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Contents:
Joel Achenbach on Weather Extremes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty | Science + Politics August 03, 2008

The New Abortion Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | The Honest Broker August 01, 2008

Ocean Encroachment in Bangladesh
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting July 31, 2008

Draft CCSP Synthesis Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Scientific Assessments July 28, 2008

Free Enterprise but not Free Speech
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics July 28, 2008

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

Adaptation Policies for Biodiversity: Facilitated Dispersal
   in Author: Cherney, D. | Biodiversity | Climate Change | Environment July 18, 2008

Replications of our Normalized Hurricane Damage Work
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty July 14, 2008

Climate Science and National Interests
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International | Science + Politics July 09, 2008

Governance as Usual: Film at 11
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Journalism, Science & Environment | Science + Politics July 09, 2008

The IPCC, Scientific Advice and Advocacy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments | The Honest Broker July 09, 2008

What the CCSP Extremes Report Really Says
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Scientific Assessments June 20, 2008

Op-Ed in Financial Post
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics June 18, 2008

U.S. Flood Damage 1929-2003
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 16, 2008

The New Global Growth Path
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 16, 2008

Why Costly Carbon is a House of Cards
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments | Technology Policy June 12, 2008

Who Do National Science Academies Speak For?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | The Honest Broker June 10, 2008

An Order of Magnitude in Cost Estimates: Automatic Decarbonization in the IEA Baseline
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 09, 2008

IEA on Reducing The Trajectory of Global Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 06, 2008

A Few Bits on Cap and Trade
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 04, 2008

Idealism vs. Political Realities
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 03, 2008

Air Capture in The Guardian
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy June 03, 2008

Visually Pleasing Temperature Adjustments
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty | Scientific Assessments June 02, 2008

Real Climate on Meaningless Temperature Adjustments
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments June 01, 2008

Does the IPCC’s Main Conclusion Need to be Revisited?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments May 29, 2008

Meantime, Back in the Real World: Power Plant Conversion Rates
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy May 28, 2008

IPCC Scenarios and Spontaneous Decarbonization
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy May 25, 2008

A Familiar Pattern is Emerging
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics May 25, 2008

Homework Assignment: Solve if you Dare
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 23, 2008

Nature Letters on PWG
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Scientific Assessments | Technology Policy May 22, 2008

World Bank and UK Government on Climate Change Implications of Development
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International | Scientific Assessments | Technology and Globalization May 22, 2008

IPCC Predictions and Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics May 22, 2008

An *Inconsistent With* Spotted, and Defended
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 21, 2008

Do IPCC Temperature Forecasts Have Skill?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 19, 2008

Old Wine in New Bottles
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 19, 2008

The Helpful Undergraduate: Another Response to James Annan
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Risk & Uncertainty May 16, 2008

The Politicization of Climate Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments May 16, 2008

Comparing Distrubutions of Observations and Predictions: A Response to James Annan
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 15, 2008

Lucia Liljegren on Real Climate's Approach to Falsification of IPCC Predictions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments May 14, 2008

How to Make Two Decades of Cooling Consistent with Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Risk & Uncertainty | Scientific Assessments May 12, 2008

Inconsistent With? One Answer
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting May 12, 2008

Real Climate's Bold Bet
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Risk & Uncertainty May 09, 2008

Consistent With, Again
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics May 08, 2008

Teats on a Bull
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Risk & Uncertainty | Science + Politics May 08, 2008

Iain Murray on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics | Technology Policy May 08, 2008

Elements of Any Successful Approach to Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Environment | International | Sustainability | Technology Policy May 06, 2008

Boulder Science Cafe, May 13th 5:30 RedFish
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Site News May 06, 2008

The Consistent-With Chronicles
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting May 02, 2008

Global Cooling Consistent With Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting April 30, 2008

Malaria and Greenhouse Gases
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Health | Sustainability | Technology and Globalization April 25, 2008

Joe Romm’s Fuzzy Math
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 23, 2008

The Central Question of Mitigation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | R&D Funding | Technology Policy April 22, 2008

A Post-Partisan Climate Politics?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics | Technology Policy April 21, 2008

Please Tell Me What in the World Joe Romm is Complaining About?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics | Technology Policy April 21, 2008

Kristof on PWG
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 20, 2008

Climate Change Interview with John Holdren
   in Author: Bruggeman, D. | Climate Change April 17, 2008

Geoengineering: Who Decides?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Democratization of Knowledge | Science + Politics | Technology Policy April 17, 2008

Bush CO2 Plan in Context
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 17, 2008

Peter Webster on Predicting Tropical Cyclones
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Prediction and Forecasting April 16, 2008

Biofuels and Mitigation/Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology and Globalization April 15, 2008

Kudos to Kerry Emanuel
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty | Science + Politics April 11, 2008

Lucia Liljegren on Real Climate Spinmeisters
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting April 11, 2008

Holding the Poor Hostage
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Energy Policy April 11, 2008

Real Climate on My Letter to Nature Geosciences
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting April 10, 2008

Interview with Frank Laird
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 09, 2008

Carbon Intensity of the Economy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy April 08, 2008

Joe Romm’s Dissembling
   in Climate Change April 08, 2008

Green Car Congress on PWG
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Risk & Uncertainty April 08, 2008

Joe Romm on Air Capture Research
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 07, 2008

Gwyn Prins on PWG in The Guardian
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 07, 2008

BBC Special on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 07, 2008

Commentary in Nature
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty | Technology Policy April 02, 2008

Letter to Nature Geoscience
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting April 02, 2008

Setting a Trap for the Next President
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment | Science + Politics March 29, 2008

Those Nice Guys at Grist
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment March 27, 2008

LA Times on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty | Science + Politics March 26, 2008

Why adaptation is not sufficient
   in Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change March 25, 2008

Why no candidate positions on adaptation?
   in Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change March 24, 2008

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

6 Days in 2012: Effect of the CDM on Carbon Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy March 19, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics March 18, 2008

UK Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy March 17, 2008

Update on Falsifiability of Climate Predictions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Risk & Uncertainty March 15, 2008

The Deficit Model Bites Back
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education March 03, 2008

Matthews and Caldeira on the Mitigation Challenge
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy February 28, 2008

Air Capture in the U.S. Congress
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Technology Policy February 25, 2008

A Sense of Proportion
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy February 25, 2008

New blog on carbon offsets and sequestration
   in Climate Change February 22, 2008

Climate Model Predictions and Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting February 18, 2008

Carbon Emissions Success Stories
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy February 15, 2008

The Consistent-With Game: On Climate Models and the Scientific Method
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Science + Politics February 13, 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

Witanagemot Justice And Senator Inhofe’s Fancy List
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 30, 2008

Updated IPCC Forecasts vs. Observations
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 26, 2008

I'm So Confused
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education | Science + Politics January 20, 2008

Temperature Trends 1990-2007: Hansen, IPCC, Obs
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 18, 2008

UKMET Short Term Global Temperature Forecast
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 16, 2008

Verification of IPCC Sea Level Rise Forecasts 1990, 1995, 2001
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 15, 2008

James Hansen on One Year's Temperature
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 14, 2008

Updated Chart: IPCC Temperature Verification
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 14, 2008

Pachauri on Recent Climate Trends
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 14, 2008

Verification of IPCC Temperature Forecasts 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 14, 2008

Real Climate's Two Voices on Short-Term Climate Fluctuations
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 11, 2008

Verification of 1990 IPCC Temperature Predictions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 10, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science, Part 3
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 09, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science, Part 2
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 08, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting | Scientific Assessments January 07, 2008

Natural Disasters in Australia
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 02, 2008

Is there any weather inconsistent with the the scientific consensus on climate?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Scientific Assessments January 01, 2008

End-of-2007 Hurricane-Global Warming Update
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters December 26, 2007

On the Political Relevance of Scientific Consensus
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments December 21, 2007

A Follow Up on Media Coverage and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Journalism, Science & Environment December 19, 2007

Climate Policy as Farce
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Technology Policy December 18, 2007

Shellenberger on Bali
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | International December 17, 2007

China's Growing Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy December 16, 2007

Chris Green on Emissions Target Setting
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy December 14, 2007

A Question for the Media
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Journalism, Science & Environment | Science + Politics December 14, 2007

Reality Check
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | International December 13, 2007

Fun With Carbon Accounting
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy December 12, 2007

Prins and Rayner in the WSJ
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 08, 2007

Why Action on Energy Policy is Not Enough
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International December 06, 2007

Lieberman-Warner
   in Author: Hale, B. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Environment December 05, 2007

Historic Declaration by Climate Scientists
   in Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change December 05, 2007

Carbon in North America
   in Author: Dilling, L. | Climate Change November 28, 2007

It Will Take More than Holocaust Analogies
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy November 26, 2007

John Quiggin on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 26, 2007

Promises, Promises
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 25, 2007

Energy? Climate change? Linked? Huh?
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change November 20, 2007

Optimal Adaptation?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 20, 2007

IPCC and Policy Options: To Open Up or Close Down?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 19, 2007

Prins and Rayner - The Wrong Trousers
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 19, 2007

The Technological Fix
   in Author: Hale, B. | Climate Change | Disasters | Environment | R&D Funding | Science + Politics | Technology Policy November 15, 2007

Waxman vs EPA; Hansen vs Carbon
   in Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change November 08, 2007

Sokal Revisited - I Smell a Hoax
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 07, 2007

An appreciation of Mr. Bloomberg
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Science + Politics November 05, 2007

Individual Behavior and Climate Policy
   in Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change November 02, 2007

The Young and the Mindless
   in Author: Hale, B. | Climate Change | Disasters | Journalism, Science & Environment | Science + Politics November 01, 2007

A Range of Views on Prins/Rayner
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy October 30, 2007

Prins and Rayner in Nature
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 24, 2007

Citing carbon emissions, Kansas rejects coal plants
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change October 19, 2007

The Misdirection of Gore
   in Author: Hale, B. | Climate Change October 17, 2007

Al Gore and the Nobel
   in Author: Dilling, L. | Climate Change October 12, 2007

Late Action by Lame Ducks
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy September 29, 2007

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

Twenty years of public opinion about global warming
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change August 29, 2007

New Changnon paper on winter storm losses
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Disasters August 20, 2007

New Publication
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Scientific Assessments August 17, 2007

Here comes the rain, kids. NASA administrator says global warming ain't no stinking problem.
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change May 30, 2007

The messy and messier politics of AGW solutions
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Energy Policy May 29, 2007

The Importance of the Development Pathway in the Climate Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Sustainability May 16, 2007

Upcoming Congressional Testimony
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 15, 2007

Reorienting U.S. Climate Science Policies
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | R&D Funding | Scientific Assessments May 10, 2007

New Landsea Paper in EOS
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 03, 2007

A preview of things to come
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Energy Policy May 02, 2007

What's a poor science type to do?
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change April 30, 2007

The Battle for U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change is Over
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics April 26, 2007

The Politics of Air Capture
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics | Technology Policy April 26, 2007

What does Consensus Mean for IPCC WGIII?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments April 23, 2007

New GAO Report on Climate Change and Insurance
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters April 20, 2007

Media Reporting of Climate Change: Too Balanced or Biased?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 19, 2007

A Little Testy at RealClimate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 19, 2007

Some Views of IPCC WGII Contributors That You Won't Read About in the News
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Scientific Assessments April 18, 2007

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

Laurens Bouwer on IPCC WG II on Disasters
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Scientific Assessments April 17, 2007

Frank Laird on Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Policy Choice
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy April 16, 2007

New Peer-Reviewed Publication on the Benefits of Emissions Reductions for Future Tropical Cyclone (Hurricane) Losses Around the World
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Energy Policy April 12, 2007

This is Just Embarassing
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters April 11, 2007

Here We Go Again: Cherry Picking in the IPCC WGII Full Report on Disaster Losses
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters April 11, 2007

A Comment on IPCC Working Group II on the Importance of Development
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 07, 2007

A Few Comments on Massachusetts vs. EPA
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics April 02, 2007

Sea Level Rise Consensus Statement and Next Steps
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty April 01, 2007

No Joke: 25 to 1
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 01, 2007

Response to Nature Commentary: Insiders and Outsiders
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 30, 2007

Now I've Seen Everything
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting March 29, 2007

Cashing In
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting March 29, 2007

Why is Climate Change a Partisan Issue in the United States?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics March 28, 2007

So Long as We Are Discussing Congressional Myopia . . .
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics March 28, 2007

Unpublished Letter to the San Francisco Chronicle
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 27, 2007

Whose political agenda is reflected in the IPCC Working Group 1, Scientists or Politicians?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Democratization of Knowledge | The Honest Broker March 26, 2007

Al Gore's appearance before Senate EPW
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change March 21, 2007

The state push to the federal push
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Energy Policy March 21, 2007

Point made: it's the icon not the issue
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change March 13, 2007

We Interrupt this Spring Break . . .
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 12, 2007

The assessors assessing the assessments
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change March 06, 2007

Finally something for us to really fight about!
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change March 01, 2007

Spinning Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics February 28, 2007

IPCCfacts.org Responds
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 23, 2007

ASLA wrap-up on House IPCC hearings
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change February 23, 2007

IPCCfacts.org has its Facts Wrong
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters February 23, 2007

Al Gore on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 23, 2007

Where Stern is Right and Wrong
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty | Technology Policy February 22, 2007

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

Mike Hulme in Nature on UK Media Coverage of the IPCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty February 21, 2007

Have We Entered a Post-Analysis Phase of the Climate Debate?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 21, 2007

Why Al Gore Will be the Next President of the United States
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 16, 2007

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

Final Chapter, Hurricanes and IPCC, Book IV
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters February 14, 2007

An Evaluation of U.S. Self-Evaluation on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 13, 2007

An Inconvenient Survey
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty February 12, 2007

So This is Interesting
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 10, 2007

Air Capture Prize
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Technology Policy February 09, 2007

Clarifying IPCC AR4 Statements on Sea Level Rise
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty February 07, 2007

Lifting the Taboo on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 07, 2007

Scientific Integrity and Budget Cuts
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 07, 2007

Understanding US Climate Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy February 07, 2007

Should A Scientific Advisor be Evaluated According to Political Criteria?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 07, 2007

Post-IPCC Political Handicapping: Count the Votes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics February 06, 2007

Upcoming This Week . . . [UPDATED]
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 05, 2007

Sterman and Sweeney paper on public attitudes and GHG mitigation
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change February 05, 2007

Loose Ends -- IPCC and Hurricanes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics February 05, 2007

Follow Up: IPCC and Hurricanes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics February 02, 2007

Report from IPCC Negotiations
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics February 01, 2007

IPCC on Hurricanes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics February 01, 2007

Even More: Mr. Issa’s Confusion and a Comment on Budget Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 31, 2007

Additional Reactions – Waxman Hearing
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 31, 2007

Instant Reaction – Waxman Hearing
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 30, 2007

Waxman Hearing Testimony - Oral Remarks
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 30, 2007

Mike Hulme on Avery and Singer
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 29, 2007

Congressional Testimony
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 29, 2007

Climate change a 'questionable truth'
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 27, 2007

What a difference a year and maybe a movie makes
   in Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change January 26, 2007

Richard Benedick on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International January 26, 2007

SOTU '07: An A or a D+ ?
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Energy Policy January 25, 2007

IPCC, Policy Neutrality, and Political Advocacy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | The Honest Broker January 25, 2007

AMS Endorses WMO TC Consensus Statement
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 24, 2007

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

Recycled Nonsense on Disaster Losses
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 22, 2007

Pielke’s Comments on Houston Chronicle Story
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 22, 2007

Notes in the Houston Chronicle
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change January 22, 2007

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

Hypocrisy Starts at Home
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education | Energy Policy January 20, 2007

Heidi needs a lifeboat
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change January 19, 2007

Putting climate change on the Hill's front burner
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change January 18, 2007

Kudos for Explicit Political Advocacy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | The Honest Broker January 18, 2007

Change the Climate, Plant a Tree?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 16, 2007

Common Sense in the Climate Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics January 15, 2007

EIA releases analysis on Bingaman's carbon cap-and-trade leg
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change January 11, 2007

New Literature Review: Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 09, 2007

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

An Update: Faulty Catastrophe Models?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty January 08, 2007

The Steps Not Yet Taken
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Energy Policy January 08, 2007

Climate Determinism Lives On
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 07, 2007

Who Said This? No Cheating!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Scientific Assessments January 06, 2007

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

Progressive Radio Network Interview, Today 1PM MST
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 04, 2007

New Publications: Reconciling the Supply of and Demand for Science
   in Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 04, 2007

RealClimate Comment
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 03, 2007

Climatic Change Special Issue on Geoengineering
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 03, 2007

Profiling Frank Laird
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Technology Policy January 02, 2007

Nonskeptical Heretics in the NYT
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 01, 2007

Draft Paper for Comment: Decreased Proportion of Tropical Cyclone Landfalls in the United States
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters December 28, 2006

Calling Carbon Cycle Experts
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Biotechnology | Climate Change December 24, 2006

And I'm focused on adaptation?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy December 22, 2006

So what happened at AGU last week?
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change December 20, 2006

Ryan Meyer in Ogmius
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Prediction and Forecasting December 19, 2006

Misrepresenting Literature on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Scientific Assessments December 18, 2006

Climate Change Hearings and Policy Issues
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics December 16, 2006

Useable Information for Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | Scientific Assessments December 15, 2006

Reactions to Report on Al Gore at AGU
   in Climate Change December 15, 2006

Senator Coal and King Coal
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Science + Politics December 15, 2006

WMO Press Release on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters December 12, 2006

You Just Can't Say Such Things Redux
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics December 11, 2006

You Just Can’t Say Such Things
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education | Science + Politics December 11, 2006

Disquiet on the Hurricane Front
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Energy Policy December 11, 2006

Hurricane Trends, Frequency, Prediction
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters December 08, 2006

Inside the IPCC's Dead Zone
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General | Scientific Assessments December 08, 2006

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

That Didn't Take Long -- Misrepresenting Hurricane Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics December 06, 2006

Andy Revkin on Media on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 06, 2006

The Future of Climate Policy Debates
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics December 05, 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 Simplest Solution to Eliminating U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 03, 2006

WMO Consensus Statement on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change
   in Climate Change November 30, 2006

Less than A Quarter Inch by 2100
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 30, 2006

Quick Reactions to Arguments Today before the Supreme Court on Mass. vs. EPA
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 29, 2006

Mugging Little Old Ladies and Reasoning by Analogy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics November 28, 2006

Why don’t you write about __________?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics November 27, 2006

Tol on Nordhaus on Stern
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 24, 2006

William Nordhaus on The Stern Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 22, 2006

Al Gore at His Best, and Worst
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 20, 2006

What is Wrong with Politically-Motivated Research?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics | The Honest Broker November 16, 2006

Looking Away from Misrepresentations of Science in Policy Debate Related to Disasters and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics November 15, 2006

More Climate and Disaster Nonsense
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 14, 2006

Tom Yulsman: Beyond Balance?
   in Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change November 13, 2006

Interview with Richard Tol
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty November 11, 2006

Interview With Chris Landsea
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 10, 2006

Guardian Op-Ed on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 10, 2006

Sarewitz and Pielke (2000)
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 06, 2006

Mike Hulme on the Climate Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty November 04, 2006

Update on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters November 02, 2006

The World in Black and White
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 01, 2006

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

Stern’s Cherry Picking on Disasters and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 30, 2006

Open Thread on UK Stern Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 29, 2006

Recap: Atlantic SSTs and U.S. Hurricane Damages
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 27, 2006

Atlantic SSTs and U.S. Hurricane Damages, Part 5
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 26, 2006

Atlantic SSTs vs, U.S. Hurricane Damage, Part 4
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 25, 2006

