:

Consensus About Climate Change?

In her essay "The scientific consensus on climate change" (3 Dec. 2004, p. 1686), N. Oreskes asserts that the consensus reflected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) appears to reflect, well, a consensus. Although Oreskes found unanimity in the 928 articles with key words "global climate change," we should not be surprised if a broader review were to find conclusions at odds with the IPCC consensus, as "consensus" does not mean uniformity of perspective. In the discussion motivated by Oreskes' Essay, I have seen one claim made that there are more than 11,000 articles on "climate change" in the ISI database and suggestions that about 10% somehow contradict the IPCC consensus position.

But so what? If that number is 1% or 40%, it does not make any difference whatsoever from the standpoint of policy action. Of course, one has to be careful, because people tend to read into the phrase "policy action" a particular course of action that they themselves advocate. But in the IPCC, one can find statements to use in arguing for or against support of the Kyoto Protocol. The same is true for any other specific course of policy action on climate change. The IPCC maintains that its assessments do not advocate any single course of action.

So in addition to arguing about the science of climate change as a proxy for political debate on climate policy, we now can add arguments about the notion of consensus itself. These proxy debates are both a distraction from progress on climate change and a reflection of the tendency of all involved to politicize climate science. The actions that we take on climate change should be robust to (i) the diversity of scientific perspectives, and thus also to (ii) the diversity of perspectives of the nature of the consensus. A consensus is a measure of a central tendency and, as such, it necessarily has a distribution of perspectives around that central measure (1). On climate change, almost all of this distribution is well within the bounds of legitimate scientific debate and reflected within the full text of the IPCC reports. Our policies should not be optimized to reflect a single measure of the central tendency or, worse yet, caricatures of that measure, but instead they should be robust enough to accommodate the distribution of perspectives around that central measure, thus providing a buffer against the possibility that we might learn more in the future (2).

Roger A. Pielke Jr.
Center for Science and Technology Policy Research
University of Colorado
UCB 488
Boulder, CO 80309-0488, USA

References

1. D. Bray, H. von Storch, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 80, 439 (1999).
2. R. Lempert, M. Schlesinger, Clim. Change 45, 387 (2000).

Response
Pielke suggests that I claimed that there are no papers in the climate literature that disagree with the consensus. Not so. I simply presented the research result that a sample based on the keywords "global climate change" did not reveal any, suggesting that the existing scientific dissent has been greatly exaggerated and confirming that the statements and reports of leading scientific organizations--including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences--accurately reflect the evidence presented in the scientific literature.

Pielke is quite right that understanding the results of scientific research does not implicate us in any particular course of action, and the purpose of my Essay was not to advocate either for or against the Kyoto accords or any other particular policy response. A full debate on the moral, social, political, ethical, and economic ramifications of possible responses to climate change--as well as the ramifications of inaction--would be a very good thing. But such a debate is impeded by climate-change deniers. In this respect, I am in complete agreement with Pielke's conclusion, which was precisely the point of my Essay: Proxy debates about scientific uncertainty are a distraction from the real issue, which is how best to respond to the range of likely outcomes of global warming and how to maximize our ability to learn about the world we live in so as to be able to respond efficaciously. Denying science advances neither of those goals.

Naomi Oreskes
Department of History and Science Studies Program
University of California at San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

February 07, 2005

A Climate of Staged Angst

Author: Hans Von Storch and Nico Stehr in Der Speigel

The following essay by Hans Von Storch and Nico Stehr was originally published in Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, on 24 January 2005. We are providing an English translation with the permission of the authors and Der Speigel.

The days are gone when climate researchers sat in their ivory towers packed to the rafters with supercomputers. Nowadays their field has become the stuff of thrillers, and they themselves have risen to take on the leading roles. The topic is so hotly contested, the prognoses so spectacular, that they are no longer merely the subject of media reports; now the specialists in staged apocalypse have moved in. Last year Roland Emmerich depicted a climatic collapse provoked by humankind in his film "The Day After Tomorrow." Since last week the belletristic counterpart has been available in German bookstores: the novel "State of Fear," by the best-selling author Michael Crichton.

The thriller is about the violent conflict between sober environmental realists and radical environmental idealists. For the idealists, the organized fear of abrupt climate change serves as a handy weapon. They interpret every somehow unusual weather event as proof of anthropogenic global warming. "You have to structure your information so that it's always confirmed, no matter what kind of weather we have," the P.R. consultant for the environmentalist organization advises. The realists, who protest that the evidence that human activity has increased meteorological extremes is thin, are fighting a losing battle. Their dry scientific arguments are unable to gain any ground against the colorful, horrific visions of the climate idealists.

Film and novel have certain aspects in common. Where Emmerich holds out the prospect of a threatening climate catastrophe, the book prophesies an economic collapse. In both cases, greenhouse gases produced by humankind are the culprit - in the film, because the emissions themselves are too much; in the book, because the fear of them is. The idealists are so obsessed with their mission that ultimately, in order to rouse the public, they themselves bring about the foretold catastrophes.