Atlantic SSTs vs. US Hurricane Damage, Part 3
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 24, 2006

Atlantic SSTs vs. U.S. Hurricane Damage - Part 2
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 24, 2006

What Does the Historical Relationship of Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature and U.S. Hurricane Damage Portend for the Future?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 22, 2006

What Just Ain't So
   in Climate Change | Energy Policy October 18, 2006

Climate Change and Disaster Losses Workshop Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters October 17, 2006

A Collective Research Project
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 11, 2006

On Language
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics October 09, 2006

The One Percent Doctrine
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty October 05, 2006

Follow Up on NOAA Hurricane Fact Sheet
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Science + Politics October 04, 2006

Bob Ward Comments on Royal Society Letter
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics October 04, 2006

Inconvenient Truth Panel Discussion at the University of Colorado
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 28, 2006

Caught in a Lie
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 27, 2006

Revealed! NOAA's Mystery Hurricane Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 27, 2006

NOAA's Mystery Hurricane Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 26, 2006

Thoughts on an Immediate Freeze on Carbon Dioxide Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 25, 2006

David Whitehouse on Royal Society Efforts to Censor
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | The Honest Broker September 21, 2006

Al Gore on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 19, 2006

Carbon Dioxide Emissions at Stake in the EPA Lawsuit
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 18, 2006

Brief of Amicus Curiae by Climate Scientists
   in Climate Change September 15, 2006

What to Make of This?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 14, 2006

The Promotion of Scientific Findings with Political Implications
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | The Honest Broker September 12, 2006

The Dismal Prospects for Stabilization
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 10, 2006

Follow-up on Ceres Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 08, 2006

Substance Thread - IPCC and Assessments
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 07, 2006

A Colossal Mistake
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 05, 2006

BA on Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 04, 2006

1 Degree
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 01, 2006

Back to Square One?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty September 01, 2006

Climate Mitigation and Adaptation in India
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 31, 2006

Ceres is Misrepresenting Our Work
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters August 23, 2006

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

Bunk on the Potomac
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters August 20, 2006

Hurricanes and Global Warming: All You Need to Know
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters August 19, 2006

Is IPCC AR4 an Advocacy Document?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 17, 2006

How to Make Your Opponent's Work Considerably Easier
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 09, 2006

A Pielke and Pielke Special
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 08, 2006

Hurricanes, Catastrophe Models, and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty August 07, 2006

Nisbet and Mooney on Media Coverage of Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 04, 2006

Who Believes that GHG Mitigation Can Affect Tomorrow’s Climate?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 03, 2006

Climate Porn
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy August 03, 2006

von Storch and Zorita on U.S. Climate Politics
   in Climate Change July 31, 2006

Patty Limerick on Wildfire and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 31, 2006

Andrew Dessler Has a Blog
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 31, 2006

Steve McIntyre Responds
   in Climate Change July 28, 2006

Holier Than Thou
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 28, 2006

Hockey Stick Hearing Number Two
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 27, 2006

Scientific Leadership on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters July 25, 2006

Jim Hansen's Refusal to Testify
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 21, 2006

Follow up on Criticism of AGU Hurricane Assessment
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters July 21, 2006

Congressional Testimony
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 20, 2006

Hans von Storch's Hockey Stick Testimony
   in Climate Change July 19, 2006

Upcoming Congressional Testimony
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 15, 2006

Letter to Editor, AZ Daily Star
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 07, 2006

Straight Talk on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 05, 2006

Westword on Bill Gray
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 28, 2006

The Is-Ought Problem
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General June 27, 2006

A New Paper
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 26, 2006

A(nother) Problem with Scientific Assessments
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Scientific Assessments June 23, 2006

Quick Reaction to the NRC Hockey Stick Report
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 22, 2006

Eve of the NAS Hockey Stick Report Release
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 21, 2006

Please Critique this Sentence
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 20, 2006

The Climate Policy Equivalent of Graham-Rudman-Hollings
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 14, 2006

The Curious Case of Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise in the IPCC TAR
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 10, 2006

Comments on Nature Article on Disaster Trends Workshop
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 07, 2006

Workshop Executive Summary
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 07, 2006

Lloyd's on Climate Adaptation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 06, 2006

Climate Change is a Moral Issue
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 05, 2006

Comment from Judy Curry
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 02, 2006

Like a Broken Record
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters June 02, 2006

NOAA Protest
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 01, 2006

Cherrypicking at the New York Times
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 31, 2006

Scenarios, Scenarios: Hansen’s Prediction Part II
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 30, 2006

Dave Roberts Responds on The Climate Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 30, 2006

Evaluating Jim Hansen’s 1988 Climate Forecast
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 29, 2006

Definately Not NSHers
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 27, 2006

Reaction to Comments on Non-Skeptic Heretics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 25, 2006

Gregg, Welcome to the NSH Club!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 24, 2006

Climate Change and Disaster Losses Workshop
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 22, 2006

Signs of Change?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 20, 2006

Fox News Documentary
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 18, 2006

A Few Reactions to the Bonn Dialogue on the FCCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Risk & Uncertainty May 17, 2006

More Peer-Reviewed Discussion on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 15, 2006

A Bizarro GCC and The Public Opinion Myth, Again
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 10, 2006

Myths of the History of Ozone Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment May 08, 2006

The Next IPCC Consensus?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty May 02, 2006

Really, Really, Really Bad Reporting
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 01, 2006

Klotzbach on Trends in Global Tropical Cyclone Intensity 1986-2005
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters May 01, 2006

Al Gore’s Bad Start and What Just Ain’t So
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters April 28, 2006

Climate and Societal Factors in Future Tropical Cyclone Damages in the ABI Reports
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters April 24, 2006

Conflicted about Conflicts of Interest?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 23, 2006

BBC on Overselling Climate Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 21, 2006

Some Simple Economics of Taking Air Capture to the Limit
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy April 20, 2006

Congressional Opinions on Climate Science and Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 18, 2006

Prove It
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | R&D Funding April 12, 2006

Super El Nino Follow Up
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 12, 2006

Out on a Limb with a Super El Niño Prediction
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 06, 2006

Factcheck.org, part II
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 06, 2006

Fact Checking Factcheck.org
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 05, 2006

On the Value of “Consensus”
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 02, 2006

Once Again Attributing Katrina’s Damages to Greenhouse Gases
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters March 29, 2006

New Options for Climate Policy?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 28, 2006

A View From Colorado Springs
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General March 22, 2006

The Big Knob
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters March 22, 2006

Forbidden Fruit: Justifying Energy Policy via Hurricane Mitigation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters | Energy Policy March 15, 2006

Talk in DC Today
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters March 15, 2006

Reactions to Searching for a Signal
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters March 13, 2006

On Missing the Point
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment | Science Policy: General March 08, 2006

“Bad Arguments for Good Causes”
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General March 07, 2006

Politics and the IPCC, Again
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 01, 2006

Consensus Statement on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters February 21, 2006

NOAA and Hurricanes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 16, 2006

On Having Things Both Ways
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 15, 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

Slouching Toward Scientific McCarthyism
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 11, 2006

Greenhouse Gas Politics in a Nutshell
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 09, 2006

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

Stern Report on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 31, 2006

Boehlert on Hansen
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 30, 2006

Dangerous Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 30, 2006

Let Jim Hansen Speak
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 28, 2006

Hypotheses about IPCC and Peer Review
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 27, 2006

Two Interesting Articles
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 27, 2006

Big Knob Critique Response
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 23, 2006

“Practically Useful” Scientific Mischaracterizations
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 21, 2006

On Donald Kennedy in Science, Again
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 19, 2006

A Question for RealClimate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 19, 2006

Past the Point of No Return?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 19, 2006

Myanna Lahsen's Latest Paper on Climate Models
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 17, 2006

Indur Goklany's Rejected Nature Letter
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 16, 2006

Re-Politicizing Triana
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Space Policy January 15, 2006

Does Disaster Mitigation Mask a Climate Change Signal in Disaster Losses?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 13, 2006

Does Donald Kennedy Read Science?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters January 10, 2006

The Policy Gap on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 06, 2006

Relevant but Not Prescriptive Analysis
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 04, 2006

David Keith on Air Capture
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 30, 2005

Responses to Emanuel in Nature
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 22, 2005

Get Ready for Air Capture
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment December 15, 2005

Hurricanes and Global Warming FAQ
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 13, 2005

Exchange in Today's Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters December 09, 2005

A Report from Montreal
   in Climate Change December 05, 2005

The US Climate Change Science Program and Decision Support
   in Author: Dilling, L. | Climate Change November 29, 2005

Reflections on the Challenge
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 21, 2005

Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 21, 2005

IPCC and Policy Neutrality?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 18, 2005

IPCC Hockey Stick Matters
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change November 18, 2005

Final Version of Paper
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 18, 2005

Spinning Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 18, 2005

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

Avoiding the Painfully Obvious
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 09, 2005

The Abdication of Oversight
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 08, 2005

Presentation on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 04, 2005

Old Wine in New Bottles
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 03, 2005

Challenge Update 2
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 01, 2005

Interesting Report on my Work
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 01, 2005

Challenge Update
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 01, 2005

Invitation to McIntyre and Mann - So What?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 31, 2005

Exchange in BAMS on Climate Impacts Attribution, Part 2
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 26, 2005

Ideology, Public Opinion, Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 25, 2005

Exchange in BAMS on Climate Impacts Attribution, Part 1
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 24, 2005

Response from Judy Curry
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 23, 2005

Tag Team Hit Job
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 22, 2005

Preprint Available
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 07, 2005

Another Misattribution, Climate Scientists Silent
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 03, 2005

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

Mr. Crichton Goes to Washington
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 28, 2005

Op-ed in the LA Times
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 23, 2005

Column in Bridges
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters September 22, 2005

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

Revkin on Katrina, Climate Science, Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 21, 2005

On Burying the Lead
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change September 21, 2005

Generic News Story at Work
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 16, 2005

Kerr on Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 16, 2005

Of Blinders and Innumeracy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 13, 2005

Manufactured Controversy: Comments on Today's Chronicle Article
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 08, 2005

Correction of Misquote in AP Story
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 07, 2005

Unsolicited Media Advice
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 31, 2005

Tough Questions on Hurricanes and Global Warming?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 30, 2005

Final Version of "Hurricanes and Global Warming" for BAMS
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 29, 2005

A Piece of the Action
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 25, 2005

Roger Pielke, Sr.
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 24, 2005

The Other Hockey Stick
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 22, 2005

Reader Request: Comments on Michaels and Gray
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 22, 2005

Flood Damage and Climate Change: Update
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 04, 2005

Poverty of Options and a Hybrid Hoax
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 01, 2005

A Crisis of Allegiance for the IPCC?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 28, 2005

Trial Balloon from Barton Staffer
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General July 28, 2005

Secret Climate Pact and IPCC Chairman
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 27, 2005

Toledo Blade gets it Right
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 26, 2005

The Other Discernable Influence
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 25, 2005

A Few Comments on Today's Climate Hearing
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 21, 2005

Realism on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 20, 2005

Barton- Boehlert Context
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 19, 2005

Prepackaged News, Scientific Content and Democratic Processes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 19, 2005

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

A Positive Side to Controversy?
   in Author: Logar, N. | Climate Change July 12, 2005

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

You Go Dad!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 11, 2005

PPT of HVS Talk
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 11, 2005

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

How to break the trance?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 07, 2005

On The Hockey Stick
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 06, 2005

Hurricanes and Global Warming, Another Comment
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 05, 2005

Upcoming Talk and Panel This Week
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 03, 2005

The Barton Letters
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change June 28, 2005

Breaking-ish News
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change June 27, 2005

Consensus on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 16, 2005

A New Easily Digested Summary on Climate Actions
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change June 14, 2005

Betting on Climate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 14, 2005

The Good Explanation - Apologies
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 13, 2005

Interesting Coincidence
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 13, 2005

New Paper on Hurricanes and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 10, 2005

Issues of Integrity in Climate Science
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change June 09, 2005

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

Manufactured Controversy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 08, 2005

The Linear Model Consensus Redux
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 08, 2005

Science Academies as Issue Advocates
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General June 07, 2005

When the Cherries Don't Cooperate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Health | Science Policy: General June 06, 2005

Presentation on Climate Change and Reinsurance
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 25, 2005

The Linear Model of Science in Climate Policy
   in Climate Change May 24, 2005

More Cart and Horse
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 23, 2005

Is the “Hockey Stick” Debate Relevant to Policy?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 17, 2005

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

Immigration and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 09, 2005

Fun With Cherry Picking
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General May 04, 2005

GAO on CCSP
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 26, 2005

More on Real Climate as Honest Broker
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 18, 2005

Conflicts of Interest
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 15, 2005

Bush Administration and Climate Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 12, 2005

Response to the RealClimate Guys
   in Climate Change April 08, 2005

A Forecast of Calm on Landsea/IPCC?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 06, 2005

A Taxonomy of Climate Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 05, 2005

Carrying the Can
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 01, 2005

Reaction to UPI Climate Commentary
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 22, 2005

Old Wine in New Bottles
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 18, 2005

New Project WWW Page
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 08, 2005

Adaptation and Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 02, 2005

New Paper
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change March 01, 2005

New Entrants in Climate Change Debate
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change February 25, 2005

More on Why Politics and IPCC Matters
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 25, 2005

Open Season on Hockey and Peer Review
   in Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change February 18, 2005

Harbingers and Climate Discourse
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 18, 2005

McIntyre on Climate Science Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 14, 2005

Methane Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 14, 2005

Letter in TNR
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 09, 2005

Climate Science and Politics, but not IPCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 08, 2005

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

We Have an Answer
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 04, 2005

Street Fighting
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 04, 2005

Making Sense of the Climate Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change February 03, 2005

Politics or Science?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 31, 2005

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

A Good Example why Politics/IPCC Matters
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 27, 2005

Reader Mail on Political Advocacy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 27, 2005

More Politics and IPCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 26, 2005

Follow Up On Landsea/IPCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 24, 2005

A Third Way on Climate?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 21, 2005

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

Climate Change and Reinsurance, Part 2.5
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 19, 2005

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

A Response to RealClimate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General January 15, 2005

The Uncertainty Trap
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty January 14, 2005

A Couple of Newsletters and Essays
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Biotechnology | Climate Change January 11, 2005

Climate Change and Reinsurance, Part II
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 07, 2005

Climate Change and Reinsurance, Part I
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change January 06, 2005

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

Shadow Boxing on Climate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 27, 2004

What is climate change?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 22, 2004

National Post Op-Ed
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 22, 2004

Misuse of Science by UNEP
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 20, 2004

IPCC-FCCC Issues at COP 10
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 15, 2004

Confusion, Consensus and Robust Policy Options
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science Policy: General December 08, 2004

Research as Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change December 07, 2004

Declare Victory and Move On?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 29, 2004

Clear Thinking on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 24, 2004

Hyperbole and Hyperbole Police
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 18, 2004

Hyperbole Watch
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 15, 2004

A Hyperbolic Backlash
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 09, 2004

Politics and the IPCC
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change November 02, 2004

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

On Cherry Picking and Missing the Point
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 12, 2004

Interesting Email
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 07, 2004

(Mis)Justifications for Climate Mitigation
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 07, 2004

Scientists and the Politics of Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 06, 2004

Exemption Requested from Data Quality Act
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change October 04, 2004

Hurricanes and Climate Change: On Asking the Wrong Question
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 29, 2004

Climate Models, Climate Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 20, 2004

Hurricanes and Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 13, 2004

Population, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and US-Europe Negotiations
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International September 03, 2004

You Heard it Here First
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change September 02, 2004

Climate Models and Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 31, 2004

USGCRP and Policy Relevance
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 27, 2004

Striking shift? I don’t think so.
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 27, 2004

The New York Times and Our Changing Planet
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 26, 2004

The Insanity of the Climate Change Debate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change August 13, 2004

Follow up On Fate of TRMM
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Space Policy August 06, 2004

Radio Interview Q&A
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Hodge Podge August 03, 2004

Radio Interview
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Hodge Podge July 28, 2004

Distinguishing Climate Policy and Energy Policy: Follow Up
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy July 27, 2004

Distinguishing Climate Policy and Energy Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy July 26, 2004

Bipartisan Call to Save TRMM
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Space Policy July 26, 2004

An Appeal to the President to Save TRMM
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Space Policy July 23, 2004

Clear Thinking on U.S. and Kyoto
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 16, 2004

Update on European GHG Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 16, 2004

Follow Up on Politics and the Kyoto Protocol
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International July 12, 2004

Two Different Perspectives on EU Action Under Kyoto
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change July 08, 2004

Frames Trump the Facts
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy | Environment | Water Policy June 29, 2004

Per Capita Greenhouse Gas Emissions
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty June 22, 2004

Fast and Loose on Climate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change June 16, 2004

A Lesson in International Politics
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International June 02, 2004

Reducing Uncertainty: Good Luck
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty May 31, 2004

A New Essay on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 28, 2004

Op-ed on Kyoto
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 26, 2004

Blurring Fact and Fiction: Ingenious
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 21, 2004

Kyoto Protocol Watch
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 20, 2004

Generic News Story on Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 17, 2004

What if the Russians Don’t Ratify Kyoto?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 10, 2004

Lomborg on The Day After Tomorrow
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 10, 2004

Remind me what we are arguing about
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 07, 2004

A Myth about Public Opinion and Global Warming
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 07, 2004

Tony Blair Comments on Climate
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change May 04, 2004

More Devil in the Details: Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment April 26, 2004

Beyond Kyoto: Yes or No
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 21, 2004

A FCCC Perspective on Climate Policy
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 21, 2004

A Devil in the Details: Climate Change
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change April 15, 2004

Climate Change Prediction and Uncertainty
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Risk & Uncertainty April 14, 2004



August 03, 2008

Joel Achenbach on Weather Extremes

In today's Washington Post Joel Achenbach has a smart and nuanced piece on weather extremes and climate change. The attribution of weather events and trends to particular causes is difficult and contested.

Equivocation isn't a sign of cognitive weakness. Uncertainty is intrinsic to the scientific process, and sometimes you have to have the courage to stand up and say, "Maybe."

For Achenbach's efforts he gets called stupid and a tool of the "deniers". Such complaints are ironic given that Achenbach explains how foolish it is to put too much weight on extreme events in arguments about climate change:

the evidence for man-made climate change is solid enough that it doesn't need to be bolstered by iffy claims. Rigorous science is the best weapon for persuading the public that this is a real problem that requires bold action. "Weather alarmism" gives ammunition to global-warming deniers. They're happy to fight on that turf, since they can say that a year with relatively few hurricanes (or a cold snap when you don't expect it) proves that global warming is a myth. As science writer John Tierney put it in the New York Times earlier this year, weather alarmism "leaves climate politics at the mercy of the weather."

There's an ancillary issue here: Global warming threatens to suck all the oxygen out of any discussion of the environment. We wind up giving too little attention to habitat destruction, overfishing, invasive species tagging along with global trade and so on. You don't need a climate model to detect that big oil spill in the Mississippi. That "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico -- an oxygen-starved region the size of Massachusetts -- isn't caused by global warming, but by all that fertilizer spread on Midwest cornfields.

Some folks may actually get the notion that the planet will be safe if we all just start driving Priuses. But even if we cured ourselves of our addiction to fossil fuels and stabilized the planet's climate, we'd still have an environmental crisis on our hands. Our fundamental problem is that -- now it's my chance to sound hysterical -- humans are a species out of control. We've been hellbent on wrecking our environment pretty much since the day we figured out how to make fire.

This caused that: It would be nice if climate and weather were that simple.

And the U.S. Climate Change Science Program recently issued a report with the following conclusions:

1. Over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.

2. Nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought.

3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation , there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).

4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms.

5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters.

6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.