Despite a good deal of factually untrue - and thus all the more striking - compression, Crichton has quite correctly observed the dynamic of the paths of communication among scientists, environmentalist organizations, the state and the civilian population. For there is indeed a serious problem for the natural sciences: namely, the public depiction and perception of climate change. Research has landed in a crisis because its public actors assert themselves on the saturated market of discussion by overselling the topic.

Climate change of man-made origin is an important subject. But is it truly the "most important problem on the planet," as an American senator claims? Are world peace, or the conquest of poverty, not similarly daunting challenges? And what about population growth, demographic change or quite normal natural disasters?

In the U.S., only a very few remain interested in the greenhouse effect. At the end of the 1980s, the situation was still different. That was the era of the great drought of 1988, the Mississippi flood of 1993, and the climate capers ought by rights to have taken off in earnest from that point. But that never happened in the U.S., and interest petered out. According to a survey by the CBS television network in May 2003, environmental problems were no longer ranked among the six most important subjects; and even within environmental problems, the topic of climate came in only in seventh place. In Germany, so far, things are still seen differently. But for how much longer?

In order to keep the topic of "climate catastrophe" - a concept nonexistent outside the German-speaking world, by the way - continually in the public eye, the media feel obligated, exactly like the protagonists in Crichton's thriller, to keep framing the topic "a bit more attractively." At the beginning of the 1990s - severe hurricanes had just swept through the country - one could read and hear in the German media that storms were due to become ever more severe. Since then, storms have become rarer in northern Europe. But no notice is taken of this. The fact that barometric fluctuations in Stockholm have shown no systematic change in the frequency and severity of storms since Napoleon's time is passed over in silence. Instead, there is now talk of heat waves and floods. Very much in the style of Crichton's instigators of fear, the story is now that all manner of extreme events are on the increase. Thus even drought in Brandenburg and deluge on the Oder fit the picture without apparent contradiction.

Add to this - besides normal floods and storms - other, more dramatically threatening, scenarios: the reversal of the Gulf Stream and the resultant cooling of large areas of Europe, for instance, or even the rapid melting of the Greenland ice pack. The question has already been publicly raised whether perhaps even the Asian tsunami can be attributed to the disastrous effects of human activity.

This will not be able to hold the public's attention for long. Soon people will have become accustomed to these warnings, and will return to the topics of the day: unemployment and Hartz IV, Turkey's entry to the E.U. or whether Borussia Dortmund can avert disaster on the soccer field and in the boardroom. Thus we will see firsthand how the prophets of doom will draw the climatic dangers in even more garish colours. The terrifying visions to haunt the future can already be guessed at: the breakup of the west Antarctic shelf ice, which will cause the water level to rise much more rapidly, and after a few decades of uncontrolled carbon dioxide emissions, an abrupt rise in temperatures, giving us a deadly atmosphere like that of Venus. Prospects such as these have long been in the public eye; can they not compete effortlessly with Emmerich's Hollywood images?

The costs of stirring up fear are high. It sacrifices the otherwise so highly valued principle of sustainability. A scarce resource - public attention and trust in the reliability of science - is used up without being renewed by the practice of positive examples.

But what do climate researchers themselves think, how do they deal with the media and the population?

Public statements by noted German climate researchers give the impression that the scientific bases of the climate problem have essentially been solved. Thus science has provided the prerequisites for us now to react appropriately to the goal; meaning, in this case, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible.

This does not at all reflect the situation in the scientific community. A considerable number of climatologists are still by no means convinced that the fundamental questions have been adequately dealt with. Thus, in the last year a survey among climate researchers throughout the world found that a quarter of the respondents still harbor doubts about the human origin of the most recent climatic changes.

The majority of researchers are indeed of the opinion that global climate change caused by human activity is occurring, that it will accelerate in the future, and that it will thus become more readily apparent. This change will be accompanied by warmer temperatures and a higher water level. In the more distant future, that is, in about 100 years, a considerable increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases is foreseen, together with an increase in precipitation in our latitudes; in some regions there could be more powerful storms, in others weaker ones.

But again and again, there are scientists to whom, true to the alarmists' maxim in Crichton's book, this does not sound dramatic enough. Thus, more and more often they connect current extreme weather events with anthropogenic climate change. To be sure, this is usually carefully formulated; interviews sound something like this: "Is the flooding of the Elbe, the hurricane in Florida, this year's mild winter evidence for the climate catastrophe?" Answer: "That's scientifically unproven. But many people see it that way." Neither of these statements is false. In combination, however, they suggest the conclusion: Of course these weather events are evidence. Only no one dares to say this explicitly either.

The pattern is always the same: the significance of individual events is processed to suit the media and cleverly dramatized; when prognoses for the future are cited, among all the possible scenarios it is regularly the one with the highest rates of increase in greenhouse gas emissions - and thus with the most drastic climatic consequences - that is chosen; equally plausible variations with significantly lower emission increases go unmentioned.

Whom does this serve? It is assumed that fear can motivate listeners, but it is forgotten that it mobilizes them only in the short term. Climatic changes, however, demand long-term reactions. The effect on public opinion in the short view may indeed be "better," and thus may also have a positive effect on reputation and research funding. But in order for this to function in the long run, each most recent claim about the future of the climate and of the planet must be ever more dramatic than the previous one. Once apocalyptic heat waves have been predicted, the climate-based extinction of animal species no longer attracts attention. Time to move on to the reversal of the Gulf Stream. Thus there arises a spiral of exaggeration. Each individual step may appear to be harmless; in total, however, the knowledge about climate, climate fluctuations, climate change and climatic effects that is transferred to the public becomes dramatically distorted.