In the climate debate, you would have to be pretty foolish to allow any argument to hinge on claims about the attribution of observed extreme events to the emissions of greenhouse gases. But as we've noted here on many occasions, for some the climate debate is a morality tale that cannot withstand nuance, even if that nuance is perfectly appropriate given the current state of understandings. But given the public relations value of extreme events in the climate debate, don't expect Achenbach's reasoned view to take hold among those calling for action. Like the Bush Administration and Iraqi WMDs, for some folks sometimes the intelligence that you wish existed trumps the facts on the ground.

August 01, 2008

The New Abortion Politics

The deepest pathologies in the climate policy debate can been seen in this comment in today's NYT column by Paul Krugman:

The only way we’re going to get action [on climate change], I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral.

This strategy of characterizing one's political opponents as immoral is of course is part and parcel of the debate over abortion (which is why I call such politics "abortion politics" in The Honest Broker). In the climate debate the litmus test for having the proper morality (i.e., defined as not "standing in the way of action," by being a "denier" or "delayer" or [insert derisive moral judgment here]) is by holding and expressing (and not questioning) certain acceptable beliefs, such as:

*Not questioning any consensus views of the IPCC (in any working group)

*Not supporting adaptation

*Not emphasizing the importance of significant technological innovation

*Not pointing out that policies to create higher priced energy are a certain losing strategy

Deviation for these beliefs is, blasphemy -- heresy! Or as Paul Krugman recommends . . . immoral.

Climate change is the new locus of the U.S. culture wars. Unlike the abortion issue which was turned into a referendum on morality by the political right, the climate issue is fast becoming a referendum on morality by the political left. You couldn't make this stuff up.

July 31, 2008

Ocean Encroachment in Bangladesh

bangladesh.jpg

My first reaction upon seeing this story was that someone was having some fun. But it doesn't seem like benthic bacteria . . . So this article from the AFP comes as a surprise, and a reminder that forecasting the future remains a perilous business. With news like this, it seems premature to dismiss skepticism about climate science as fading away, far from it, expect skeptics of all sorts to have a bit more bounce in their steps.

DHAKA (AFP) - New data shows that Bangladesh's landmass is increasing, contradicting forecasts that the South Asian nation will be under the waves by the end of the century, experts say.

Scientists from the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) have studied 32 years of satellite images and say Bangladesh's landmass has increased by 20 square kilometres (eight square miles) annually.

Maminul Haque Sarker, head of the department at the government-owned centre that looks at boundary changes, told AFP sediment which travelled down the big Himalayan rivers -- the Ganges and the Brahmaputra -- had caused the landmass to increase.

The rivers, which meet in the centre of Bangladesh, carry more than a billion tonnes of sediment every year and most of it comes to rest on the southern coastline of the country in the Bay of Bengal where new territory is forming, he said in an interview on Tuesday.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that impoverished Bangladesh, criss-crossed by a network of more than 200 rivers, will lose 17 percent of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to global warming.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel says 20 million Bangladeshis will become environmental refugees by 2050 and the country will lose some 30 percent of its food production.

Director of the US-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, professor James Hansen, paints an even grimmer picture, predicting the entire country could be under water by the end of the century.

But Sarker said that while rising sea levels and river erosion were both claiming land in Bangladesh, many climate experts had failed to take into account new land being formed from the river sediment.

"Satellite images dating back to 1973 and old maps earlier than that show some 1,000 square kilometres of land have risen from the sea," Sarker said.

"A rise in sea level will offset this and slow the gains made by new territories, but there will still be an increase in land. We think that in the next 50 years we may get another 1,000 square kilometres of land."

Mahfuzur Rahman, head of Bangladesh Water Development Board's Coastal Study and Survey Department, has also been analysing the buildup of land on the coast.

He told AFP findings by the IPCC and other climate change scientists were too general and did not explore the benefits of land accretion.

"For almost a decade we have heard experts saying Bangladesh will be under water, but so far our data has shown nothing like this," he said.

July 28, 2008

Draft CCSP Synthesis Report

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has put online for public comment a draft version of its synthesis report ( here in PDF), and I suppose the good news is that it is a draft, which means that it is subject to revision. But what the draft includes is troubling in several respects.

First, the report adopts an approach to presenting the science more befitting an advocacy group, rather than a interagency science assessment. The report ignores the actual literature on economics and policy, choosing instead to present fluffy exhortations about the urgency of action and reducing emissions. I can get that level of policy discussion from any garden variety NGO, for $2 billion per year over the past 18 years, I would expect a bit more.

The report opens with this language:

The Future is in Our Hands

Human-induced climate change is affecting us now. Its impacts on our economy, security, and quality of life will increase in the decades to come. Beyond the next few decades, when warming is "locked in" to the climate system from human activities to date, the future lies largely in our hands. Will we begin reducing heat-trapping emissions now, thereby reducing future climate disruption and its impacts? Will we alter our planning and development in ways that reduce our vulnerability to the changes that are already on the way? The choices are ours.

Pretty thin stuff. The report speaks of urgency:

Once considered a problem mainly for the future, climate change is now upon us. People are at the heart of this problem: we are causing it, and we are being affected by it. The rapid onset of many aspects of climate change highlights the urgency of confronting this challenge without further delay. The choices that we make now will influence current and future emissions of heat-trapping gases, and can help to reduce future warming.

It is not within the Congressional mandate of the CCSP to tell policymakers when to act or what goals to pursue. The report does have some limited discussion of options, which would be great (and within the mandate) if it were comprehensive and scientifically rigorous. Unfortunately, it is neither.

Despite recognizing that some adaptation will be necessary, and discussing adaptive responses in the text, the report has a strong bias against adaptation in favor of mitigation:

The more we mitigate (reduce emissions), the less climate change we’ll experience and the less severe the impacts will be, and thus, the less adaptation will be required. . . Despite what is widely assumed to be the considerable adaptive capacity of the United States, we have not always succeeded in avoiding significant losses and disruptions, for example, due to extreme weather events. There are many challenges and limits to adaptation. Some adaptations will be very expensive. We will be adapting to a moving target, as future climate will not be stationary but continually changing. And if emissions and thus warming are at the high end of future scenarios, some changes will be so large that adaptation is unlikely to be successful.

A large body of work, some of which I’ve contributed, indicates that adaptation and mitigation are not tradeoffs, but complements. Somehow this literature escaped the thorough review done by the authors of this report.

The report claims to be focused on bringing together the "best available science." However in the area of my expertise, disasters and climate change, the report is an embarrassment. For example, once again, it uses the economic costs of disasters as evidence of climate change and its impacts, as shown in the following figure from the report.

ccspsyn1.jpg

Then, later in the report it discusses increasing U.S. precipitation under the heading "Floods" and next to a picture of a flooded house (below). However, in the U.S. there has been no increase in streamflow and flood damage has decreased dramatically as a fraction of GDP. Thus the report reflects ignorance on this subject or is willfully misleading. Neither prospect gives one much confidence in a government science report.

ccspsyn2.jpg

In short, in areas where I have expertise, at best the reporting of the science of climate impacts in this report is highly selective. Less generously it is misleading, incorrect, and a poor reflection on the government scientists whose names appear on the title page, many of whom I know and have respect for. The report asks for comments during the next few weeks, and I will submit some reactions, which I'll also post here.

So why does the report have such an advocacy focus and rely on misleading arguments?

One answer is to have a look to the people chiefly responsible for the editing of the report, and also the section on natural disasters, where one person's views are reported almost exclusively to any others.

Perhaps it is time to rotate control of U.S. government "science" reports to some new faces?

Free Enterprise but not Free Speech

The management of the Free Enterprise Action Fund have thrown their hat into the ring seeking to limit what can be said or claimed in the context of climate change. In this case they have asked the U.S. government's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to pass judgment on whether certain claims by companies can be considered false and misleading, and thus in violation of securities laws of the U.S. government.

The fund is run by Steven Milloy (of junkscience.com) and Thomas Borelli, and according to Google Finance the fund seeks to achieve long-term growth "through investments and advocacy that promote the American system of free enterprise." I'm no stockbroker, but it seems like a gussied up market index fund to me. (Isn't any investment in the stock market promoting free enterprise? But I digress . . .) Anyway, here is the full text of their letter to the SEC:

Ms. Florence E. Harmon Acting Secretary U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 100 F Street, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20549

Re: Petition for Interpretive Guidance on Public Statements Concerning Global Warming and Other Environmental Issues

Dear Ms. Harmon,

We are writing on behalf of the Free Enterprise Action Fund ("FEAOX"), a publicly-traded mutual fund, to petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC" or "Commission") to issue interpretive guidance pursuant to the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 ("the Act") that would warn registrants against making potentially false and misleading statements pertaining to global warming and other environmental issues.

We believe the Commission should take action immediately to protect investors.

I. Examples of potentially false and misleading statements made by registrants.

Below are but a few examples of the sort of potentially false and misleading statements being made by registrants. The problematic nature of these statements is discussed in Section II.

* Exelon Corp. issued a media release and placed full-page advertisements in major newspapers on July 15, 2008 stating, "The science is overwhelming -- climate change is happening now and human activity is the primary cause."

* Lehman Brothers issued a report on climate change featuring the so-called "hockey stick" graph to support the notion that humans are causing global warming.

* The General Electric Company issued a "Call for Action" to "slow, stop and even reverse the damage of greenhouse gasses."

* Toyota Motor Corp. states in a report, "When we drive a vehicle, it consumes fossil fuels and emits CO2, a major contributor to climate change."

* Goldman Sachs states in a 2007 report, "By now, the dynamics of global warming are widely known, and we find no reason to dispute the scientific assumptions."

* Caterpillar said in a public statement that, "We must take action now [to reduce carbon dioxide emissions] or risk serious harm to our planet."

All these statements are potentially false and/or misleading as recent events show.

II. Recent events that put registrants at risk of making false and misleading statements.

A number of recent developments have tended to expose the above-mentioned registrant statements (and probably many others) as false and/or misleading, including:

* The American Physical Society, the leading professional society for American physicists announced in July 2008 on one of its websites that, "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 the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution."

* In May 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine released a petition signed by more than 31,000 U.S. scientists stating, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will cause in the future, catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate..."

* India's National Action Plan on Climate Change issued in June 2008 states, "No firm link between the documented [climate] changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established." Researchers belonging to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in the science journal Nature (May 1) that, after adjusting their climate model to reflect actual sea surface temperatures of the last 50 years, "global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade," since natural climate variation will drive global climate.

* Climate scientists reported in the December issue of the International Journal of Climatology, published by Britain's Royal Meteorological Society, that observed temperature changes measured over the last 30 years don't match well with temperatures predicted by the mathematical climate models relied on by the IPCC.

* A British judge ruled in October 2007 that Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," contained so many factual errors that a disclaimer was required to be shown to students before they viewed the film.

* A panel of the National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2006 that the "hockey stick" graph is not proof that human activity is linked to global warming.

III. Conclusion

Based on the foregoing, we request that the Commission immediately inform and remind registrants that:

1. False and/or misleading statements on material matters may violate the anti-fraud provision of the federal securities laws.

2. Statements by registrants on global warming and other environmental issues could be considered material.

3. There is considerable ongoing debate about the science of global warming and its impacts and;

4. Statements to the effect that "the science is conclusive," "the debate is over," and that "human activities are definitely causing harmful global warming" should be avoided.

If you have any questions, please contact the undersigned at 301-258-2852.

Sincerely,

/s/

Steven J. Milloy, MHS, JD, LLM
Thomas J. Borelli, PhD
Managing Partners
Portfolio Managers, Free Enterprise Action Fund

Call me a skeptic -- go ahead, it is OK -- but I don't think this complaint has any chance of succeeding, as the example statements that they have cited are either opinions or puffery. Are these examples really the best that they could come up with?

What is (again) most troubling about this sort of behavior is the recourse to legal methods to limit what can or cannot be claimed about climate change in political debate. And yes, I am viewing the actions of the Free Enterprise Action Fund management as a political act with little relevance to the actual performance of their portfolio of investments. Of course, I see that efforts at moral suasion aren't faring so well so perhaps the thinking -- on both sides of this political debate -- is that if you can't win the debate on the merits, then silencing your opponents via the force of law is the next best thing. A pity, if so.

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.

July 18, 2008

Adaptation Policies for Biodiversity: Facilitated Dispersal

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of Queensland University and colleagues have an important article on “Assisted Colonization and Rapid Climate Change” in this week’s issue of Science (pdf). The author’s argue:

Rapid climatic change has already caused changes to the distributions of many plants and animals, leading to severe range contractions and the extinction of some species (1, 2). The geographic ranges of many species are moving toward the poles or to higher altitudes in response to shifts in the habitats to which these species have adapted over relatively longer periods (1-4). It already appears that some species are unable to disperse or adapt fast enough to keep up with the high rates of climate change (5, 6). These organisms face increased extinction risk, and, as a result, whole ecosystems, such as cloud forests and coral reefs, may cease to function in their current form (7-9).
Current conservation practices may not be enough to avert species losses in the face of mid- to upper-level climate projections (>3°C) (10), because the extensive clearing and destruction of natural habitats by humans disrupts processes that underpin species dispersal and establishment. Therefore, resource managers and policy-makers must contemplate moving species to sites where they do not currently occur or have not been known to occur in recent history. This strategy flies in the face of conventional conservation approaches.

The strategy flies in the face of conventional conservation approaches due to the numerous risks associated with the introduction of invasive species. The authors fully acknowledge these risks.

The world is littered with examples where moving species beyond their current range into natural and agricultural landscapes has had negative impacts. Understandably, notions of deliberately moving species are regarded with suspicion. Our contrary view is that an increased understanding of the habitat requirements and distributions of some species allows us to identify low-risk situations where the benefits of such "assisted colonization'" can be realized and adverse outcomes minimized…
…One of the most serious risks associated with assisted colonization is the potential for creating new pest problems at the target site. Introduced organisms can also carry diseases and parasites or can alter the genetic structure and breeding systems of local populations…
…In addition to the ecological risks, socioeconomic concerns must be considered in decisions to move threatened species. Financial or human safety constraints, for example, may make a species' introduction undesirable. It is likely to be unacceptable to move threatened large carnivores or toxic plants into regions that are important for grazing livestock…

These risks do not invalidate the authors' major point. If we want to conserve current biodiversity in a changing climate, we will likely need creative alternatives to current conservation approaches. Facilitated dispersal of species is one option that deserves consideration in specific conservation contexts. However, it is far from a silver bullet.

July 14, 2008

Replications of our Normalized Hurricane Damage Work

This post highlights two discussion papers that have successfully replicated our normalized hurricane damage analyses using different approaches and datasets. Interestingly, both papers claim a trend in losses after normalization, but do some only by using a subset of the data – starting in 1950 in the first case and 1971 and the second case. Our dataset shows the same trends when arbitrarily selecting these shorter time frames, however, as we reported, we found no trends in the entire dataset.

If you’d just like the bottom line, here it is:

I am happy to report that Nordhaus (2006) and Schmidt et al. (2008) offer strong confirmatory evidence in support of the analysis that we have presented on adjusting U.S. hurricane losses over time. What do these studies say about the debate over hurricanes and climate change? Well, almost nothing (despite the unsuccessful effort by Schmidt et al. to reach for such a connection). There is no long-term trend in the landfall behavior of U.S. hurricanes, so it is only logical that there would also be no long-term trends in normalized damage as a function of storm behavior. Those looking for insight on this debate will need to look elsewhere. If it is to be found, such a linkage will be found in the geophysical data long before it shows up in the damage data, as we asserted at our Hohenkammer workshop.

Please read on if you are interested in the details.

The first paper is by the leading economist William Nordhaus (2006, PDF). His analysis uses the same original loss data but adjusts it for GDP rather than population, wealth, and housing units. His analysis uses our 1998 study which we updated in 2008. Nordhaus claims to have "verified our analysis" but he does leave a loose end (emphasis added):

Our estimates indicate that the time trend in the damage function is positive. For example, the time trend in the OLS full-sample equation found that normalized damages have risen by 2.9 (+0.76) percent per year, indicating increased vulnerability to storms of a given size.

This is contrary to Roger A. Pielke, Jr., "Are There Trends in Hurricane Destruction?" Nature, Vol. 438, December 2005, E11, who reports no statistically significant trend. Similar negative results were found in Roger A. Pielke, Jr. and Christopher W. Landsea, "La Niña, El Niño, and Atlantic Hurricane Damages in the United States," Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., vol. 80, 2027-2033. Additionally, issues of comparability over time are non-trivial, as is discussed in Christopher W. Landsea, "Hurricanes and Global Warming," Nature, Vol. 438, December 2005, E11-E12. The reasons for the difference in findings have not been resolved.

The reason for the difference in findings should be completely obvious: Nordhaus looks at 1950-2005, and Pielke (2005) and Pielke and Landsea (1998) both begin their analysis in 1900. Pielke (2005, PDF) reports:

For example, take the 86 storms causing at least US$1 billion in normalized damages, which removes a bias caused by small storms resulting in no damage in the early twentieth century (that is, not subjected to normalization). There is an average per-storm loss in 1900–50 for 40 storms (0.78 events per year) of $9.3 billion, and an average per-storm loss in 1951–2004 for 46 storms (0.85 events per year) of $7.0 billion; this difference is not statistically significant. Adding Hurricane Katrina to this data set, even at the largest loss figures currently suggested, would not change the interpretation of these results.

The following figures illustrate this point quite clearly. The first figure is from Nordhaus:

Nord1.jpg

The second figure is from the data of Pielke et al. 2008 (PDF):

pietal1.jpg

Clearly, the datasets show the same trends. However, our entire dataset shows no trend, as we reported in the paper:

The two normalized data sets reported here show no trends either in the absolute data or under a logarithmic transformation: the variance explained by a best-fit linear trend line=0.0004 and 0.0003, respectively, for PL05, and 0.0014 and 0.00006, respectively, for CL05. The lack of trend in twentieth century normalized hurricane losses is consistent with what one would expect to find given the lack of trends in hurricane frequency or intensity at landfall. This finding should add some confidence that, at least to a first degree, the normalization approach has successfully adjusted for changing societal conditions. Given the lack of trends in hurricanes themselves, any trend observed in the normalized losses would necessarily reflect some bias in the adjustment process, such as failing to recognize changes in adaptive capacity or misspecifying wealth. That we do not have a resulting bias suggests that any factors not included in the normalization methods do not have a resulting net large significance.

So to summarize, Nordhaus (2006) and Pielke et al. (2008) reconcile perfectly.

A second study is just out by Silvio Schmidt et al. (2008, PDF) which applies a modified version of our normalization methodology to hurricane losses found in the Munich Reinsurance global loss dataset. This study finds no significant trend from 1950, using a log transformation of the dataset:

The trend analysis for the period 1950–2005 yields no statistically significant trend in annual adjusted losses. Even if the two extreme years, 2004 and 2005, are omitted from the trend analysis, no trend can be identified in which the explanatory variable time is significant. Thus, no conclusion can be drawn regarding a possible trend in the periods 1950–2005 and 1950–2003.

The paper does identify a statistically significant trend starting in 1971, but the significance disappears when Katrina is removed from the dataset. Once again, the Schmidt et al. analysis is perfectly consistent with our analysis. The following figure shows their log-transformed data from 1950:

schetal1.jpg

And the following graph is the same transformation applied to the data of Pielke et al. (2008).

pietal2.jpg

One notable difference is that the Munich Re dataset apparently has some gaps, as it reports a number of years with zero damage that our dataset shows the presence of damaging storms. From the graph is should be clear that any claim of a trend over the dataset depends upon 2004 and 2005. And even in this case Schmidt et al. were only able to identify a statistically significant trend by starting with 1971 (which they claim as the start of a cold phase, contrary to most studies that use 1970). The following figure from Schmidt et al. shows how close the two analyses actually are (the red curve is Pielke et al. 2008):

schetal2.jpg

The differences between the two analyses are very small, and I would guess, of no particular statistical significance over the time series of the dataset.