Sadly, the mechanisms for correction within science itself have failed. Within the sciences, openly expressed doubts about the current evidence for climatic catastrophe are often seen as inconvenient, because they damage the "good cause," particularly since they could be "misused by skeptics." The incremental dramatization comes to be accepted, while any correction of the exaggeration is regarded as dangerous, because it is politically inopportune. Doubts are not made public; rather, people are led to believe in a solid edifice of knowledge that needs only to be completed at the outer edges.

The result of this self-censorship in scientists' minds is a deaf ear for new and surprising ideas that compete with or even contradict conventional patterns of explanation; science degenerates into being a repair shop for popular, politically opportune claims to knowledge. Thus it not only becomes sterile; it also loses its ability to advise the public objectively.

One example of this is the discussion of the so-called "hockey stick," a temperature curve that allegedly depicts the development over the last 1000 years, and whose shape resembles that of a hockey stick. In 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the committee of climate researchers appointed by UNO, rashly institutionalized this curve as the iconic symbol for anthropogenic climate change: At the end of a centuries-long period of stable temperatures, the upward-bent blade of the hockey stick represents the human influence.

In October 2004, we were able to demonstrate in the specialist journal "Science" that the methodological bases that led to this hockey-stick curve are mistaken. We wanted to reverse the spiral of exaggeration somewhat, without also relativizing the central message - that climate change caused by human activity does indeed exist. Prominent representatives of climate research, however, did not respond by taking issue with the facts. Instead, they worried that the noble cause of protecting the climate might have been done harm.

Other scientists lapse into a zeal reminiscent of nothing so much as the McCarthy era. For them, methodological criticism is the spawn of "conservative think tanks and propagandists for the oil and coal lobby," which they believe they must expose; dramatizing climate change, on the other hand, is defended as a sensible means of educating society.

What is true for other sciences should also hold for climate research: Dissent is the motor of further development, Differences of opinion are not an unpleasant family affair. The concealment of dissent and uncertainty in favor of a politically good cause takes its toll on credibility, for the public is more intelligent than is usually assumed. In the long term, these allegedly so helpful dramatizations achieve the opposite of that which they wish to achieve.

By doing so, however, both science and society will have wasted an opportunity.

Hans von Storch, 55, heads the Coastal Research Institute of the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht and is considered one of the pioneers of computerized climate statistics. Together with Nico Stehr, 62, sociologist at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, he has conducted ongoing research into the public perception of climate change.

DER SPIEGEL - January 24, 2005 URL: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,338080,00.html

Copyright DER SPIEGEL 4/2005

January 28, 2005

What is the scientific consensus on climate change?

Author: Naomi Oreskes
University of California, San Diego

Since the publication in Science of my article, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” (Science 306:1686, 3 December 2004) and its follow-up piece in The Washington Post, “Undeniable Global Warming, (26 December 2004), a number of people have asked me to clarify what, exactly, I think this consensus is.

This request rather misses the point of my essay, which was to underscore the fact that the scientific societies have already clearly expressed the expert opinions of their membership, and that these statements are readily available and easy to read. Rather than attempt to paraphrase these carefully worded statements, I recommend that anyone who wants to know what climate scientists have to say about climate science, should, quite simply, read what they have to say. (And it takes a lot less time than plowing through all the misrepresentations that now abound on the web.)

Here are the relevant references and links:

American Association for the Advancement of Science,

American Meteorological Society, 2003: “Climate Change Research: Issues for the Atmospheric and Related Sciences,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 85: 508-515. See also this website,

American Geophysical Union, “Human Impacts of Climate,” adopted by unanimous vote of the AGU Council, December 12, 2003,


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Climate Change 2001: Summary for Policymakers

U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Science of Climate Change, “Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions,” Washington DC: National Research Council: National Academy Press, 2001.

Posted on January 28, 2005 07:18 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

January 25, 2005

Bob Park on ISS

Bob Park suggests that the U.S. needs to rethink the costs and benefits of its space policy priorities:

“Last Friday, the reach of man extended 900 million miles to the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. It stands as one of the most notable voyages of exploration in history. Carried piggyback on Cassini since 1997, the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe parachuted 789 miles to reach Titan’s smoggy surface. Huygens had the good fortune to land on solid ground, within sight of the shoreline of a hydrocarbon sea. Over the next several hours, until its batteries finally died, Huygens transmitted everything it had learned back to Cassini, which relayed it to Darmstadt. The data will keep researchers busy for years. Cassini will continue studying Saturn for another four years. Meanwhile, only 90 miles from the surface of Earth, the NASA On-Orbit Status Report notes that the ISS crew checked gear for a 26 Jan space walk, performed periodic microbial air sampling, did routine maintenance on the toilet facilities, performed a 2.5 hour exercise program, had an interview with USA Today and recorded a video message in observance of the 250th anniversary of Moscow State University. Today’s quiz: Which cost the most, Cassini/Huygens or the ISS?”