So I am happy to report that Nordhaus (2006) and Schmidt et al. (2008) offer strong confirmatory evidence in support of the analysis that we have presented on adjusting U.S. hurricane losses over time.

What do these studies say about the debate over hurricanes and climate change? Well, almost nothing despite efforts by Schmidt et al. to reach for such a connection. There is no long-term trend in the landfall behavior of U.S. hurricanes, so it is only logical that there would also be no long-term trends in normalized damage as a function of storm behavior. Those looking for insight on this debate will need to look elsewhere. If it is to be found, such a linkage will be found in the geophysical data long before it shows up in the damage data, as we asserted at our Hohenkammer workshop.

July 09, 2008

Climate Science and National Interests

The Indian government has put out a climate change action plan (PDF) that places economic development and adaptation ahead of mitigation (sound familiar?). The report was endorsed by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri:

[Pachauri] said that India has realised the climate change threat. India's climate change action plan recently released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a "good policy document" and needs to be implemented.

Interesting, the report's views of climate science are at odds with that presented by the IPCC.

The Indian climate change action plan states of observed climate changes in India (p. 15):

No firm link between the documented [climate] changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established.

For example, the Indian report states of the melting of Himalayan glaciers (p. 15):

The available monitoring data on Himalayan glaciers indicates while some recession of glaciers has occurred in some Himalayan regions in recent years, the trend is not consistent across the entire mountain chain. It is accordingly, too early to establish long-term trends or their causation, in respect of which there are several hypotheses.

By contrast, the IPCC (WG II Ch. 10 p. 493)says of Himalayan glacier melt:

The receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers can be attributed primarily to the global warming due to increase in anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases.

Imagine the reaction if the U.S. (or British or German or Australian . . .) government put out a report placing economic growth ahead of mitigation while contradicting the science of the IPCC. Dr. Pachauri's endorsement of a report that contradicts the IPCC indicates that issues of science and national interests are apparently universal.

Governance as Usual: Film at 11

I have long considered Andy Revkin of the New York Times to be the dean of reporters covering climate science. But there is one issue that I think he consistently gets wrong, and that is his coverage of the politics of internal bureaucratic-politician conflicts. His story in today's NYT is a good example.

Andy writes, breathlessly:

Vice President Dick Cheney’s office was involved in removing statements on health risks posed by global warming from a draft of a health official’s Senate testimony last year, a former senior government environmental official said on Tuesday.

Watergate this is not. In fact, the editing of testimony probably occurs just about every time that an employee of the executive branch is set to testify before Congress, and this has been standard operating procedure for decades. The more significant the issue the higher up the chain of command the review takes place. The procedure is clearly outlined in OMB Circular-21 (PDF):

Unless a specific exemption is approved by OMB, materials subject to OMB clearance include:

• All budget justifications and budget-related oversight materials;
• Testimony before and letters to congressional committees;
• Written responses to congressional inquiries or other materials for the record; . . .

Now if you or I were in a decision making position in the Executive Branch we might make decisions about what to allow in testimony differently than those in the current administration. But make no mistake, such decisions are under the discretion of the administration. Federal employees who don't like those decisions are free to go public or even resign (both occurred in this case).

A spat between elected and career officials may or may not be significant, as they happen all the time. My problem with the track record of coverage of such disputes on climate change by the NYT is that it they have been very misleading about what the news is in such situations. The headline reads: "Cheney’s Office Said to Edit Draft Testimony" suggesting that there is something improper or perhaps even illegal about the editing of testimony in the Executive Office of the President. There is not.

Revkin and I have disagreed on this same issue before. At the time I called the NYT coverage of Bush officials editing Bush Administration documents a "manufactured controversy" and I think that statement applies to today's revelations as well.

Here are the comments I left on Andy's blog, to which, perhaps understandably, he reacted a bit snippily:

Andy-

This is a "dog bites man" story in the form of "pit bull bites man". It is red meat for those who do not like pit bulls, but at the same time, everyone knows that pit bulls bite.

Can you name a presidential administration in which senior officials did not play a role in shaping testimony on important issues? This is a loaded question, because of course you cannot.

I’m no fan of Bush or Cheney, or their approach to climate, but at the same time I think that it is only appropriate to present to your readers an accurate sense of how policy making actually works. In this case, Marburger’s explanation [cited on Andy's blog] is exactly correct.

It is perfectly fair for people to disagree with the actions taken by the Bush Administration on this testimony, but was it improper or even illegal? No, not even close.

Science does not dictate particular policies, and presidential administration’s have wide latitude in what information they present and how they present it. This is spelled out in OMB Circular 22:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a11/current_yea r/s22.pdf

Dog bites man is not news.

[ANDY REVKIN says: Roger, maybe you forgot to read the entire 2004 story, which made the points you’re making now.]

— Posted by Roger Pielke, Jr.

The IPCC, Scientific Advice and Advocacy

For some time the leadership of the IPCC have sought to use the institution's authority to promote a specific political agenda in the climate debate. The comments made yesterday by Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, place the organization in opposition to the G8 leaders position on climate change:

RK Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on Tuesday slammed developed countries for asking India and China to cut greenhouse gas emissions while they themselves had not taken strong steps to cut down pollution.

"India can not be held for any emission control. They (developed countries) should get off the back of India and China," Pachauri told reporters here.

"We are an expanding economy. How can we levy a cap when millions are living with deprivation? To impose any cap (on India) at a time when others (industrialised countries) are saying that they will reach the 1990 level of emission by 2025 is hazardous," Pachauri said.

He said countries like the US and Canada should accept their responsibilities and show leadership in reducing green house gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

Pachauri said millions of Indian do not have access to electricity and their per capita income is much less. At this point, you cannot ask a country to "stop developing".

Who does Dr. Pachauri speak for as head of the "policy neutral" IPCC?

It is as if the head of the CIA (or any other intelligence agency) decided to publicly criticize the government of Iran (or other country). Such behavior would seriously call into question the ability of the intelligence agency to perform its duties, which depend upon an ability to leave advocacy to other agencies. The United States has a Department of State responsible for international relations. The CIA collects intelligence in support of decision makers. These agencies have different roles in the policy process -- hoenst broker and issue advocate.

The IPCC seems to want to both gather intelligence and decide what to do based on that intelligence. This is not a recipe for effective expert advice. Leaders in many areas would not stand for this conflation of advice and advocacy, so why does it continue to occur in the climate arena with little comment?

June 20, 2008

What the CCSP Extremes Report Really Says

Yesterday the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released an assessment report titled "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate" (PDF) with a focus on the United States. This post discusses some interesting aspects of this report, with an emphasis on what it does not show and does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing.

First, let me emphasize that the focus of the report is on changes in extremes in the United States, and not on climate changes more generally. Second, my comments below refer to the report’s discussion of observed trends. I do not discuss predictions of the future, which the report also covers. Third, the report relies a great deal on research that I have been involved in and obviously know quite well. Finally, let me emphasize that anthropogenic climate change is real, and deserving of significant attention to both adaptation and mitigation.

The report contains several remarkable conclusions, that somehow did not seem to make it into the official press release.

1. Over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.

Yes, you read that correctly. From the appendix (p. 132, emphases added):

The final example is a time series of U.S. landfalling hurricanes for 1851-2006 . . . A linear trend was fitted to the full series and also for the following subseries: 1861-2006, 1871-2006, and so on up to 1921-2006. As in preceding examples, the model fitted was ARMA (p,q) with linear trend, with p and q identified by AIC.

For 1871-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -.00229, standard error .00089, significant at p=.01. For 1881-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -.00212, standard error .00100, significant at p=.03. For all other cases, the estimated trend was negative, but not statistically significant.

2. Nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought.

Yes, you read that correctly. From p. 5:

Averaged over the continental U.S. and southern Canada the most severe droughts occurred in the 1930s and there is no indication of an overall trend in the observational record . . .

3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation (pp. 46-50, pp. 130-131), there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).

From p. 53 (emphasis added):

Lins and Slack (1999, 2005) reported no significant changes in high flow above the 90th percentile. On the other hand, Groisman et al. (2001) showed that for the same gauges, period, and territory, there were statistically significant regional average increases in the uppermost fractions of total streamflow. However, these trends became statistically insignificant after Groisman et al. (2004) updated the analysis to include the years 2000 through 2003, all of which happened to be dry years over most of the eastern United States.

4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms

From p. 77:

There is no evidence for a change in the severity of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and the large changes in the overall number of reports make it impossible to detect if meteorological changes have occurred.

5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters.

From p. 68:

They found a general tendency toward weaker systems over the past few decades, based on a marginally significant (at the p=0.1 level) increase in average storm minimum pressure (not shown). However, their analysis found no statistically significant trends in ECWS frequency for all nor’easters identified in their analysis, specifically for those storms that occurred over the northern portion of the domain (>35°N), or those that traversed full coast (Figure 2.22b, c) during the 46-year period of record used in this study.

6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.

From p. 39:

Analysis of multi-day very extreme heat and cold episodes in the United States were updated from Kunkel et al. (1999a) for the period 1895-2005. The most notable feature of the pattern of the annual number of extreme heat waves (Figure 2.3a) through time is the high frequency in the 1930s compared to the rest of the years in the 1895-2005 period. This was followed by a decrease to a minimum in the 1960s and 1970s and then an increasing trend since then. There is no trend over the entire period, but a highly statistically significant upward trend since 1960. . . Cold waves show a decline in the first half of the 20th century, then a large spike of events during the mid-1980s, then a decline. The last 10 years have seen a lower number of severe cold waves in the United States than in any other 10-year period since record-keeping began in 1895 . . .

From the excerpts above it should be obvious that there is not a pattern of unprecedented weather extremes in recent years or a long-term secular trend in extreme storms or streamflow. Yet the report shows data in at least three places showing that the damage associated with weather extremes has increased dramatically over the long-term. Here is what the report says on p. 12:

. . . the costs of weather-related disasters in the U.S. have been increasing since 1960, as shown in Figure 1.2. For the world as a whole, "weather-related [insured] losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non-weather-related events" (Mills, 2005a). Numerous studies indicate that both the climate and the socioeconomic vulnerability to weather and climate extremes are changing (Brooks and Doswell, 2001; Pielke et al., 2008; Downton et al., 2005), although these factors’ relative contributions to observed increases in disaster costs are subject to debate.

What debate? The report offers not a single reference to justify that there is a debate on this subject. In fact, a major international conference that I helped organize along with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re came to a consensus position among experts as varied as Indur Goklany and Paul Epstein. Further, I have seen no studies that counter the research I have been involved in on trends in hurricane and flood damage in relation to climate and societal change. Not one. That probably explains the lack of citations.

They reference Mills 2005a, but fail to acknowledge my comment published in Science on Mills 2005a (found here in PDF) and yet are able to fit in a reference to Mills 2005b, titled "Response to Pielke" (responding to my comment). How selective. I critiqued Mills 2005a on this blog when it came out, writing some strong things: "shoddy science, bad peer review and a failure of the science community to demand high standards is not the best recipe for helping science to contribute effectively to policy."

The CCSP report continues:

For example, it is not easy to quantify the extent to which increases in coastal building damage is due to increasing wealth and population growth in vulnerable locations versus an increase in storm intensity. Some authors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008) divide damage costs by a wealth factor in order to "normalize" the damage costs. However, other factors such as changes in building codes, emergency response, warning systems, etc. also need to be taken into account.

This is an odd editorial evaluation and dismissal of our work (Based on what? Again not a single citation to literature.) In fact, the study that I was lead author on that is referenced (PDF) shows quantitatively that our normalized damage record matches up with the trend in landfall behavior of storms, providing clear evidence that we have indeed appropriately adjusted for the effects of societal change in the historical record of damages.

The CCSP report then offers this interesting claim, again with the apparent intention of dismissing our work:

At this time, there is no universally accepted approach to normalizing damage costs (Guha-Sapir et al., 2004).

The reference used to support this claim can be found here in PDF. Perhaps surprisingly, given how it is used, Guha-Sapir et al. contains absolutely no discussion of normalization methodologies, but instead, a general discussion of damage estimation. It is therefore improperly cited in support of this claim. However, Guha-Sapir et al. 2004 does say the following on p. 53:

Are natural hazards increasing? Probably not significantly. But the number of people vulnerable and affected by disasters is definitely on the increase.

Sound familiar?

In closing, the CCSP report is notable because of what it does not show and what it does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing.

Overall, this is not a good showing by the CCSP.

June 18, 2008

Op-Ed in Financial Post

UPDATE: At Dot Earth Andy Revkin labels an excerpt from this op-ed the "quote of the day."

I have an invited op-ed in today's Financial Post (a Canadian newspaper with a skeptical editorial perspective on climate change). I argue that even though many scientists oversell the predictive capabilities of climate models, action on climate change still makes sense. Here is an excerpt:

So in the debate on what to do about climate change, what are we to make of the overstated claims of predictive accuracy offered by many scientists? Not surprisingly, the reason for overstated claims lies in the bitter and contested politics of climate change. Myanna Lahsen, an anthropologist who has studied climate modelers, finds that many of these scientists are acutely aware of the fact that any expressed “caveats, qualifications and other acknowledgements of model limitations can become fodder for the anti-environmental movement.” She documents how, more than a decade ago, a prominent climate scientist warned a group of his colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, home of one of the main U.S. climate modeling efforts that informs the IPCC, to “Choose carefully your adjectives to describe the models. Confidence or lack of confidence in the models is the deciding factor in whether or not there will be policy response on behalf of climate change.”

I witnessed this dynamic in practice while I was waiting to testify on climate policy before the U.S. Congress in 2006. A prominent climate scientist testifying on the panel appearing before mine was asked by a member of Congress about uncertainties in predictions from climate models. The scientist replied, enthusiastically and accurately, that there are a range of important uncertainties coming from scenario inputs and choices in parameterization schemes, instantly overwhelming his congressional audience with technical detail. Much later, and after a long break, the scientist requested an opportunity to clarify his earlier comments, and this time he said, “I would like to give you a little more direct answer to the question on reliability of climate models. I think they are reliable enough to be a very useful guide into the future.”

Lost in the Manichean debate over climate change is the real significance of what climate models really are telling us: We should act on climate mitigation and adaptation not because we are able to predict the future, but because we cannot.

See it all here. Comments and reactions welcomed.

June 16, 2008

U.S. Flood Damage 1929-2003

The ongoing Midwest floods are a horrible disaster. The United States however has seen a long-term trend of decreasing flood losses as a fraction of GDP, as shown in the following graph.

Flood Damage 1929-2003.jpg

Sources

Flood damage data: Here (Note no data 1980-82)

GDP data: Here

For further reading:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., M. Downton, J. Z. B. Miller, S. A. Changnon, K. E. Kunkel, and K. Andsager, 2000: Understanding Damaging Floods in Iowa: Climate and Societal Interactions in the Skunk and Raccoon River Basins, Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, August. (PDF)

Pielke, Jr., R. A. and M.W. Downton, 2000. Precipitation and Damaging Floods: Trends in the United States, 1932-97. Journal of Climate, 13(20), 3625-3637. (PDF)

Downton, M. and R. A. Pielke, Jr., 2005. How Accurate are Disaster Loss Data? The Case of U.S. Flood Damage, Natural Hazards, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 211-228. (PDF)

Posted on June 16, 2008 03:33 PM View this article | Comments (5)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

The New Global Growth Path

ngp.png

A very important new paper is forthcoming in the journal Climatic Change which has been published first online. The paper is:

P. Sheehan, 2008. The new global growth path: implications for climate change analysis and policy, Climatic Change (in press).

The paper argues that:

In recent years the world has moved to a new path of rapid global growth, largely driven by the developing countries, which is energy intensive and heavily reliant on the use of coal—global coal use will rise by nearly 60% over the decade to 2010. It is likely that, without changes to the policies in place in 2006, global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion would nearly double their 2000 level by 2020 and would continue to rise beyond 2030. Neither the SRES marker scenarios nor the reference cases assembled in recent studies using integrated assessment models capture this abrupt shift to rapid growth based on fossil fuels, centred in key Asian countries.

This conclusion strongly supports the analysis that we presented in Nature (PDF)not long ago, in which we argued that the mitigation challenge was potentially underestimated in the so-called IPCC SRES (and pre- and post- SRES) scenarios due to overly aggressive assumptions about future trends in the decarbonization of the global economy. Such overly optimistic assumptions are endemic in the literature, found in the Stern Review, and IEA and CCSP assessments, among others.

Sheehan comes to similar conclusions:

To the extent that NGP is a reasonable projection of global trends on current policies out to 2030, it follows that all of the SRES marker scenarios seriously understate unchanged policy emissions over that time, and do so because they do not capture the extent of the expansion in energy use and emissions that is currently taking place in Asia. Nor, as a consequence, do they capture the rapid growth in coal use that is also occurring. . .

The SRES scenarios were a substantial intellectual achievement, and have stood the test of time for almost a decade. But the central feature of global economic trends in the early decades of the twenty-first century—the new growth path shaped by the sustained emergence of China and India, in the context of an open, knowledge-based world economy—could not be foreseen in the 1990s, and is not covered by these scenarios. Many of the SRES scenarios are no longer individually plausible, and as a whole the marker scenarios can no longer be said to ‘describe the most important uncertainties’. As a result, and especially given the emissions intensity of the new growth path, there is an urgent need for new approaches.

Unfortunately, a major obstacle to discussing (much less achieving) new approaches are the very public intellectual and political commitments that have been advanced, based on the earlier assumptions. Unwinding these commitments -- as we have seen -- will take some doing.

PS. See also the NYTs Andy Revkin and Elisabeth Rosenthal on China's growing emissions here. As yet, the dots remain to be connected between such trends unfolding before our eyes and their incongruity with assumptions in energy policy assessments. But reality and policy assessments can diverge only for so long.

June 12, 2008

Why Costly Carbon is a House of Cards

How can the world achieve economic growth while at the same time decarbonizing the global economy?

This question is important because there is apt to be little public or political support for mitigation policies that increase the costs of energy in ways that are felt in reduced growth. Consider this description of reactions around the world to the recent increasing costs of fuel:

Concerns were growing last night over a summer of coordinated European fuel protests after tens of thousands of Spanish truckers blocked roads and the French border, sparking similar action in Portugal and France, while unions across Europe prepared fresh action over the rising price of petrol and diesel. . .

Protests at rising fuel prices are not confined to Europe. A succession of developing countries have provoked public outcry by ordering fuel price increases. Yesterday Indian police forcibly dispersed hundreds of protesters in Kashmir who were angry at a 10% rise introduced last week. Protests appeared likely to spread to neighbouring Nepal after its government yesterday announced a 25% rise in fuel prices. Truckers in South Korea have vowed strike action over the high cost of diesel. Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia have all raised pump prices. Malaysia's decision last week to increase prices generated such public fury that the government moved yesterday to trim ministers' allowances to appease the public.

Advocates for a response to climate change based on increasing the costs of carbon-based energy skate around the fact that people react very negatively to higher prices by promising that action won’t really cost that much. For instance, our frequent debating partner Joe Romm says of a recent IEA report (emphasis added):

. . . cutting global emissions in half by 2050 is not costly. In fact, the total shift in investment needed to stabilize at 450 ppm is only about 1.1% of GDP per year, and that is not a "cost" or hit to GDP, because much of that investment goes towards saving expensive fuel.

And Joe tells us that even these "not costly" costs are "overestimated."

If action on climate change is indeed "not costly" then it would logically follow the only reasons for anyone to question a strategy based on increasing the costs of energy are complete ignorance and/or a crass willingness to destroy the planet for private gain. Indeed, accusations of "denial" and "delay" are now staples of any debate over climate policy.

There is another view. Specifically that the current ranges of actions at the forefront of the climate debate focused on putting a price on carbon in order to motivate action are misguided and cannot succeed. This argument goes as follows: In order for action to occur costs must be significant enough to change incentives and thus behavior. Without the sugarcoating, pricing carbon (whether via cap-and-trade or a direct tax) is designed to be costly. In this basic principle lies the seed of failure. Policy makers will do (and have done) everything they can to avoid imposing higher costs of energy on their constituents via dodgy offsets, overly generous allowances, safety valves, hot air, and whatever other gimmick they can come up with.

Analysts and advocates allow this house of cards to stand when trying to sell higher costs of energy to a skeptical public they provide analyses that support a conclusion that acting to cut future emissions is "not costly."

The argument of "not costly" based on under-estimating the future growth of emissions so that the resulting challenge does not appear so large. We have discussed such scenarios on many occasions here and explored their implications in a commentary in Nature (PDF).

One widely-know example is the stabilization wedge analysis of Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow (PDF. The stabilization wedge analysis concluded that the challenge of stabilizing emissions was no so challenging.

Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world’s energy needs over the next 50years and limit atmospheric CO2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the preindustrial concentration. . . But it is important not to become beguiled by the possibility of revolutionary technology. Humanity can solve the carbon and climate problem in the first half of this century simply by scaling up what we already know how to do.

In a recent interview the lead author of that paper, Pacala provided a candid and eye-opening explanation of the reason why they wrote the paper (emphases added):

The purpose of the stabilization wedges paper was narrow and simple – we wanted to stop the Bush administration from what we saw as a strategy to stall action on global warming by claiming that we lacked the technology to tackle it. The Secretary of Energy at the time used to give a speech saying that we needed a discovery as fundamental as the discovery of electricity by Faraday in the 19th century.

We also wanted to stop the group of scientists that were writing what I thought were grant proposals masquerading as energy assessments. There was one famous paper published in Science [Hoffert et al. 2002] that went down the list [of available technologies] fighting them one by one but never asked "what if we put them all together?" It was an analysis whose purpose was to show we lacked the technology, with a call at the end for blue sky research.

I saw it as an unhealthy collusion between the scientific community who believed that there was a serious problem and a political movement that didn’t. I wanted that to stop and the paper for me was surprisingly effective at doing that. I’m really happy with how it came out – I wouldn’t change a thing.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things wrong with it and that history won’t prove it false. It would be astonishing if it weren’t false in many ways, but what we said was accurate at the time.

So lets take a second to reflect on what you just read. Pacala is claiming that he wrote a paper to serve a political purpose and he admits that history may very well prove its analysis to be “false.” But he judges the paper was successful not because of its analytical soundness, but because it served its political function by severing relationship between a certain group of scientific experts and decision makers whose views he opposed.

Why is this problematic? NYU’s Marty Hoffert has explained that the Pacala and Socolow paper was simply based on flawed assumptions. Repeating different analyses with similar assumptions doesn’t make the resulting conclusions any more correct. Hoffert says (emphases added):

The problem with the formulation of Pacala and Socolow in their Science paper, and the later paper by Socolow in Scientific American issue that you cite, is that they both indicate that seven "wedges" of carbon emission reducing energy technology (or behavior) -- each of which creates a growing decline in carbon emissions relative to a baseline scenario equal to 25 billion tonnes less carbon over fifty years -- is enough to hold emissions constant over that period. . . .

A table is presented in the wedge papers of 15 "existing technology" wedges, leading virtually all readers to conclude the carbon and climate problem is soluble with near-term technology; and so, by implication, a major ramp-up of research and development investments in alternate energy technology like the "Apollo-like" R&D Program that we call for, is unnecessary. . . .

The actual number of wedges to hold carbon dioxide below 450 ppm is about 18, not 7, for Pacala-Socolow scenario assumptions, as Rob well knows; in which case we're much further from having the technology we need. The problem is actually much worse than that, since the number of emission-reducing wedges needed to avoid greater than two degree Celsius warming explodes after the mid-century mark if world GDP continues to grow three percent per year under a business-as-usual scenario.

The figure below is from a follow-on paper by Socolow in 2006 (PDF) and clearly indicates the need for 11 additional wedges of emissions reductions from 2005 to 2055. These are called "virtual wedges" which is ironic, because their existence is very real and in fact necessary for the stabilization of emissions to actually occur. (Cutting emissions by half would require another 4 wedges, or 22 total).

If Pacala and Socolow admit that we need 18 wedges to stabilize emissions, and 22 wedges to cut them by half, and this is based on an rosy assumption of only 1.5% growth in emissions to 2055, then why would anyone believe that we need less? If it is conceivable that emissions might grow faster than 1.5% per year, then we will need even more than the 22 wedges. Perhaps much more. But analysts seeking to impose a price on carbon won't tell you this. Instead, some will resort to demagoguery, and others will simply repeat over and over again the consequences of assuming rosy scenarios. None of this will make the mitigation challenge any easier. But as Pacala says in the excerpt above, such strategies may keep more sound analyses out of the debate.

Policies based on the argument that putting a price on carbon will be "not costly' are a house of cards, and based on a range of assumptions that could easily be judged very optimistic. Looking around, what you will see is that the minute that energy prices rise high enough to be felt by the public, action will indeed occur, but it will not be the action that is desired by the climate intelligencia. It will be demands for lower priced energy. And policy makers will listen to these demands and respond. Climate policy analysts should listen as well, because there will be no tricking of the public with rosy scenarios built on optimistic assumptions.

Virtual Triangle.png

June 10, 2008

Who Do National Science Academies Speak For?

UPDATED!

Today the national science academies of the G8+5 issued a statement on climate change (PDF) advocating a greater pace of action on adaptation and mitigation in response to climate change. We have discussed advocacy by science academies here on various occasions, and in this post I'd like to highlight two issues endorsed by the Academies that are still being debated among scientists and advocates, and ask, who do the academies speak for?

1. Clean coal. Carbon capture and storage is a contested technology, for example, by various environmental groups. However, the national science academies endorse its development and use.

Technologies should be developed and deployed for carbon capture, storage and sequestration (CCS), particularly for emissions from coal which will continue to be a primary energy source for the next 50 years for power and other industrial processes. G8+5 economies can take the lead globally to further develop CCS technologies. This will involve governments and industry working collaboratively to develop the financial and regulatory conditions needed to move CCS forward and international coordination in the development of demonstration plants.

2. Geoengineering research. Similarly, geoengineering research (as a separate issue from actual geoengineering) is a contested issue, for instance the recent Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity proposed a moratorium (receiving broad international support) on certain geoengineering experiments.. The national science academies endorse geoengineering without such reservations.

There is also an opportunity to promote research on approaches which may contribute towards maintaining a stable climate (including so-called geoengineering technologies and reforestation), which would complement our greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

Separate from the merit of the policy recommendations advanced by the academies (and for the record I support both CCS and geoengineering research) is the question of who the national science academies speak for and the basis for their endorsement of particular actions.

Do they represent the scientific community within their countries? Their members? Their executive bodies and leadership?

What of public concerns and those among members of the scientific community about CCS and geoengineering?

If the science academies claim to represent a special interest, then whose interest? If they claim to represent common interests, then on what basis is their advocacy to be viewed as legitimate (e.g., is democratic, consensual, authoritative, elite, etc.)?

June 09, 2008

An Order of Magnitude in Cost Estimates: Automatic Decarbonization in the IEA Baseline

Last week I mentioned the conclusions of the IEA Energy Technologies Perspectives report. I have had a chance to look at the full report in some depth, with an eye to the assumptions in the report for the spontaneous decarbonization of the global economy.

All assessments of the costs of stabilizing concentrations of carbon dioxide start with a baseline trajectory of future emissions. The costs of mitigation are calculated with respect to reductions from this baseline. In the Pielke, Wigley, and Green commentary in Nature (PDF) we argued that such baselines typically assume very large, spontaneous decreases in energy intensity (energy per unit GDP). The effect of these assumptions is to decrease the trajectory of the baseline, making the challenge of mitigation much smaller than it would be with assumptions of smaller decreases in energy intensity (and a higher baseline trajectory). Obviously, the smaller the gap between the baseline scenario and the mitigation scenario, the smaller the projected costs of mitigation.

The annotated figure below is from the IEA ETP report (Figure 2.8, p. 74), and shows the assumptions of decreasing energy intensity in the baseline scenario (BASELINE), as well as the two mitigation scenarios (ACT [emissions stabilized at current values] and BLUE [emissions half current values]).

IEA Decarb.jpg

In the annotation I show with the red call out the difference between the BASELINE and BLUE scenarios, which the report identifies with a cost of $45 trillion. The magnitude of this difference is about 0.8% per year. However, the report assumes that about twice this rate of decarbonization of the global economy will happen spontaneously (i.e., the magnitude of the BASELINE reductions in energy intensity). With the green call out I ask how the baseline is actually to be achieved.

In numbers, the BLUE scenario assumes that by 2050 a trajectory consistent with stabilization at 450 ppm carbon dioxide will require reductions in emissions from 62 Gt carbon dioxide to 14 Gt. But what if we use a "frozen technology" baseline as recommended in PWG?

Using the assumptions from Annex B of the report for global economic growth (4.2% to 2015, 3.3% 2015-2030, and 2.6% 2030 to 2050 -- we could play with these assumptions as well) results in a frozen technology baseline of 115 Gt carbon dioxide. Thus, 53Gt of carbon dioxide are assumed in the BASELINE to be reduced by the automatic decarbonization of the global economy. This spontaneous decarbonization will occur without any of the technologies proposed in the report to get from the baseline to the mitigation level (otherwise the report would be double-counting the effects of these technologies). What these technologies are is anyone's guess, as the report does not describe them.

If the world does not automatically decarbonize as projected in the IEA baseline, then the costs of mitigation will be considerably higher. By how much?

If we take the report's marginal cost estimate of $200 to $500 per ton for mitigating carbon dioxide, then a simple estimate of the full costs from a frozen technology baseline would be an additional $210 to $530 trillion above the $45 trillion cited in the report. Yes, you read that right.

What if the assumption of automatic decarbonization was off by only 10%? Then the additional cost would be an additional $21 to $53 billion, or about the same magnitude of the IEA's total cost estimate of mitigation (i.e., of moving from the BASELINE to the BLUE trajectory) .

What does this exercise tell us about costs estimates of mitigation?

1. They are highly sensitive to assumptions.

2. Depending on assumptions, cost estimates could vary by more than an order of magnitude.

3. We won't know the actual costs of mitigation until action is taken and costs are observed. Arguments about assumptions are unresolvable.

Meantime, it will be easy to cherrypick a cost for mitigation -- low or high -- that suits the argument that you'd like to make.

Anyone telling you that they have certainty about the future costs of mitigation -- whether that certainty is about high costs or low costs -- is not reflecting the actual uncertainty. Action on mitigation will have to take place before such certainty is achieved, and modified based on what we learn.

June 06, 2008

IEA on Reducing The Trajectory of Global Emissions

The International Energy Administration released its Energy Technology Perspectives report today, with a view on the prospects of returning global emissions to present values by 2050 and also more aggressively cutting them by half in 2050.

The report has several interesting conclusions:

1. Its cost estimates for stabilizing emissions at current amounts have doubled over the past 2 years to $50 per ton of carbon dioxide.

2. Its estimates for halving emissions from today's levels are $200 to $500 per ton of carbon dioxide.

By contrast, the Stern Review's 2006 estimate of the average cost of a similar reduction in emissions to 2050 was $25 per ton of carbon dioxide (see Figure 9.5 here in PDF), with an uncertainty range that topped out at about $100 per ton. The IPCC AR4 scenarios led to costs ranging up to $200 per ton of carbon dioxide (consistent with a 550 ppm stabilization trajectory by 2050, as seen in figure TS.9 in this PDF). (Note: I am unclear as to how the report handles the baseline issue that we raised in our recent Nature paper, but if they handled it properly, the differences in cost estimates from Stern/IPCC may simply reflect a more transparent accounting.)

What to take from this? Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation are highly unstable and speculative. Consider that the Stern Review considered no costs of oil above $80/barrel. However, the trend in cost estimates is up, due to the higher costs of energy and infrastructure. Efforts to map out the costs of mitigation to 2050 (or 2030 for that matter) are little more than guesses, leaving plenty of room to find a pleasing result.

3. The IEA report sees no path to stabilizing or halving emissions without a massive investment in both nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (for coal and gas). These are both politically controversial and will generate resistance among some groups, perhaps limiting their future prospects. To the extent that this happens other avenues for emissions reductions will need to be found to meet these ambitious goals.

4. Here is what the IEA sees as necessary each year:

The average year-by-year investments between 2010 and 2050 needed to achieve a virtual decarbonisation of the power sector include, amongst others, 55 fossil-fuelled power plants with CCS, 32 nuclear plants, 17,500 large wind turbines, and 215 million square metres of solar panels. [Reducing 2050 emissions to half of today's] also requires widespread adoption of near-zero emission buildings and, on one set of assumptions, [by 2050] deployment of nearly a billion electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

5. Finally, while the report says that the technologies to stabilize emissions at current values by 2050 are, in principle, available, it observes that they are not for reductions below this level, and thus calls for:

A massive increase of energy technology Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) is needed in the coming 15 years, in the order of USD 10-100 billion per year.

In short, the IEA report should serve as a reminder that the challenge of mitigation is significant and costly. Consequently,the politics of adopting mitigation policies will continue to be difficult (to put it mildly). Efforts to couch mitigation policies as low cost (in the short term) or of immediate benefit will likely fail, because presently this simply is not true. Strategies that will have greater prospects for success will those that align the short term costs with short term benefits, by broadening the focus of mitigation policies beyond a narrow focus on long-term climate change, or, by capitalizing on technological advances that do in fact lead to demonstrable short-term benefits by reducing the costs experienced by consumers and voters.

Until this lesson is learned, climate policy will continue in its current form.

June 04, 2008

A Few Bits on Cap and Trade

The U.S. Senate is debating a cap and trade bill this week and next. Anyone wanting a look at the debate can find it on CSPAN-2.

Meantime here are a few minor related items:

I reviewed Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn of the Environmental Defense Fund. Unfortunately, the book adds little to understanding of or debate on cap and trade. My review can be found at Nature Reports: Climate Change here.

Monday's Denver Post has a column by David Harsanyi (opposing the cap and trade bill) in which he quotes from an analysis I did of the effectiveness of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately he confuses my analysis of the effect of the CDM with an assessment of the entire Protocol. For that analysis he would have wanted to look at a 1998 paper by Tom Wigley, and make a few adjustments based on actual participation and performance of Kyoto. The amount of delay in emissions from all of Kyoto would be measured in months not days.

June 03, 2008

Idealism vs. Political Realities

David Cox writes in the Guardian on climate change: "It's surely time for a change of tack. Or should we just wring our hands?"

A further excerpt:

Perhaps, it's time to get real. Climate change activists should come to appreciate what religious reformers, communist revolutionaries and other utopian visionaries have learned before them. You can't change human behaviour in the interests of the supposed greater good.

Nonetheless, warming hasn't gone away, even if its character is less clear-cut than has been suggested by those urging us to make obeisance to it. What should we do about it?

The answer is surely to switch our efforts away from trying to change human behaviour towards other approaches to the problem. The most obvious is technological research into methods of alleviating warming. Up until now, mentioning this route has been considered a sinful attempt to divert attention from the hairshirt remedies on which the prophets of doom have insisted. Perhaps partly as a result, such research is proving surprisingly skimpy.

He raises a good point, which I'd characterize as, if efforts to put a meaningful price on carbon fail, what is plan B?

Air Capture in The Guardian

Saturday's Guardian has a story about a potentially important breakthrough in air capture technology:

It has long been the holy grail for those who believe that technology can save us from catastrophic climate change: a device that can "suck" carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, reducing the warming effect of the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas produced each year.

Now a group of US scientists say they have made a breakthrough towards creating such a machine. Led by Klaus Lackner, a physicist at Columbia University in New York, they plan to build and demonstrate a prototype within two years that could economically capture a tonne of CO2 a day from the air, about the same per passenger as a flight from London to New York.

The prototype so-called scrubber will be small enough to fit inside a shipping container. Lackner estimates it will initially cost around £100,000 to build, but the carbon cost of making each device would be "small potatoes" compared with the amount each would capture, he said.

The scientists stress their invention is not a magic bullet to solve climate change. It would take millions of the devices to soak up the world's carbon emissions, and the CO2 trapped would still need to be disposed of. But the team says the technology may be the best way to avert dangerous temperature rises, as fossil fuel use is predicted to increase sharply in coming decades despite international efforts. Climate experts at a monitoring station in Hawaii this month reported CO2 levels in the atmosphere have reached a record 387 parts per million (ppm) - 40% higher than before the industrial revolution.

The quest for a machine that could reverse the trend by "scrubbing" carbon from the air is seen as one of the greatest challenges in climate science. Richard Branson has promised $25m (£12.6m) to anyone who succeeds.

Lackner told the Guardian: "I wouldn't write across the front page that the problem is solved, but this will help. We are in a hurry to deal with climate change and will be very hard pressed to stop the train before we get to 450ppm [CO2 in the atmosphere]. This can help stop the train."

My recent paper on the economics and politics of air capture is going to be obsolete before I even get the reviews back!! (Anyone wanting a copy of the paper as submitted just send me an email: pielke@colorado.edu.)

June 02, 2008

Visually Pleasing Temperature Adjustments

This is a follow up to our continuing discussion of the possible implications of changes to mid-century global average temperatures for conclusions reached by the IPCC AR4, and how scientists react to such changes.

Over at Real Climate they pointed to the following figure as representing "a good first guess at what the change will look like" and asserted that it would have no meaningful implications for the trends in temperature rise since mid-century presented by the IPCC.

independent graph.jpg

Since there was some disagreement here in the comments of an earlier post about how to interpret this graph, I have decided to simply replicate it and then see if I could exactly replicate the graph from the Independent. The data is available here.

The first thing to note is that the Independent graph has a major error which Real Climate did not point out. It says that the smooth curve represents a 5-year average, when in fact, it actually represents a 21-point binomial filter. The difference in smoothing is critically important for interpreting what the graph actually says, and the error confused me and at least one climate scientist writing in our comments.

Here is a replication of the 21-point smoothing generated from the annual values, which will allow for my effort to replicate the graph from the Independent.

smooth seas.jpg

So far so good. But replication of the adjusted curve is a bit tricky as changing data for any one year has implications for the shape of the curve 10 years before that year and 10 years after. Upon trying to create a exact replication of the graph from The Independent, right away I realized that there was a major problem, because adding any increment to where Thompson et al. said it should begin (in 1945) instantly raised the adjusted curve to a point above the unadjusted curve. And as you can see in the Independent graph that at no point does the adjusted curve rise above the unadjusted curve, much less by a significant amount as implied by Thompson et al..

So right away it seems clear that we are not trying to make an adjustment that actually draws on the guidance from Thompson et al. This might seem odd, since the graph is supposed to show a proposed "guess" at the implications of Thompson et al. In any event, with that constraint removed I simply tried to get the best visual fit to the Independent graph that I could. And here is what I came up with.

compare.jpg

Now, given the complicated smoothing routine, there is certainly any number of combinations of weird adjustments that will result in a very similar looking curve. (And if anyone from CRU is reading and wants to share with us exactly what you used, and the basis for it, please do so.) The adjustments I used are as follows:

1945 0
1946 0
1947 0
1948 0.1
1949 0.25
1950 0.18
1951 0.18
1952 0.18
1953 0.18
1954 0.16
1955 0.16
1956 0
1957 0
1958 0
1959 0
1960 0

Oh yeah, the effect of these visually pleasing adjustments on the IPCC trend from 1950? Not that it actually means anything given the obvious incorrectness, but it would reduce the trend by about 15%.