Posted on January 25, 2005 09:25 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Space Policy

January 19, 2005

Landsea on Hurricanes

Author: Chris Landsea

It may be worth pointing out that last October Chris Landsea prepared a primer on hurricanes and climate change for Prometheus. We thought that it might be worth re-posting his views.

Hurricanes and Global Warming
Chris Landsea (chris.landsea@noaa.gov)
---------------------------------------

There are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity. Whatever suggested changes in hurricane activity that might result from global warming in the future are quite small in comparison to the large natural variability of hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones. For example, the latest GFDL global warming study suggested about a 5% increase in the winds of hurricanes 80 years in the future. This contrasts with the more than doubling that occur now in numbers of major hurricanes between active and quiet decades in the Atlantic basin.

If global warming is influencing hurricane activity, then we should be seeing a global change in the number and strength of these storms. Yet there is no evidence of a global increase in the strength and frequency of hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones over the past several years.

Beginning in 1995, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. However, this increase is very likely a manifestation of a natural multi-decadal cycle of Atlantic hurricane activity that has been occurring likely for the last few hundred years. For example, relatively few Atlantic major hurricanes were observed in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, but there was considerable activity during the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Also, the period from 1944 to 1950 was particularly infamous for Florida - with 11 hurricanes hitting the state during those years.

Total U.S. direct damages from Atlantic hurricanes this year will be on the order of $30 billion, making it about equal to the most damaging year on record - 1992 with the landfall of Hurricane Andrew. However, such increased destruction from hurricanes is to be expected because of the massive development and population increases along the U.S. coastline and in countries throughout the Caribbean and Central America. There is no need to invoke global warming to understand both the 10 years of active hurricane seasons and the destruction that occurred both in Florida and in Haiti this season. The former is due to natural cycles driven by the Atlantic Ocean and the latter is due to societal changes, not due to global warming.

Posted on January 19, 2005 02:26 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

January 17, 2005

Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC

This is an open letter to the community from Chris Landsea.

Dear colleagues,

After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.

With this open letter to the community, I wish to explain the basis for my decision and bring awareness to what I view as a problem in the IPCC process. The IPCC is a group of climate researchers from around the world that every few years summarize how climate is changing and how it may be altered in the future due to manmade global warming. I had served both as an author for the Observations chapter and a Reviewer for the 2nd Assessment Report in 1995 and the 3rd Assessment Report in 2001, primarily on the topic of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). My work on hurricanes, and tropical cyclones more generally, has been widely cited by the IPCC. For the upcoming AR4, I was asked several weeks ago by the Observations chapter Lead Author - Dr. Kevin Trenberth - to provide the writeup for Atlantic hurricanes. As I had in the past, I agreed to assist the IPCC in what I thought was to be an important, and politically-neutral determination of what is happening with our climate.

Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4's Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic "Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity" along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe.

I found it a bit perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting hurricane activity today. To my knowledge, none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field. All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin. The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record.

Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted).

It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.

My concerns go beyond the actions of Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues to how he and other IPCC officials responded to my concerns. I did caution Dr. Trenberth before the media event and provided him a summary of the current understanding within the hurricane research community. I was disappointed when the IPCC leadership dismissed my concerns when I brought up the misrepresentation of climate science while invoking the authority of the IPCC. Specifically, the IPCC leadership said that Dr. Trenberth was speaking as an individual even though he was introduced in the press conference as an IPCC lead author; I was told that that the media was exaggerating or misrepresenting his words, even though the audio from the press conference and interview tells a different story (available on the web directly); and that Dr. Trenberth was accurately reflecting conclusions from the TAR, even though it is quite clear that the TAR stated that there was no connection between global warming and hurricane activity. The IPCC leadership saw nothing to be concerned with in Dr. Trenberth's unfounded pronouncements to the media, despite his supposedly impartial important role that he must undertake as a Lead Author on the upcoming AR4.

It is certainly true that "individual scientists can do what they wish in their own rights", as one of the folks in the IPCC leadership suggested. Differing conclusions and robust debates are certainly crucial to progress in climate science. However, this case is not an honest scientific discussion conducted at a meeting of climate researchers. Instead, a scientist with an important role in the IPCC represented himself as a Lead Author for the IPCC has used that position to promulgate to the media and general public his own opinion that the busy 2004 hurricane season was caused by global warming, which is in direct opposition to research written in the field and is counter to conclusions in the TAR. This becomes problematic when I am then asked to provide the draft about observed hurricane activity variations for the AR4 with, ironically, Dr. Trenberth as the Lead Author for this chapter. Because of Dr. Trenberth's pronouncements, the IPCC process on our assessment of these crucial extreme events in our climate system has been subverted and compromised, its neutrality lost. While no one can "tell" scientists what to say or not say (nor am I suggesting that), the IPCC did select Dr. Trenberth as a Lead Author and entrusted to him to carry out this duty in a non-biased, neutral point of view. When scientists hold press conferences and speak with the media, much care is needed not to reflect poorly upon the IPCC. It is of more than passing interest to note that Dr. Trenberth, while eager to share his views on global warming and hurricanes with the media, declined to do so at the Climate Variability and Change Conference in January where he made several presentations. Perhaps he was concerned that such speculation - though worthy in his mind of public pronouncements – would not stand up to the scrutiny of fellow climate scientists.