June 01, 2008

Real Climate on Meaningless Temperature Adjustments

[UPDATE]Real Climate did not like the figure shown below, so I responded to them with the following request, submitted as a comment on their site:

Hi Gavin-

I’d be happy to work from a proposed adjustment directly from you, rather than rely on the one proposed by Steve McIntyre or the one you point to from The Independent.

Thompson et al. write: "The new adjustments are likely to have a substantial impact on the historical record of global-mean surface temperatures through the middle part of the twentieth century."

It is hard to see how temperatures around 1950 can change "substantially" with no effect on trends since 1950, but maybe you have a different view. Lets hear it. Give me some better numbers and I’ll use them.

Their response was to dodge the request:

Response: Nick Rayner, Liz Kent, Phil Jones etc. are perfectly capable of working it out and I’d suggest deferring to their experience in these matters. Whatever they come up with will be a considered and reasonable approach that will include the buoy and drifter issues as well as the post WW-II canvas bucket transition. Second guessing how that will work out in the absence of any actual knowledge would be foolish. - gavin

But doesn't speculation that no changes will be needed to the IPCC trend estimates count as "second guessing," or pointing to a graph in The Independent as likely being correct?

Similarly, in the comments below climate scientist James Annan criticized the graph in this post and when asked to provide an alternative adjustment, he declined to do so.

If these guys know what is "wrong" then they must have an idea about what is "right".

Real Climate writes an entire post responding to Steve McIntyre's recent discussions of buckets and sea surface temperatures, explaining why the issue doesn't really matter, but for some weird reason they can't seem to mention him by name or provide a link to what they are in fact responding to. (If the corrections don't matter, then one wonders, why do them? Thompson et al. seemed to think that the issue matters.)

Real Climate does seem have mastered a passive voice writing style, however. Since they did have the courtesy to link here, before calling me "uninformed" (in deniable passive voice of course), I though a short response was in order.

Real Climate did not like our use of a proposed correction suggested by He Who Will Not Be Named. So Real Climate proposed another correction based on a graphic printed in The Independent. Never mind that the correction doesn't seem to jibe with that proposed by Thompson et al., but no matter, we used the one suggested by Mr. Not-To-Be-Named so lets use Real Climate's as well and see what difference it makes to temperature trends since 1950. Based on what Real Climate asserts (but oddly does not show with numbers), you'd think that their proposed adjustment results in absolutely no change to mid-20th century trends, and indeed anyone suggesting otherwise is an idiot or of ill-will. We'll lets see what the numbers show.

The graph below shows a first guess at the effects of the Real Climate adjustments (based on a decreasing adjustment from 1950-60) based on the graphic in The Independent.

Real Climate Adjustment.jpg

What difference to trends since 1950 does it make? Instead of the about 50% reduction in the 1950-2007 trend from the first rough guess from you-know-who, Real Climate's first guess results in a reduction of the trend by about 30%. A 30% reduction in the IPCC's estimate in temperature trends since 1950 would be just as important as a 50% reduction, and questions of its significance would seem appropriate to ask. But perhaps a 30% reduction in the trend would be viewed as being "consistent with" the original trend ;-)

Try again Real Climate. And next time, his name is STEVE MCINTYRE -- and his blog is called CLIMATE AUDIT. There is a lot of science and civil discussion there, with a healthy mix of assorted experts and a range of ordinary folks. Questioning scientific conclusions is a lot healthier for science than rote defense, but we all learned that in grad school, didn't we?

May 29, 2008

Does the IPCC’s Main Conclusion Need to be Revisited?

Yesterday Nature published a paper by Thompson et al. which argues that a change in the observational techniques for taking the temperatures of the oceans led to a cold bias in temperatures beginning in the 1940s. The need for the adjustment raises an interesting, and certainly sensitive, question related to the sociology and politics of science: Does the IPCC's main conclusion need to be revisited?

The Nature paper states of the effects of the bias on temperature measurements:

The adjustments immediately after 1945 are expected to be as large as those made to the pre-war data (.0.3 C; Fig. 4), and smaller adjustments are likely to be required in SSTs through at least the mid-1960s.

Thompson et al. do not provide a time series estimate on the effects of the bias on the global temperature record, but Steve McIntyre, who is building an impressive track record of analyses outside the peer-review system, discussed this topic on his weblog long before the paper appeared in Nature, and has proposed an adjustment to the temperature record (based on discussions with participants on his blog). Steve’s adjustment is based on assuming:

that 75% of all measurements from 1942-1945 were done by engine inlets, falling back to business as usual 10% in 1946 where it remained until 1970 when we have a measurement point - 90% of measurements in 1970 were still being made by buckets as indicated by the information in Kent et al 2007- and that the 90% phased down to 0 in 2000 linearly.

The effects of McIntyre’s proposed adjustments (on the UKMET global temperature record) are shown in the following figure.

globaladjnoadj.jpg

Other adjustments are certainly plausible, and will certainly be proposed and debated in the literature and on blogs (McIntyre discusses possible implications of the adjustments in this post.). But given how much research has been based on the existing global temperature record, it seems likely that many studies will be revisited in light of the Nature paper. In a comment in Nature that accompanies Thompson et al., Forest and Reynolds suggest:

The SST adjustment around 1945 is likely to have far-reaching implications for modelling in this period.

In the figure above, the trend in the unadjusted data (1950-present) is 0.11 Deg C per decade (slightly lower than reported by IPCC AR4, due to the recent downturn), and after the adjustments are applied the trend drops by just about half, to 0.06 Deg C per decade.

And this brings us to the IPCC. In 2007 the IPCC (PDF) concluded that:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations

I interpret "mid-20th century" to be 1950, and "most" to be >50%. This means that the 2007 IPCC attributed more than 0.06 Deg per decade of the temperature increase since 1950 to increasing greenhouse gases. But we know now that the trend since 1950 included a spurious factor due to observational discontinuities, which reduces the entire trend to 0.06. So logically, if the proposed adjustment is in the ballpark, it would mean that one of the following statements must be true in order for the IPCC statement to still hold:

A. The entire trend of 0.06 per decade since 1950 should now be attributed to greenhouse gases (the balance of 0.06 per decade)

B. Only >0.03 per decade can be attributed to greenhouse gases (the "most" from the original statement)

C. The proposed adjustment is wildly off (I’d welcome other suggestions for an adjustment)

D. The IPCC statement needs to be fundamentally recast

So which is it?

PS. To ensure that this blog post is not misinterpreted, note that none of the mitigation or adaptation policies that I have advocated are called into question based on the answer that one gives to the question posed in the title.

May 28, 2008

Meantime, Back in the Real World: Power Plant Conversion Rates

A reader writes in with positive things to say, but notes that as interesting as it is to see our focus on technical issues like the short-term predictive capability of models and the fidelity of IPCC pre/post/SRES scenarios we may also balance that out with some bigger picture stuff.

To that I say: guilty as charged, fair enough. I'll be returning to the short-term prediction stuff before long, but for today's big picture perspective, consider the following points on the scale of the mitigation challenge.

The Center for Global Development estimates that there are 25,339 power plants around the world that emit carbon dioxide. If the world starts replacing or converting these plants to carbon free energy production at the rate of one plant per day, then it will take 69 years to make all of these power plants carbon neutral, and an 80% conversion would take 56 years. If you'd like assume that most emissions come from the largest plants, you can cut those numbers in half or even by 2/3 and the point remains. At a conversion rate of one plant per week -- using only the top 1/3 emitters -- it would take 145 years to convert 80% of these 1/3 (162 years to convert the entire 1/3).

But energy production from fossil fuel power plants is of course increasing, so these are conservative numbers. The rate of conversion from carbon dioixde emitting power plants currently is negative (they are growing in number, at a rate of, what, several per week? Good data sources appreciated in the comments), so the conversion clock is running in reverse. And, oh yeah, power plant emissions according to CGD are 29% of the global total.

The point of this post is not that mitigation is impossible, but that it arguably is much, much harder a challenge than typically advertised. Any guesses on when the power plant conversion rate will become positive, and a what rate it will occur? Will it occur at all?

May 25, 2008

IPCC Scenarios and Spontaneous Decarbonization

Joe Romm has helpfully posted up his full reply to Nature on PWG (PDF), and we are happy to link to it as promised. And after reading Joe's original letter and his comments, the source of his complaint -- and confusion -- is now clear. This post explains that Joe has confused the differences between different IPCC SRES scenarios with spontaneous decarbonization within each individual scenario.

Figure 1.png

The Figure above is from our Nature paper. It shows for the six SRES families (A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1, B2) cumulative emissions to 2100. For now lets ignore the light blue part of each bar (which represents the spontaneous or automatic decarbonization that we discuss in the paper, and which I return to below).

Joe Romm points out in his critique:

The Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), which the Commentary cites, makes clear that while the SRES scenarios don’t technically have climate policies, they can and do have energy efficiency and decarbonization policies, which are the same thing. That’s clear from examining the B1 scenario, which includes aggressive policies that help limit total global warming to about 2°C

He is correct in this assertion. The effect of these policies in the B1 sceanrio can be seen in the difference between the height of the green plus red (G+R) parts of the B1 bar and the same G+R portion of the bars for the other scenarios. Clearly, the B1 G+R is closer to the dotted line than any of the others (though A1T is also close). The "energy and decarbonization policies" that Joe Romm refers to are those that account for the difference in height between the G+R parts of the bars in our graph across scenarios -- which is completely different than the assumptions of automatic decarbonization within each scenario which are reflected in the light blue parts of the bars.

Automatic decarbonization occurs in the IPCC scenarios not because of specific policies that the report discusses, but because of assumptions that it uses within individual scenarios (specifically, assumptions of decreasing carbon and energy intensities). Whatever policies are associated with these assumptions are not discussed by the IPCC. The decarbonization of the global economy reflected by the light blue portions of the bars in the figure above are indeed accurately characterized as being "automatic" or "spontaneous."

In its editorial discussing our paper, Nature clearly understood this. Joe Romm apparently does not. He has confused the differences between aggregate emissions across scenarios with assumptions of automatic decarbonization within scenarios.

Now that Joe has released his original letter to Nature, it is clear why they asked him to correct his error of interpretation. It is also clear why his claims that we have made an error in our analysis is incorrect.

A Familiar Pattern is Emerging

This post provides a good example how some climate bloggers try to shut down debate over policy options by personalizing policy debates.

William Nordhaus, one of the leading economists who has worked on climate change, has a new book coming out, which is good news for anyone interested in the subject. His book was reviewed in The New York Review of books by Freeman Dyson.

But rather than take on the arguments made by Nordhaus, Real Climate and Joseph Romm attack Nordhaus' arguments by proxy. They attack Freeman Dyson for invoking arguments raised by Nordhaus. In the process they ignore the substance of the issues and turn the issue into a referendum on an individual with whom they have policy differences. This tag-team smear job is becoming a bit too familiar.

In Nordhaus' book he discusses five policy approaches, summarized by Freeman Dyson as follows:

Nordhaus examines five kinds of global-warming policy, with many runs of DICE for each kind. The first kind is business-as-usual, with no restriction of carbon dioxide emissions—in which case, he estimates damages to the environment amounting to some $23 trillion in current dollars by the year 2100. The second kind is the "optimal policy," judged by Nordhaus to be the most cost-effective, with a worldwide tax on carbon emissions adjusted each year to give the maximum aggregate economic gain as calculated by DICE. The third kind is the Kyoto Protocol, in operation since 2005 with 175 participating countries, imposing fixed limits to the emissions of economically developed countries only. Nordhaus tests various versions of the Kyoto Protocol, with or without the participation of the United States.

The fourth kind of policy is labeled "ambitious" proposals, with two versions which Nordhaus calls "Stern" and "Gore." "Stern" is the policy advocated by Sir Nicholas Stern in the Stern Review, an economic analysis of global-warming policy sponsored by the British government.[*] "Stern" imposes draconian limits on emissions, similar to the Kyoto limits but much stronger. "Gore" is a policy advocated by Al Gore, with emissions reduced drastically but gradually, the reductions reaching 90 percent of current levels before the year 2050. The fifth and last kind is called "low-cost backstop," a policy based on a hypothetical low-cost technology for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or for producing energy without carbon dioxide emission, assuming that such a technology will become available at some specified future date. According to Nordhaus, this technology might include "low-cost solar power, geothermal energy, some nonintrusive climatic engineering, or genetically engineered carbon-eating trees."

What do Real Climate and Joseph Romm do? Rather than engage the substance of the policy arguments, they go on the attack, with Real Climate using the term "b#ll&hit" and Romm "unmitigated disinformation." Of course the policy issues that they don't like -- discount rates, cost estimates, air capture -- all come from Nordhaus, not Dyson. But rather than engage the substance they viciously attack an individual.

The only apparently original view from Dyson that Real Climate takes issue with is when Dyson notes that (in a second book discussed in the review, by Ernesto Zedillo) chapters by Richard Lindzen and Stefan Rahmstorf (of Real Climate) are both unsatisfactory:

These two chapters give the reader a sad picture of climate science. Rahmstorf represents the majority of scientists who believe fervently that global warming is a grave danger. Lindzen represents the small minority who are skeptical. Their conversation is a dialogue of the deaf. The majority responds to the minority with open contempt.

A sad picture indeed.

May 23, 2008

Homework Assignment: Solve if you Dare

homework.png

The graph above shows three trend lines.

BLUE: Temperature Trend prediction from the 1990 IPCC report
RED: Temperature Trend prediction from the 2007 IPCC report
GREEN: Observed Trend for 2001-2007 (from average of four obs datasets)

All data is as described in this correspodence (PDF).

Your assignment:

Which IPCC prediction is the trend observed 2001-2007 more consistent with and why? Show your work!

You are free to bring in whatever information and use whatever analysis that you want.

May 22, 2008

Nature Letters on PWG

The 8 May 2008 issue of Nature published 4 letters in response to the Pielke, Wigley, and Green commentary on IPCC scenarios (PDF). This provides a few excerpts from and reactions to these letters.

Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba writes:

I largely agree with the overall conclusion of Pielke et al. that the IPCC assessment is overly optimistic, but I fear that the situation is even worse than the authors imply.

Smil is realistic about the challenge of mitigation:

The speed of transition from a predominantly fossil-fuelled world to conversions of renewable flows is being grossly overestimated: all energy transitions are multigenerational affairs with their complex infrastructural and learning needs. Their progress cannot substantially be accelerated either by wishful thinking or by government ministers’ fiats.

But pessimistic about action:

Consequently, the rise of atmospheric CO2 above 450 parts per million can be prevented only by an unprecedented (in both severity and duration) depression of the global economy, or by voluntarily adopted and strictly observed limits on absolute energy use. The first is highly probable; the second would be a sapient action, but apparently not for this species.

Christopher Field, from Stanford University agrees with our analysis and its implications:

The trends towards increased carbon and energy intensity may or may not continue. In either case, we need new technologies and strategies for both endogenous and policy-driven intensity improvements. Given recent trends, it is hard to see how, without a massive increase in investment, the requisite number of relevant technologies will be mature and available when we need them.

Richard Richels, of the Electric Power Research Institute, Richard Tol, of the Economic and Social Research Institute (Ireland), and Gary Yohe, of Wesleyan University support our analysis and our interpretation of its significance:

Pielke et al. show that the 2000 Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) reflects unrealistic progress on both the supply and demand sides of the energy sector. These unduly optimistic baselines cause serious underestimation of the costs of policy-induced mitigation required to achieve a given stabilization level.

This is well known among experts but perhaps not to the public, which may explain why some politicians overstate the impact of their (plans for) climate policy, and why others argue incorrectly that ‘available’ off-the-shelf technologies can reduce emissions at very little or no cost.

They also make an absolutely critical point about climate policy – it is necessarily incremental and adaptive:

The focus of policy analysis should not be on what to do over the next 100 years, but on what to do today in the face of many important long-term uncertainties. The minute details of any particular scenario for 2100 are then not that important. This can be achieved through an iterative risk management approach in which uncertain long-term goals are used to develop short-term emission targets. As new information arises, emission scenarios, long-term goals and short-term targets are adjusted as necessary. Analyses would be conducted periodically (every 5–10 years), making it easier to distinguish autonomous trends from policy-induced developments — a major concern of Pielke and colleagues. If actual emissions are carefully monitored and analysed, the true efficacy and costs of past policies would be revealed and estimates of the impact of future policy interventions would be less uncertain.

Such an approach would incorporate recent actions by developed and developing countries. In an ‘act then learn’ framework, climate policy is altered in response to how businesses change their behavior in reaction to existing climate policies and in anticipation of future ones. This differs from SRES-like analyses, which ignore the dynamic nature of the decision process and opportunities for mid-course corrections as they compare scenarios without policy with global, century-long plans.

Ottmar Edenhofer, Bill Hare, Brigitte Knopf, Gunnar Luderer Potsdam of the Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany) suggest that the range of rates for the future decarbonization of energy in the IPCC reports is in fact appropriate:

Over the past 30 years, the decrease in energy intensity has been 1.1% a year — well above the 0.6% a year assumed in 75% of the energy scenarios assessed by the IPCC.

Developments in China since 2000 do raise concerns that the rate of decrease in energy and carbon intensity could slow down, or even be reversed. However, similar short-term slow-downs in technical progress have occurred in the past, only for periods of more rapid development to compensate for them. India, for example, does not show the decreasing trend in energy efficiency seen in China.

The figure of 75% of scenarios of the IPCC assuming 0.6% per year decrease in energy intensity is difficult to interpret. But here is what the IPCC itself says on this (WGIII Ch. 3, p. 183 PDF):

In all scenarios, energy intensity improves significantly across the century – with a mean annual intensity improvement of 1%. The 90% range of the annual average intensity improvement is between 0.5% and 1.9% (which is fairly consistent with historic variation in this factor). Actually, this range implies a difference in total energy consumption in 2100 of more than 300% – indicating the importance of the uncertainty associated with this ratio.

So if 5% fall below 0.5%, it is hard to understand what the authors mean by "0.6% a year assumed in 75% of the energy scenarios assessed by the IPCC." Contrary to the other letters Edenhofer et al. conclude:

The IPCC’s main policy conclusions stand: present technologies can stop the rise in global emissions.

The final letter is from Joseph Romm, of the Center for America Progress. He chooses to parse what is meant by the term "climate policies" in the vernacular of the IPCC:

They criticize the IPCC for implicitly assuming that the challenge of reducing future emissions will mostly be met without climate policies. But the IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios makes clear that, although the scenarios don’t technically have climate policies, they can and do have energy efficiency and decarbonization policies, which amount to the same thing

It is not clear why this semantic point matters for interpreting our analysis as it has no implications for either our technical analysis or its interpretation. Of course, the IPCC defined the notion of "climate policies" quite precisely for a reason -- because the policies that relate to improved energy efficiency and decarbonization assumed by the IPCC to occur in their scenarios in the absence of climate policy mean that these other policies would be implemented with no effort focused on the stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (no cap and trade, no Kyoto, no carbon tax, etc. etc.). These policies, whatever they are, would happen spontaneously or automatically without any concern for climate. This assumption was explicit in the terms of reference for the IPCC SRES exercise for the purpose of clearly identifying the marginal benefits and costs of climate-specific policies.

Romm then simply repeats the conclusions of the IPCC:

the IPCC report makes clear that we have the necessary technologies, or soon will, and focuses on creating the conditions for rapid technological deployment

Interestingly, with a letter in Nature Romm, who has been a strong critic of our paper on his blog, had a perfect opportunity to explain what might have been incorrect in our technical analysis, and did not. We can assume that he was unable to find any flaws and thus chose to focus on the implications of the analysis, which he does not enagage, choosing simply to restate a position that he held before our paper came out.

As can be seen clearly in the letters, there is not a consensus among energy policy experts on the role of technological innovation in efforts to mitigate climate change. This is a debate which has only just begun, and for which there are a range of legitimate and informed points of view, despite the efforts of some to demagogue anyone who disagrees with their views.