I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound. As the IPCC leadership has seen no wrong in Dr. Trenberth's actions and have retained him as a Lead Author for the AR4, I have decided to no longer participate in the IPCC AR4.

Sincerely, Chris Landsea

Attached are the correspondence between myself and key members of the IPCC FAR, Download file.

January 05, 2005

Naomi Oreskes Misquoted by VOA

Author: Naomi Oreskes

Dear Colleagues,

Some folks have been commenting unfavorably about a press release issued by Voice of America, to accompany a recent interview I did with them. I would urge you to listen to the interview, because the press release misrepresented my comments. In my interview, I was at pains to emphasize that the recent tsunami has nothing to do with global warming, and it would be a mistake to imply that it did. I did say, however, and stand by the comment, that these events do illustrate the extreme vulnerability of millions of impoverished people, who live in coastal areas, to the kinds of effects that global warming may produce, and that poor countries are less able than wealthy ones to protect themselves.

The press release also misquoted me with respect to the causes of global warming, saying that I said that "agriculture also contributes to Global Warming by producing carbon dioxide." In fact, I said that agriculture contributes to global warming through methane production, which was part of trying to make the point that we are all implicated in global warming, rich and poor, industrialized and non-industrialized, and therefore it behooves us to work together, rather than to point fingers.

Naomi Oreskes

Posted on January 5, 2005 11:05 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Climate Change

December 14, 2004

State of Fear Part II

Continuing our discussion below Dan Sarewitz writes:

Scientists get hysterical whenever anyone questions their authority, pokes fun at them, doesn't take them seriously. They also tend to be incredibly ignorant about the processes by which political debates get played out, public opinion gets formed, etc. And they are apparently oblivious about the connections between their own work as scientists, and their value commitments as citizens and human beings. When the problem of climate change gets overblown or distorted in movies or by environmental groups, are the same scientists who are freaking out about Crichton's goofy book decrying distortions in the other direction? There seems to be no awareness (or at least no acknowledgement) that the reason Crichton's book is galling is not because he distorts the science (if this were the case, almost every science fiction book would create collective apoplexy), but because the scientist-critics don't like his politics. From this perspective, Crichton and his scientist-critics both labor under the same fallacy: that science dictates action in the world. It doesn't.

Posted on December 14, 2004 04:35 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge

State of Fear

Tom Yulsman writes:

Michael Crichton's new book, "State of Fear," is a lampoon of environmentalists and a crusade against climate change science. According to Andy Revkin in today's New York Times, one environmental group in the book "sends agents in Prius hybrid cars to kill foes with bites from blue-ringed octopuses carried in sandwich bags." (Maybe I should try this during my next faculty meeting!)

Climate scientists concerned about the impact of the book are probably damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they ignore Crichton, his evidently anti-science message wins — through the sheer power of his celebrity. If they publiclly rebut him on the merits of the case, they further publicize the book (already second on Amazon's best seller list). And he wins again because of his celebrity.

So, any opinions about "State of Fear" and how scientists should respond to it?

— Tom Yulsman, Center for Environmental Journalism

Roger Pielke responds:

Does it really have to come to this?

In today’s New York Times, climate scientist James Hansen criticizes novelist Michael Crichton for “pretending.” Is this really how the climate science community wants to engage this issue? Take a close look; we are seeing glimpses of where the scientific enterprise is headed -- “The Day After Tomorrow” vs. Michael Crichton. And don’t kid yourself into believing that science will in the end dominate any public, political debate -- movie makers and novelists will always be more compelling to the public than scientists. What is at risk here is more than just political outcomes over climate change.

A quote worth emphasizing:

“In the resulting media contest [over science] between competing authorities, it is not possible to tell whether science or politics is speaking. We then lose both the power of science and the credibility of democratic process.”

Kantrowitz, A., 1994. Elitism vs. checks and balances in communicating scientific information to the public. Risk: Health, Saf. Environ. 101

Posted on December 14, 2004 03:23 PM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Posted to Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge

October 25, 2004

More on Hurricanes and Climate Change

For some reason some members of the scientific community are pushing hard through the media to allege a direct connection between the Florida hurricanes of 2004 and human-caused climate change, so we’re going to revisit the topic (yet) again. Examples include here and here and here and here and here). This organized effort seems quite odd to me for two reasons:

1) There is a strong scientific consensus that if greenhouse gas emissions have an effect on hurricanes, these effects will be quite small as compared to the observed variability in hurricane frequencies and intensities. (See the primer below.)

2) There is overwhelming evidence that the most significant factor in trends in and projections of the damages associated with hurricane impacts is societal vulnerability to those impacts. (See this post and this post.)

One obvious reason for a group of scientists to invoke via the media a connection between this year’s storms and climate change is part of a strategy of political advocacy in support of greenhouse gas reductions. If the issue was simply scientific, then I’d assume that the scientists would just battle their differences out on the pages of peer-reviewed journals, far from the public eye. But the great irony here is that those who invoke the modulation of future hurricanes as a justification for changes to energy policies to mitigate climate change are their own worst political enemy. Not only do they provide a great opening for criticism of their reasoning and science, they are advocating a policy that simply won’t be effective. There are much, much better ways to deal with the threat of hurricanes than with energy policies. There are also much, much better ways to justify climate mitigation policies than with hurricanes.

Last week my colleague and occasional collaborator Chris Landsea, one of the world’s foremost experts on hurricanes, put together the following short primer on hurricanes and climate change, and I’ve shared it here with his permission:

Hurricanes and Global Warming
Chris Landsea (chris.landsea@noaa.gov)
---------------------------------------
There are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity. Whatever suggested changes in hurricane activity that might result from global warming in the future are quite small in comparison to the large natural variability of hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones. For example, the latest GFDL global warming study suggested about a 5% increase in the winds of hurricanes 80 years in the future. This contrasts with the more than doubling that occur now in numbers of major hurricanes between active and quiet decades in the Atlantic basin.

If global warming is influencing hurricane activity, then we should be seeing a global change in the number and strength of these storms. Yet there is no evidence of a global increase in the strength and frequency of hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones over the past several years.

Beginning in 1995, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. However, this increase is very likely a manifestation of a natural multi-decadal cycle of Atlantic hurricane activity that has been occurring likely for the last few hundred years. For example, relatively few Atlantic major hurricanes were observed in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, but there was considerable activity during the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Also, the period from 1944 to 1950 was particularly infamous for Florida - with 11 hurricanes hitting the state during those years.

Total U.S. direct damages from Atlantic hurricanes this year will be on the order of $30 billion, making it about equal to the most damaging year on record - 1992 with the landfall of Hurricane Andrew. However, such increased destruction from hurricanes is to be expected because of the massive development and population increases along the U.S. coastline and in countries throughout the Caribbean and Central America. There is no need to invoke global warming to understand both the 10 years of active hurricane seasons and the destruction that occurred both in Florida and in Haiti this season. The former is due to natural cycles driven by the Atlantic Ocean and the latter is due to societal changes, not due to global warming.

October 07, 2004

Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program

Author: Rad Byerly

CHRISTINE MIRZAYAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM, WASHINGTON, D.C. This Graduate Fellowship Program of the National Academies-consisting of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council-is designed to engage graduate and postdoctoral students in science and technology policy and to familiarize them with the interactions among science, technology, and government. As a result, students in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine, business, and law develop essential skills different from those attained in academia, which will help them make the transition from being a graduate student to a professional. We are pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for our 2005 program. This year, the program will comprise three, ten-week sessions:

Winter: January 10 through March 18
Summer: June 6 through August 12
Fall: September 12 through November 18

To apply, candidates should submit an application and request that a mentor fill out a reference form. Both forms are available on the Web. The deadline for applications is November 1 for the Winter program, March 1 for the Summer program, and June 1 for the Fall program. Candidates may apply to all three programs concurrently. Additional details about the program and how to join our mailing list are also available on the Web site. Questions should be directed to: policyfellows@nas.edu.

Here is what four alumni said about the program:

"This program will open your mind to a world rarely envisioned from the confines of laboratory bench work. I learned an immeasurable amount about the policy and politics behind science and after the program opens your mind, it opens career doors."

"A really great experience for those from the "soft sciences" who have an interest in S&T policy or if you're trying to figure out what else you might want to do outside of academia. This was a great opportunity to bridge the gap and gain a new understanding and appreciation for how it all works, the people involved, and the profound difference it can make in the end (and all long the way)."

"I had no idea that this experience would affect me in the way that it has. This program has revitalized my love for science, given me a perspective from a new environment, raised my awareness of important policy issues, allowed me to network with colleagues, and, for the first time in a long while, made me look forward to going to work every day. I highly recommend this program."

"This program provides an amazing opportunity to learn about science and policy and, in particular, the role of the National Academies in contributing to science policy. If you are in graduate school in the sciences and have an interest in science and policy, you don't have to wait until you've got your degree to see what it would be like to work in DC. The program can inform your graduate education and help you to think "outs ide the box" in terms of potential careers."

Posted on October 7, 2004 10:07 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Science Policy: General

July 30, 2004

Ask Prometheus: OTA

We have something a bit different today, the first in hopefully a long series of Ask Prometheus posts. Ask Prometheus allows us to answer inquiries from our readers directly, or by pulling in other experts as we do today.

Kerry McEvilly writes to us, "Do you think that maybe it's time to re-establish the OTA [Office of Technology Assessment] to add some semblance of continuity in what our elected leaders are getting in the way of science policy advice?"

To answer we've asked Paul Komor, former OTA policy analyst and Project Director, and Rad Byerly, former chief of staff of the House Science Committee, for their responses.

The full responses follow, but first a couple excerpts.

Dr. Komor states, "OTA’s demise was not the result of careful deliberation, a thoughtful comparison of costs and benefits, or defeat by its political enemies. Rather, it was largely being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

And Dr. Byerly says, "In the main Congress is a reactive institution; it does not take up a subject until it is an issue needing attention, which often means that Members and interest group are already choosing sides."