World Bank and UK Government on Climate Change Implications of Development

growthreport.jpg

The World Bank and UK government issued a report today titled, "Strategies For Sustained Growth And Inclusive Development." Here is what the report says about the implications for climate change of development in the developing world (p. 86), something that the report calls absolutely necessary:

Clearly the advanced countries are at per capita [carbon dioxide] output levels that, if replicated by the developing world, would be dramatically in excess of safe levels. World carbon emissions are now at about twice the safe level, meaning that if the current output is sustained, the CO2 stock in the atmosphere will rise above safe levels in the next 40 years. The figures for a range of countries, including developing countries, are shown in Figure 9.

If the developing countries did not grow, then safe levels of emissions would be achieved by reducing advanced country emissions by a factor of two or a little more. But with the growth of the developing countries, the incremental emissions are very large because of the size of the populations. To take the extreme case, if the whole world grew to advanced country incomes and converged on the German levels of emissions per capita, then to be safe from a warming standpoint, emissions per capita would need to decline by a factor of four. Reductions of this magnitude with existing technology are either not possible, or so costly as to be certain of slowing global and developing country growth.

What these calculations make clear is that technology is the key to accommodating developing country and global growth. We need to lower the costs of mitigation. Put differently, we need to build more economic value on top of a limited energy base. For that we need new knowledge.

What actions does the report call for (p. 90)?

The Commission recommends the following nine steps. Taken together, they will cut emissions, thereby staving off some of the worst dangers of global warming. They will reveal more about the cost of cutting emissions, and they will encourage new technologies that reduce these costs. These steps are also fair.

1. The advanced economies should cut emissions first and they should do so aggressively. This will slow the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. It will also reveal a great deal about how much it truly costs to cut carbon emissions.

2. More generous subsidies should be paid to energy-efficient technologies and carbon reduction technologies, which will reduce the cost of mitigation.

3. Advanced economies should strive to put a price on carbon.

4. The task of monitoring emissions cuts and other mitigation measures should be assigned to an international institution, which should begin work as soon as possible.

5. Developing countries, while resisting long-term target-setting, should offer to cut carbon at home if other countries are willing to pay for it. Such collaborations take place through the Clean Development Mechanism provisions in the Kyoto protocol. Rich countries can meet their Kyoto commitments by paying for carbon cuts in poorer countries.

6. Developing countries should promise to remove fuel subsidies, over a decent interval. These subsidies encourage pollution and weigh heavily on government budgets.

7. All countries should accept the dual criteria of efficiency and fairness in carbon mitigation. In particular, richer countries, at or near high-income levels, should accept that they will each have the same emissions entitlements per head as other countries.

8. Developing countries should educate their citizens about global warming. Awareness is already growing, bringing about changes in values and behavior.

9. International negotiations should concentrate on agreeing to carbon cuts for more advanced economies, to be achieved 10 or 15 years hence.
These mitigation efforts should be designed so as to reveal the true costs of mitigation.

Interestingly, the report calls for developing countries to "resist long-term target setting" while at the same time expressing skepticism about the "true costs of mitigation." The report shows that there is a wide range of views on what sort of mitigation actions make sense in the debate over climate policy that cannot be captured by the facile "denialist-alarmist" dichotomy that some observers would like to enforce on the debate. One oversight is that the report does not address the issue of adaptation.

IPCC Predictions and Politics

The May 1, 2008 issue of New Scientist magazine has an interesting article that parallels some of the discussions that we’ve had on this site lately. Here is an interesting excerpt:

"Politicians seems to think that the science is a done deal," says Tim Palmer, "I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts, especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain".

Palmer is a leading climate modeller at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, and he does not doubt that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done a good job alerting the world to the problem of global climate change. But he and his fellow climate scientists are acutely aware that the IPCC's predictions of how the global change will affect local climates are little more than guesswork. They fear that if the IPCC's predictions turn out to be wrong, it will provoke a crisis in confidence that undermines the whole climate change debate.

The IPCC's forecasts could be wrong in many different ways, over different time periods and spatial scales, including underestimating future changes. And it is not even clear that scientists involved with the IPCC have a collective view on what it would even mean for the IPCC to be "wrong". As we've argued here often, action on climate change makes sense even if the predictions of the IPCC are not yet perfect. But this is a hard case to make when defenders of those predictions allow no room for imperfections to be seen, or questions to be asked.

May 21, 2008

An *Inconsistent With* Spotted, and Defended

Readers following recent threads know that I've been looking for instances where scientists make claims that some observations are "inconsistent with" the results from climate models. The reason for such a search is that it is all too easy for modelers to claim that anything and everything under the sun is "consistent with" their predictions, sometimes to avoid the perception of a loss of credibility in the political battle over climate change.

I am happy to report that claims of "inconsistent with" do exist. Here is an example from a paper just out by Knutson et al. in Nature Geoscience:

Our results using the ensemble-mean global model projections (Fig. 4) are inconsistent with the notion of large, upward trends in tropical storm and hurricane frequency over the twentieth century, driven by greenhouse warming.

The climate modelers at Real Climate apparently don't like the phrase "inconsistent with" in the context of models and try to air brush it away when they write of Knutson et al.:

. . .we know that (i) the warming [of the oceans] is likely in large part anthropogenic, and (ii) that the recent increases in TC frequency are related to that warming. It hardly seems a leap of faith to put two-and-two together and conclude that there is likely a relationship between anthropogenic warming and increased Atlantic TC activity.

Knutson et al. respond in the comments that this in fact is not how to interpret their paper, and -- kudos to them -- take strong, public issue with the weaselly words implying a connection that they don't show (emphasis added in the below, and I've copied the whole comment for the entire context):

Mike [Mann],

Statement (i), that "the warming [of the tropical Atlantic Ocean] is likely in large part anthropogenic." is reasonable, taking "anthropogenic" to mean "greenhouse gas", given the work of Santer et al (2006, PNAS), Knutson et al (2006, J. Clim.), and Gillett et al (2008, G.R.L.). To quote from Gillett et al:

…our results indicate that greenhouse gas increases are indeed likely the dominant cause of [tropical Atlantic] warming…

However, statement (ii), that "the recent increases in [Atlantic] TC (tropical cyclone) frequency are related to that warming" is vague – with "related to" allowing an interpretation that includes anything from a negative relationship, to a minor contribution, to local SST warming being the dominant dynamical control on TC frequency increase. Some might interpret "related to" to mean "are dominantly controlled by", and we think the evidence does not justify such a strong statement. In particular, the results of Knutson et al (2008) do not support such an attribution statement,if one focuses on the greenhouse gas part of the anthropogenic signal. Quoting from page 5 of the paper:

Our results using the ensemble-mean global model projections (Fig. 4) are inconsistent [emphasis added] with the notion of large, upward trends in tropical storm and hurricane frequency over the twentieth century, driven by greenhouse warming

We agree that TC activity and local Atlantic SSTs are correlated but do not view this correlation as implying causation. The alternative, consistent with our results, is that there is a causal nonlocal relationship between Atlantic TC activity and the tropical SST field. The simplest version uses the difference between Atlantic and Tropical-mean SST changes as the predictor (Swanson 2008, Non-locality of Atlantic tropical cyclone intensities, G-cubed, 9, Q04V01). This picture is also consistent with non-local control on wind shear (e.g. Latif et al 2007, G.RL.), atmospheric stability (e.g., Shen et al 2000, J. Clim.) and maximum potential intensity (e.g., Vecchi and Soden, 2007, Nature).

We view the SST change in the tropical Atlantic relative to the rest of the tropics as the key to these questions. Warming in recent decades has been particularly prominent in the northern tropical Atlantic, but such a pattern is not evident in the consensus of simulations of the response to increasing greenhouse gases. So, whether changes in Atlantic SST relative to the rest of the tropics - that according to our hypothesis have resulted in the changes in hurricane activity - were primarily caused by changes in radiative forcing, or whether they were primarily caused by internal climate variability, or (most likely) whether both were involved, is obviously an important issue, but this is not addressed by our paper

Now a word of caution -- Knutson et al. 2008 is by no means the last word on hurricanes and global warming, and the issue remains highly contested, and will remain so for a long time. Of course, you heard that (accurate) assessment of the state of this particular area of climate science here a long time ago (PDF;-)

Knutson et al. is notable because it clearly identifies observations "inconsistent with" what the models report which should give us greater confidence in research focused on generating climate predictions. We should have greater confidence because if practically everything observed is claimed to be "consistent with" model predictions, then climate models are pretty useless tools for decision making.

May 19, 2008

Do IPCC Temperature Forecasts Have Skill?

[UPDATE] Roger Pielke, Sr. tells us that we are barking up the wrong tree looking at surface temperatures anyway. He says that the real action is in looking at oceanic heat content, for which predictions have far less variability over short terms than do surface temperatures. And he says that observations of accumulated heat content over the past 4 years "are not even close" to the model predictions. For the details, please see for your self at his site.]

"Skill" is a technical term in the forecast verification literature that means the ability to beat a naïve baseline when making forecasts. If your forecasting methodology can’t beat some simple heuristic, then it will likely be of little use.

What are examples of such naïve baselines? In weather forecasting historical climatology is often used. So if the average temperature in Boulder for May 20 is 75 degrees, and my prediction is for 85 degree, then any observed temperature below 80 degrees will mean that my forecast had no skill. In the mutual fund industry stock indexes are examples of naive baselines used to evaluate performance of fund managers. Of course, no forecasting method can always show skill in every forecast, so the appropriate metric is the degree of skill present in your forecasts. Like many other aspects of forecast verification, skill is a matter of degree, and is not black or white.

Skill is preferred to "consistency" if only because the addition of bad forecasts to a forecasting ensemble does not improve skill unless it improves forecast accuracy, which is not the case with certain measures of "consistency," as we have seen. Skill also provides a clear metric of success for forecasts, once a naïve baseline is agreed upon. As time goes on, forecasts such as those issued by the IPCC should tend toward increasing skill, as the gap between a naive forecast and a prediction grows. If a forecasting methodology shows no skill then it would be appropriate to question the usefulness and/or accuracy of the forecasting methodology.

In this post I use the IPCC forecasts of 1990, 2001, and 2007 to illustrate the concept of skill, and to explain why it is a much better metric that "consistency" to evaluate forecasts of the IPCC.

The first task is to choose a naïve baseline. This choice is subjective and people often argue over it. People making forecasts usually want a baseline that is easy to beat, people using or paying for forecasts often want a more rigorous baseline. For this exercise I will use the observed temperature trend over the 100 years ending in 2005, as reported by the 2007 IPCC, which is 0.076 degrees per decade. So in this exercise the baseline that the IPCC forecasts have to beat is a naïve assumption that future temperature increases will increase by the same rate as has been observed over the past 100 years. Obviously, one could argue for a different naïve baseline, but this is the one I’ve chosen to use.

I will also use the ensemble average "best guess" from the IPCC for the most appropriate emissions scenario as the prediction. And for observations I will use the average value from the four main group tracking global temperature trends. These choices could be made differently, and a more comprehensive analysis would explore different ways to do the analysis.

So then, using these metrics how does the IPCC 1990 best estimate forecast for future increases in temperature compare for 1990-2007? The figure below shows that the IPCC forecast, while over-predicting the observed trend, outperformed this naïve baseline. So the forecast can be claimed to be skillful, but not by very much.

skill1.png

A more definitive example of a skillful forecast is the 2001 IPCC prediction, which the following figure shows demonstrated a high degree of skill.

skill2.png

Similarly, the 2000-2007 forecast of the IPCC 2007 also shows a high degree of skill, as seen in the next figure.

skill3.png

But in 2008 things get interesting. With data from 2008 included, rather than ending in 2007, then the 2007 IPCC forecast is no longer skillful, as shown below.

skill4.png

If one starts the IPCC predictions in 2001, then the lack of skill is even greater, as seen below.

skill5.png

What does all of this mean for the ability of the IPCC to predict longer-term climate change? Perhaps nothing, as many scientists would claim that it makes no sense to discuss IPCC predictions on time scales less than 20 or 30 years. If so, then it would also be inappropriate to claim that IPCC forecasts on the shorter scales are skillful or accurate. One way to interpret the recent Keenlyside et al. paper in Nature is that their analysis suggests that the IPCC predictions of future temperature evolution won't be skillful unless they account for various factors not included in the IPCC predictions.

The point of this exercise is to show that there are simple, unambiguous alternatives to using the notion of "consistency" as the basis for comparing IPCC forecasts with observations. "Consistency" between models and observations is a misleading, and I would say fairly useless way to talk about climate forecasts. Measures of skill provide an unambiguous way to evaluate how the IPCC is doing over time.

But make no mistake, the longer the IPCC forecasts lie in a zone of "no skill" -- which the most recent ones (2007) currently do (for the time of the forecast to present) -- the more interest they will receive. This time period may be for only one more month, or perhaps many years. I don't know. This situation creates interesting incentives for forecasters who want their predictions to show skill.

Old Wine in New Bottles

The IPCC will be using new scenarios for its future work, updating those produced in 2000, the so-called SRES scenarios. This would be good news, since, as we argued in Nature last month, the IPCC scenarios contain some dubious assumptions (PDF). But from the looks of it, it does not appear that much has changed, excpet the jargon. The figure below compares the new scenarios as presented in a report from a meeting of the IPCC held last month (source: PDF) with those from the 2000 IPCC SRES report. I have presented the two sets of scenarios on the same scale to facilitate comparison. Do they look much different to you?

ScenariosIPCC1.png

May 16, 2008

The Helpful Undergraduate: Another Response to James Annan

In his latest essay on my stupidity, climate modeler James Annan made the helpful suggestion that I consult a "a numerate undergraduate to explain it to [me]." So I looked outside my office, where things are quiet out on the quad this time of year, but as luck would have it, I did find a young lady named Megan, who just happened to be majoring in mathematics who agreed to help me overcome my considerable ignorance.

The first thing I had to do was explain to Megan the problem we are looking at. I told her that we had 55 estimates of a particular quantity, with a mean of 0.19 and standard deviation of 0.21. At the same time we had 5 different observations of that same quantity, with a mean of –0.07 and standard deviation of 0.07. I wanted to know how similar or different from each other these two sets of data actually were.

I explained to her that James Annan, a modest, constructive, and respectful colleague of mine who happened to be a climate modeler ("Cool" she said), had explained that the best way to compare these datasets was to look at the normal distribution associated with the data (N(0.19. 0.21) and plot on that distribution the outlying value from the smaller dataset.

insidedistro1.png

Since the outlying value of the observations fell well within the distribution of the estimates, James told us, the two dataset could not be claimed to be different -- case closed, anyone saying anything different must be an ignorant climate denying lunatic.

"Professor Pielke," Megan said, "You are funny. James surely didn’t react that way, because since he is a climate modeler he must surely recognize that there are many ways to look at statistical problems. We even learned that just this year in our intro stats class. Besides, I can’t imagine a scientific colleague being so rude! You must have misinterpreted him."

Since Megan was being so helpful in my education, I simply replied that we should stick to the stats. Besides, if she really knew that I was a climate denying moron, she might not continue to help me.

Megan said, "There is another way to approach this problem. Have you heard of an unpaired t-test for two different samples? (PDF)"

I replied, "Of course not, I am just a political scientist."

Megan said, "We learned in stats this year that such a test is appropriate for comparing two distributions with equal variance to see how similar they are. It is really very easy. In fact you can run these tests online using a simple calculator. Here is one such website that will do all of the work for you, just plug in the numbers."

So we plugged our numbers into the magic website as follows:

Sample 1:

Mean = 0.19
SD = 0.21
N = 55

Sample 2

Mean = -0.07
SD = 0.07
N = 5

And here is what the magic website reported back:

Unpaired t test results

P value and statistical significance:

The two-tailed P value equals 0.0082

By conventional criteria, this difference is considered to be very statistically significant.

Confidence interval:
The mean of Group One minus Group Two equals -0.2600
95% confidence interval of this difference: From -0.4502 to -0.0698

Intermediate values used in calculations:
t = 2.7358
df = 58
standard error of difference = 0.095

"Wow," I said to Megan, "These are lots of numbers. What do they all mean?"

"Well," Megan helpfully replied, "They mean that there is a really good chance that your two distributions are inconsistent with each other."

"But," I protested, "Climate modeler James Annan came up with a different result! And he said that his method was the one true way!"

"You are kidding me again, Professor Pielke," she calmly replied, "Dr. Annan surely recognizes that there are a lot of interesting nuances in statistical testing and using and working with information. There are even issues that can be raised about the appropriateness of test that we performed. So I wouldn't even be too assured that these results are the one true way either. But they do indicate that there are different ways to approach scientific questions. I am sure that Dr. Annan recognizes this, after all he is a climate scientist. But we'll have to discuss those nuances later. I'm taking philosophy of science in the fall, and would be glad to tutor you in that subject as well. But for now I have to run, I am on summer break after all."

And just like that she was gone. Well, after this experience I am just happy that I was instructed to find a smart undergraduate to help me out.

[UPDATE An alert reader notes this comment by Tom C over at James' blog, which is right on the mark:

James -

What you and Roger are arguing about is not worth arguing about. What is worth arguing about is the philosophy behind comparing real-world data to model predictions. I work in the chemical industry. If my boss asked me to model a process, I would not come back with an ensemble of models, some of which predict an increase in a byproduct, some of which predict a decrease, and then claim that the observed concentration of byproduct was "consistent with models". That is just bizarre reasoning, but, of course, such a strategy allows for perpetual CYAing.

The fallacy here is that you are taking models, which are inherently different from one another, pretending that they are multiple measurements of a variable that differ only due to random fluctuations, then doing conventional statistics on the "distribution". This is all conceptually flawed.

Moreover, the wider the divergence of model results, the better the chance of "consistency" with real-world observations. That fact alone should signal the conceptual problem with the approach assumed in your argument with Roger.

Another commenter tries to help out James by responding to Tom C, but in the process, also hits the nail on the head:

I don't see what the problem is, Tom C. It seems obvious that the less specific a set of predictions is, the more difficult it is to invalidate. So yes, consistency doesn't neccessarily mean that your model is meaningful, especially over such short terms.

Right! "Consistent with" is not a meaningful statement. Which is of course where all of this started.

[UPDATE #2]

The figure below shows the IPCC distribution of 55 forecasts N[0.19, 0.21] as the blue curve, and I have invented a new distribution (red curve) by adding a bunch of hypothetical nonsense forecasts such that the distribution is now N[0.19, 1.0].

The blue point represents a hypothetical observation.

According to the metric of evaluating forecasts and observations proposed by James Annan my forecasting ability improved immensely simply by adding 55 nonsense forecasts, since th blue observational point now falls closer to the center of the new (and improved distribution).

ipcc+55.png

Now if James wants to call this an improvement ("more consistent whit" -- "higher statistical significance" -- etc.], but any approach that lends greater consistency by making adding worse forecasts to your distributions fails the common sense test.

[UPDATE #3]

Real Climate says this about a model-observation comparison in a recent paper by Knutson et al. in Nature Geoscience on hurricanes:

The fact that the RCM-based downscaling approach can reproduce the observed changes when fed modern reanalysis data is used by Knutson et al as a 'validation' of the modeling approach (in a very rough sense of the word–there is in fact a non-trivial 40% discrepancy in the modeled and observed trends in TC frequency). But this does not indicate that the downscaled GCM projections will provide a realistic description of future TCs in combination with a multi-model GCM ensemble mean. It only tells us that the RCM can potentially provide a realistic description of TC behavior provided the correct input.