The full-text follows and feel free to leave comments:

Kerry D. McEvilly writes:

I do not seek to submit an article so much as a question.

Much, far to much I sometimes fear, has been made of the Executive Branch skewing science policy for political or ideological purposes as of late.

One persistent critic in this chorus, among others on Capitol Hill, seems to be Rep. Waxman in the House, and in that chamber especially the differences between science and science policy is becoming increasingly blurred and politicized.

With each side of the aisle receiving partisan advice from such disparate advocacy organizations as AEI and UCS, it seems there isn't anything close to a common discourse on issues such as embryonic stem cell and climate change research.

Do you think that maybe it's time to re-establish the OTA to add some semblance of continuity in what our elected leaders are getting in the way of science policy advice?

I know that the legislation authorizing OTA has never been repealed and it seems that every session Rep. Holt and Rep. Boehlert introduce legislation to resurrect it, but obviously it would have to be a somewhat different entity to survive the Class of '94's hostility.

Presuming you even think it would be a good idea to reauthorize OTA, how would you reorganize or reform it to get it past the residual hostility it provoked in some members, garner the necessary votes in the House (a pilot proposal cleared the Senate in 2001) and into the next Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill?

Paul Komor responds:

Proposed legislation to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) has become almost an annual tradition. In addition, there’s been a steady stream of articles from academics and think tanks calling for a reinstatement of OTA (For the latest, see here. ).

However the proposed legislation never seems to make it out of committee, and the many pro-OTA articles never get much attention. Why the apparent mismatch between intentions and reality?

First, arguments about whether OTA was politically biased or ineffective are largely off the point. OTA was the unfortunate sacrificial victim of the 1995 budget fight. The House of Representatives’ class of 1994, led by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), had ambitious plans to drastically shrink government. To demonstrate their commitment, they cut the Legislative branch budget as well – which included eliminating OTA. OTA’s demise was not the result of careful deliberation, a thoughtful comparison of costs and benefits, or defeat by its political enemies. Rather, it was largely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Second, OTA’s demise, and the repeated failure of attempts to reinstate it, reflect the public-good-like nature of its work. OTA was a Congressional support agency, with a mission of informing Congressional members and staff about science and technology issues. OTA’s ultimate goal of “better policy” is a worthy one, but one without direct constituents (other than the small group of academics and intellectuals who write articles calling for OTA’s reinstatement).

Congress is typically (and unfortunately) driven by need, rather than by foresight. There’s no short-term perceived need for a new OTA, no influential constituent or Member of Congress with a concentrated interest in a new OTA, and no groundswell of popular support for a new OTA. As a result, although few will argue against a new OTA, even fewer will invest political capital in an idea that benefits everyone a little but no one a lot.

Finally, this is not to say that OTA was perfect. Our reports were, almost without exception, well written, objective, and thoughtful. (I spent 6 years at OTA, as a policy analyst and Project Director). But we could have done better at meeting Congress’ needs. Our reports were sometimes late, usually much too long, and often inconclusive. The more fundamental problem was that we hired too many people like me – academics, motivated by intellectual curiosity and a need to get all the data in before drawing any conclusions. We needed more of a private sector consultant culture: where schedules and deadlines are seen as imperatives rather than suggestions, clients’ needs come first, and findings are more important than research methods.

Rad Byerly responds:

McEvilly’s letter contains its own answer to his question about resurrecting OTA: Resurrection will be difficult due to “residual hostility” to advice on issues such as stem cell research and climate change research, and of course teaching evolution vs. creation. To a much greater degree and extent than anytime in recent history, the three branches of the Federal government are driven by religious faith in a truth higher than science, so that to this degree and extent no science advice is needed or wanted. Reform of OTA is thus irrelevant.

Eventually this will change, the government will be more balanced, and perhaps OTA can then be resurrected. Let’s consider one important difficulty OTA faced.

In the main Congress is a reactive institution; it does not take up a subject until it is an issue needing attention, which often means that Members and interest group are already choosing sides. OTA got its “assignments” from the Congress, and so typically could not initiate a study until it was on Congress’ agenda. OTA’s study process was slow relative to the speed with which issues became polarized and Members took positions. Not always, but often, OTA’s studies arrived in a Congress that had mostly made up its mind, usually agreeing to disagree, and technical arguments typically were not strong enough to change votes.

What might be done differently? Could we develop a process to get ahead of issues? Perhaps. We did foresee the existence of ethical, legal, and social issues in the Human Genome Project, at least enough to fund some research on them. OTA could have established a parallel effort. Assuming the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository moves ahead, in several decades we will face a decision on whether to “close” it, essentially to abandon it to passive management. When and if we come to that decision the waste will have been emplaced and the repository will have been activity monitored for a period. The issue will be whether to change to a lower, i.e., cheaper, level of management; a passive management. The fear is that, de facto, it will be forgotten. OTA could begin soon (i.e., when/if lawsuits conclude and progress begins again) to prepare for the decision, perhaps for years mainly only putting information about the repository and related matters into a secure database. Another area: OTA might develop long-term projects to evaluate activities, e.g., in elementary education, whose ultimate success cannot be measured in less than a decade or two. The point here is that Members might support such efforts that would bear fruit for a future Congress.

Establishing this new kind of OTA would be difficult, but not impossible. It would not be necessary to change the nature of Congress, only to get several farsighted Members committed to some vision like this. The whole Congress would not have to act, to take a vote, on the issues themselves, only to fund relatively cheap preparations for the time in the distant future when the issues ripen.

Posted on July 30, 2004 10:12 AM View this article | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Posted to Ask Prometheus | Author: Others

May 25, 2004

Hiding Behind Science

Dan Sarewitz, director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University (and a visiting scholar at our Center here at the University of Colorado) authored a provocative op-ed in Newsday yesterday titled Hiding Behind Science. Here is an excerpt:

“We all know that the current White House thinks that protecting embryos is more important than protecting the environment and that the profitability of chemical companies should take precedence over the potability of drinking water. No surprise here. But even if the manipulation of science at the hands of the Bush government is more egregious than in previous administrations, the real problem is the illusion that these controversies can and should be resolved scientifically, and by scientists…

… the problem with these attacks on the Bush administration is that they hide behind the sanctity of science to advance an agenda that is itself political. What we do, or don't do, about global warming (or stem cell research, regulation of toxic chemicals, protection of endangered species . . .) will be a reflection of how we choose among competing values, and making such choices is not the job of science, but of democratic politics. Science can alert us to problems, and can help us understand how to achieve our goals once we have decided them; but the goals themselves can emerge only from a political process in which science should have no special privilege.

But neither the Bush administration nor its scientific critics want to give up on the pretense that these controversies are about science. To do so would be to abandon the high ground created when one can claim to have ‘the facts’ on one's side. The resulting charade, where everyone pretends that science can save us from politics, undermines science by turning it into nothing more than ammunition for opposing ideologies. Even more dangerously, it damages democracy by concealing what is really at stake - our values and our interests - behind a veil of technical language and competing expertise.”

Read the whole thing here.

May 03, 2004

We Need a Better Bullet-Bucket

Author: Joseph Hall

Of all the doomsday scenarios in existence, one is simultaneously the most likely to happen and paid such little attention. It is also, in my opinion, the most depressing.

I'm talking about the militarization of low earth-orbit (LEO). In "Star Wars Forever? -- A Cosmic Perspective" the husband-wife duo of Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams from the Physics Department at UC Santa Cruz, describe a frighteningly simple and realistic vision of our future:

Abstract: [...] The current debate over missile defense has failed to emphasize a crucial point: even one war in space will create a battlefield that will last forever, encasing the entire planet in a shell of whizzing debris that will thereafter make space near the earth highly hazardous for peaceful as well as military purposes. With enough orbiting debris, pieces will begin to hit other pieces, whose fragments will in turn hit more pieces, setting off a chain reaction of destruction that will leave a lethal halo around the Earth. No actual space war even has to be fought to create this catastrophe; any country that felt threatened by America's starting to place lasers or other weapons into space would only have to launch the equivalent of gravel to destroy the sophisticated weaponry. Wise people have pointed out that missile defense will waste hundreds of billions of dollars that could be spent combating the real threats in the modern world. Short term political interests pale before the overwhelming, eternal immorality of imprisoning Earth for all future generations in a halo of bullets. This horrible crime would dishonor our ancestors, plant and animal alike, who bequeathed this beautiful blue planet to us, and cripple our descendents, who would never forgive us.

This is a profoundly simple and scary point: It is very hard if not impossible to "clean up" most Earth orbits. Regardless of how they become cluttered, certain orbits are resilient to atmospheric drag and space debris will remain there for millennia unless we either endeavor to keep it clean or find a nifty way of cleaning it up.

So, what can we do? Cleaning up space debris should be easy, right? Wrong. Imagine trying to collect bullets with a bucket; not easy.

What about not fielding weapons--like kinetic energy interceptors or explosive missiles--that cause explosions in LEO? That is a step in the right direction, but still not enough. Primack and Abrams point out that even other types of weapons such as directed energy weapons can still start the chain reaction, "Any country that felt threatened by America's starting to place lasers or other weapons into space would only have to launch the equivalent of gravel to destroy the sophisticated weaponry." This would start a chain reaction with at first only a few orbits being unusable. Inevitably, this debris would create more debris through collisions at orbital velocities.

There is only one real solution: We need to be very conservative about deployment of weapons in LEO.

What are the consequences if we do not do this? First, substantial real estate in LEO will be unusable and it would be very hard to deliver space hardware to orbits near debris-filled orbits. Services such as GPS, telecom, radar, and earth observation as well as scientific research would all be drastically affected if not shut down entirely until someone built a better bullet-bucket.

Second, the human race would be largely robbed of any hope of establishing manned scientific outposts on the moon and mars. It would be risky, sure, to attempt to deploy space hardware through a cloud of extremely fast-moving bullets, however any crew and human-rated hardware would face orders of magnitude more risk.

It is truly ironic that some of the most popular doomsday scenarios concentrate on the destruction of the human race (nuclear war, disease, nanotech's "grey goo", etc.) when, in fact, we are much closer to imprisoning the people of Earth for millennia in a cloak of impenetrable space debris.

Posted on May 3, 2004 06:07 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Space Policy



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