Have a look at the figure below, and the distributions of modeled and observations. Its funny how the differences in these distributions is considered to be "non-trivial" but the larger differences in temperature trends is "not inconsistent with" model predictions. Further proof of the irrelevance of the notion of "consistency."

knutson distro.png

The Politicization of Climate Science

[Update: The ever helpful David Roberts of Grist Magazine points out that an op-ed in the Washington Times yesterday makes the same logical error that I point out in this post below made by Patrick Michaels -- namely that short-term predictive failures obviate the need for action. The op-ed quotes me and says that I am "not previously a global warming skeptic," which is correct, but implies that somehow I am now . . . sorry, wrong. It also quotes my conclusion that climate models are "useless" without the important qualifiers **for decision making in the short term when specific decisions must be made**. Such models are great exploratory scientific tools, and were helpful in bringing the issue of greenhouse gases to the attention of decision makers. I've emailed the author making these points, asking him to correct his piece.]


Here I'd like to explain why one group of people, which we might call politically active climate scientists and their allies, seek to shut down a useful discussion with intimidation, bluster, and name-calling. It is, as you might expect, a function of the destructive politics of science in the global warming debate.

We've had a lot of interest of late in our efforts to explore what would seem to be a simple question:

What observations of the global climate system (over what time scale, with what certainty, etc.) would be inconsistent with predictions of the IPCC AR4?

The motivation for asking this question is of course the repeated claims by climate scientists that this or that observation is "consistent with" such predictions. For claims of consistency between observations and predictions to have any practical meaning whatsoever, they must be accompanied by knowledge of what observations would be inconsistent with predictions. This is a straightforward logical claim, and should be uncontroversial.

Yet efforts to explore this question have been met with accusations of "denialism," of believing that human-caused global warming is "not a problem," of being a "conspiracy theorist." More constructive responses have claimed that questions of inconsistency cannot really be addressed for 20-30 years (which again raises the question why claims of consistency are appropriate on shorter timescales), have focused attention on the various ways to present uncertainty in predictions from a suite of models and also on uncertainties in observations systems, and have focused attention on the proper statistical tests to apply in such situations. In short, there is a lot of interesting subjects to discuss. Some people think that they have all of the answers, which is not at all problematic, as it makes this issue no different than most any other discussion you'll find on blogs (or in academia for that matter).

But why is it that some practicing climate scientists and their allies in the blogosphere appear to be trying to shut down this discussion? After all, isn't asking and debating interesting questions one of the reasons most of us decided to pursue research as a career in the first place? And in the messy and complicated science/politics of climate change wouldn't more understanding be better than less?

The answer to why some people react so strongly to this subject can be gleaned from an op-ed in today's Washington Times by one Patrick Michaels, a well-known activist skeptical of much of the claims made about the science and politics of climate change. Here is what Pat writes:

On May Day, Noah Keenlyside of Germany's Leipzig Institute of Marine Science, published a paper in Nature forecasting no additional global warming "over the next decade."

Al Gore and his minions continue to chant that "the science is settled" on global warming, but the only thing settled is that there has not been any since 1998. Critics of this view (rightfully) argue that 1998 was the warmest year in modern record, due to a huge El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean, and that it is unfair to start any analysis at a high (or a low) point in a longer history. But starting in 2001 or 1998 yields the same result: no warming.

Michaels is correct in his assertion of no warming starting in these dates, but one would reach a different conclusion starting in 1999 or 2000. He continues,

The Keenlyside team found that natural variability in the Earth's oceans will "temporarily offset" global warming from carbon dioxide. Seventy percent of the Earth's surface is oceanic; hence, what happens there greatly influences global temperature. It is now known that both Atlantic and Pacific temperatures can get "stuck," for a decade or longer, in relatively warm or cool patterns. The North Atlantic is now forecast to be in a cold stage for a decade, which will help put the damper on global warming. Another Pacific temperature pattern is forecast not to push warming, either.

Science no longer provides justification for any rush to pass drastic global warming legislation. The Climate Security Act, sponsored by Joe Lieberman and John Warner, would cut emissions of carbon dioxide — the main "global warming" gas — by 66 percent over the next 42 years. With expected population growth, this means about a 90 percent drop in emissions per capita, to 19th-century levels.

He has laid out the bait, complete with reference to Al Gore, claiming that recent trends of no warming plus a forecast of continued lack of warming mean that there is no scientific basis for action on climate change.

There are several ways that one could respond to these claims.

One very common response to these sort of arguments would be to attack Michaels putative scientific basis for his policy arguments. Some would argue that he has cherrypicked his starting dates for asserting no trend. Other would observe that the recent trends in temperature are in fact consistent with predictions made by the IPCC. This latter strategy is exactly the approach used by the bloggers at Real Climate when I first started comparing 2007 IPCC predictions (from 2000) with temperature observations.

The "consistent with" strategy is a potential double-edged sword because it grants Pat Michaels a large chunk of territory in the debate. Once you attack the scientific basis for political arguments that are justified in those terms, you are accepting Michaels claim that the political arguments are in fact a function of the science. So in this case, by attacking Michaels scientific claims, you would be in effect saying

"Yes while it is true that these policies are justified on scientific conclusions, Pat Michaels has his science wrong. Getting the science right would lead to different political conclusions that Michaels arrives at."

Here at Prometheus for a long time we've observed how this dynamic shifts political debates onto scientific debates. Any I discuss this in detail in my book, The Honest Broker (now on sale;-).

Now, the "consistent with" strategy is a double-edged sword because the future is uncertain. It could very well be the case that there is no additional warming over the next decade or longer, or perhaps a cooling. Given such uncertainty, scientists with an eye on the politics of climate change are quick to define pretty much anything that could be observed in the climate system as "consistent with" IPCC predictions in order to maintain their ability to deflect the sort of claims made by Patrick Michaels. For if everything observed is consistent with IPCC predictions, there is no reason to then call into question the scientific basis used to justify policies.

But this strategy runs a real risk of damaging the credibility of the scientific community. It is certainly possible to claim, as some of our commenters have and the folks at RC have, that 20 years of cooling is "consistent with" IPCC predictions, but I can pretty much guarantee that if the world has experienced cooling for 20 years from the late 1990s to the 2000-teens that the political dynamics of climate change and the standing of skeptics will be vastly different than it is today.

Now I am sure that many scientist/activists are just trying to buy some time (e.g., buy offering a wager on cooling, as RC has done), waiting for a strong warming trend to resume. And it very well might, since this is the central prediction of the IPCC. Blogger /activist/scientist Joe Romm gushed with mock enthusiasm when the March temperatures showed a much higher rate of warming than the previous three months. We'll see what sort of announcement he or others put up for the much cooler April temperatures. But all such celebrations, on any side of the debate, do is set the stage for the acceptance of articles like that by Pat Michaels who point out the opposite when it occurs. One way to buy time is to protest, call others names, and muddy the waters. This strategy can work really well when questions of inconsistency take place over a few months and the real world assumes the pattern of behavior found in the central tendency of the IPCC predictions, but if potential inconsistency goes on any longer than this then you start looking like you are protesting too much.

So what is the alternative for those of us who seek action on climate change? I see two options, both predicated on rejecting the linkage between IPCC predictions and current political actions.

1) Recognize that any successful climate policies must be politically robust. This means that they have to make sense to many constituencies for many reasons. Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have effects, and these effects are largely judged to be negative over the long term. Whether or not scientists can exactly predict these effects over decades is an open question. But the failure to offer accurate decadal predictions would say nothing about the judgment that continued increasing carbon dioxide is not a good idea. Further, for any climate policies to succeed they must make sense for a lot of reasons -- the economy, trade, development, pork, image, etc. etc. -- science is pretty much lost in the noise. So step one is to reject the premise of claims like that made by Pat Michaels. The tendency among activist climate scientists is instead to accept those claims.

2) The climate community should openly engage the issue of falsification of its predictions. By giving the perception that fallibility is not only acceptable, but expected as part of learning,it would go a long way toward backing off of the overselling of climate science that seems to have taken place. If the IPCC does not have things exactly correct, and the world has been led to believe that they do, then an inevitable loss of credibility might ensue. Those who believe that the IPCC is infallible will of course reject this idea.

Who knows? Maybe warming will resume in May, 2008 at a rapid rate, and continue for years or decades. Then this discussion will be moot. But what if it doesn't?

May 15, 2008

Comparing Distrubutions of Observations and Predictions: A Response to James Annan

James Annan, a climate modeler, has written a post at his blog trying to explain why it is inconceivable that recent observations of global average temperature trends can be considered to be inconsistent with predictions from the models of the IPCC. James has an increasing snarky, angry tone to his comments which I will ignore in favor of the math (and I'd ask those offering comments on our blog to also be respectful, even if that respect is not returned), and in this post I will explain that even using his approach, there remains a quantitative justification for arguing that recent trends are inconsistent with IPCC projections.

James asks:

Are the models consistent with the observations over the last 8 years?

He answers this question using a standard approach to comparing means from two distributions, a test that I have openly questioned its appropriateness in this context. But lets grant James this methodological point for this discussion.

James defines the past 8 years as the past 8 calendar years, 2000-2007, which we will see is a significant decision. As reported to us by his fellow modelers at Real Climate, James presents the distribution of models as having a mean 8-year trend of 0.19 degrees per decade, with a standard deviation of 0.21. So lets also accept this starting point.

In a post on 8-year trends in observational data Real Climate reported the standard deviation of these trends to be 0.19. (Note this is based on NASA data, and I would be happy to use a different value if a good argument can be made to do so.) I calculated the least-squares best fit line for the monthly data 2000-2007 from the UKMET dataset that James pointed to and arrived at 0.10 degrees/C per decade (James gets 0.11).

So lets take a look at how the distribution of 8-year trends in the models [N(0.19, 0.21)] compares to the analogous 8-year trend in the observations [N(0.10, 0.19)]. This is shown in the following graph with the model distribution in dark blue, and the observations in red.

obsVmods1.100-1207.png

Guess what? Using this approach James is absolutely correct when he says that it would be incorrect to claim that the temperatures observed from 2000-2007 are inconsistent with the IPCC AR4 model predictions. In more direct language, any reasonable analysis would conclude that the observed and modeled temperature trends are consistent.

But now lets take a look at two different periods, first the past eight years of available data, so April 2000 to March 2008 (I understand that April 2008 values are just out and the anomaly is something like half the value of April 2000, so making this update would make a small difference).

obsVmods2.400-308.png

You can clearly see that the amount of overlap between the distributions is smaller than in the first figure above. If one wanted to claim that this amount of overlap demonstrates consistency between models and observations I would not disagree. But at the same time, there is also a case to be made that the distributions are inconsistent, as the amount of overlap is not insignificant. There would be an even stronger case to be made for inconsistency using the satellite data, which shows a smaller trend over this same period.

But now lets take a look at the period January 2001 to present, shown below.

obsVmods3.101-308.png

Clearly, there is a strong argument to be made that these distributions are inconsistent with one another (and again, even stronger with the satellite data).

So lets summarize. I have engaged these exercises to approach the question: "What observations of the climate system would be inconsistent with predictions of IPCC AR4?"

1. Using the example of global average temperatures to illustrate how this answer might be approached, I have concluded that it is not "bogus" or "denialist" (as some prominent climate modelers have suggested) to either ask the question or to suggest that there is some valid evidence indicating inconsistency between observations and model predictions.

2. The proper way to approach this question is not clear. With climate models we are not dealing with balls and urns, as in idealized situations of hypothesis testing. Consider that the greater the uncertainty in climate models -- which results from any research that expands the realization space -- will increase the consistency between observations and models, if consistency is simply defined as some part of the distribution of observations overlapping with the distribution of forecasts. Thus, defining a distribution of model predictions simply as being equivalent to the distribution of realizations is problematic, especially if model predictions are expected to have practical value.

3. Some people get very angry when these issues are raised. Readers should see the reactions to my posts as an obvious example of how the politics of climate change are reflected in pressures not to ask these sort of questions.

One solution to this situation would be to ask those who issue climate predictions for the purposes of informing decision makers -- on any time scale -- to clearly explain at the time the prediction is issued what data are being predicted and what values of those data would falsify the prediction. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in a situation where the instinctive response of those issuing the predictions will be to defend their forecasts as being consistent with the observations, no matter what is observed.

May 14, 2008

Lucia Liljegren on Real Climate's Approach to Falsification of IPCC Predictions

are-swedes-tall.jpg

Lucia Liljegren has wonderfully clear post up which explains issues of consistency and inconsistency between models and observations using a simple analogy based on predicting the heights of Swedes.

She writes;

I think a simple example using heights is helps me explain the answer to these questions:

1. Is the mean trend in surface temperature over time predicted by the IPCC consistent with the temperature trends we have been experiencing? (That is: is 2C/century consistent with the trend we’ve seen? )
2. Is the lowest uncertainty bound the IPCC shows the public consistent with the trend in GMST (global mean surface temperature) we have seen since 2001?

I think these questions are important to the public and policy makers. They are the questions people at many climate blogs are asking and they are the questions many voters and likely policy makers would like answered.

I think the answer to both questions is "No, the IPCC predictions are inconsistent with recent data."

Please go to her site and read the entire post.

She concludes her discussion as follows:

The IPCC projections remain falsified. Comparison to data suggest they are biased. The statistical tests accounts for the actual weather noise in data on earth.

The argument that this falsification is somehow inapplicable because the earth data falls inside the full range of possibilities for models is flawed. We know why the full range of climate models is huge: It contains a large amount of "climate model noise" due to models that are individually biased relative to the system of interest: the earth.

It will continue to admit what I have always admitted: When applying hypothesis tests to a confidence limit of 5%, one does expect to be wrong 5% of the time. It is entirely possible that the current falsification fall in the category of 5% incorrect falsifications. If this is so, the “falsified” diagnosis will reverse, and not we won’t see another one anytime soon.

However, for now, the IPCC projections remain falsified, and will do so until the temperatures pick up. Given the current statistical state ( a period when large “type 2″ error is expected) it is quite likely we will soon see “fail to falsify” even if the current falsification is a true one. But if the falsification is a “true” falsification, as is most likely, we will see “falsifications” resume. In that case, the falsification will ultimately stick.

For now, all we can do is watch the temperature trends of the real earth.

May 12, 2008

How to Make Two Decades of Cooling Consistent with Warming

The folks at Real Climate have produced a very interesting analysis that provides some useful information for the task of framing a falsification exercise on IPCC predictions of global surface temperature changes. The exercise also provides some insight into how this branch of the climate science community defines the concept of consistency between models and observations, and why it is that every observation seems to be, in their eyes, "consistent with" model predictions. This post explains why Real Climate is wrong in their conclusions on falsification and the why it is that two decades of cooling can be defined as "consistent with" predictions of warming.

In their post, RealClimate concludes:

Claims that a negative observed trend over the last 8 years would be inconsistent with the models cannot be supported. Similar claims that the IPCC projection of about 0.2ºC/dec over the next few decades would be falsified with such an observation are equally bogus.

Real Climate defines observations to be "consistent with" the models to mean that an observation, with its corresponding uncertainty range, overlaps with the spread of the entire ensemble of model realizations. This is the exact same definition of "consistent with" that I have criticized here on many occasions. Why? Because it means that the greater the uncertainty in modeling -- that is, the greater the spread in outcomes across model realizations -- the more likely that observations will be “consistent with” the models. More models, more outcomes, greater consistency – but less certainty. It is in this way that pretty much any observation becomes "consistent with" the models.

As we will see below, the assertion by Real Climate that "a negative observed trend over the last 8 years would be inconsistent with the models cannot be supported" is simply wrong. Real Climate is more on the mark when they write:

Over a twenty year period, you would be on stronger ground in arguing that a negative trend would be outside the 95% confidence limits of the expected trend (the one model run in the above ensemble suggests that would only happen ~2% of the time).

Most people seeking to examine the consistency between models and observations would use some sort of probabilistic threshold, like a 95% confidence interval, which would in this case be calculated as a joint probability of observations and models.

So let’s go through the exercise of comparing modeled and observed trends to illustrate why Real Climate is wrong, or more generously, has adopted a definition of "consistent with" that is so broad as to be meaningless in practice.

First the observations. Thanks to Lucia Liljegren we have the observed trends in global surface temperature 2001-present (which slightly less than 8 years), with 95% confidence intervals, for five groups that keep such record. Here is that information she has presented in degrees Celsius per decade:

UKMET -1.3 +/- 1.8
NOAA 0.0 +/- 1.6
RSS -1.5 +/- 2.2
UAH -0.9 +/- 2.8
GISS 0.2 +/- 2.1

Real Climate very usefully presents 8-year trends for 55 model realizations in a figure that is reproduced below. I have annotated the graph by showing the 95% range for the model realizations, which corresponds to excluding the most extreme 3 model realization on either end of the distribution (2.75 to be exact). (I have emailed Gavin Schmidt asking for the data, which would enable a bit more precision. ) The blue horizontal line at the bottom labeled "95% spread across model realizations" shows the 95% range of 8-year trends present across the IPCC model realizations.

I have also annotated the figure to show in purple the 8+ year trends from the five groups that track global surface temperatures, with the 95% range as calculated by Lucia Liljegren. I have presented each of the individual ranges for the 5 groups, and then with a single purple horizontal line the range across the five observational groups.

spread1.png

Quite clearly there is a large portion of the spread in the observations that is not encompassed by the spread in the models. This part of the observations is cooler than the range provided by the models. And this then leads us to the question of how to interpret the lack of complete overlap.

One interpretation, and the one that makes the most sense to me, is that because there is not an overlap between modeled and observed trends at the 95% level (which is fairly obvious from the figure, but could be easily calculated with the original data) then one could properly claim that the surface temperature observations 2001-present fail to demonstrate consistency with the models of IPCC AR4 at the 95% level. They do however show consistency at some lower level of confidence. Taking each observational dataset independently, one would conclude that UKMET, RSS, and UAH are inconsistent with the models, whereas NASA and NOAA are consistent with them, again at a 95% threshold.

Another interpretation, apparently favored by the guys at Real Climate, is that because there is some overlap between the 95% ranges (i.e., overlap between the blue and purple lines), the models and observations are in fact consistent with one another. [UPDATE: Gave Schmidt at RC confirms this interpretation when he writes in response to a question about the possibility of falsifying IPCC predictions: "Sure. Data that falls unambiguously outside it [i.e., the model range]."] But this type of test for consistency is extremely weak. The Figure below takes the 95% spread in the observations and illustrates how far above and below the 95% spread in the models some overlap would allow. If the test of “consistent with” is defined as any overlap between models and observations, then any rate of cooling or warming between -10 deg C/decade and +13.0 dec C/decade could be said to be “consistent with” the model predictions of the IPCC. This is clearly so absurd as to be meaningless.

spread2.png

So when Real Climate concludes that . . .

Claims that a negative observed trend over the last 8 years would be inconsistent with the models cannot be supported

. . . they are simply incorrect by any reasonable definition of consistency based on probabilistic reasoning. Such claims do in fact have ample support.

If they wish to assert than any overlap between uncertainties in observed temperature trends and the spread of model realizations over an 8-year period implies consistency, then they are arguing that any 8-year trend between -10/C and +13/C (per century) would be consistent with the models. This sort of reasoning turns climate model falsification into a rather meaningless exercise. [UPDATE: In the comments, climate modeler James Annan makes exactly this argument, but goes even further: "even if the model and obs ranges didn't overlap at all, they might (just) be consistent".

Of course in practice the tactical response to claims that observations falsify model predictions will be to argue for expanding the range of realizations in the models, and arguing for reducing the range of uncertainties in the observations. This is one reason why debates over the predictions of climate models devolve into philosophical discussions about how to treat uncertainties.

Finally, how then should we interpret Keenlyside et al.? It is, as Real Climate admits, outside the 95% range of the IPCC AR4 models for its prediction of trends to 2015. But wait, Keelyside et al. in fact use one of the models of the IPCC AR4 runs, and thus this fact could be used to argue that the range of possible 20-year trends is actually larger than that presented by the IPCC. If interpreted in this way, then this would get us back to the interesting conclusion that more models, initialized in different ways, actually work to expand the range of possible futures. Thus we should not be surprised to see Real Climate conclude

Similar claims that the IPCC projection of about 0.2ºC/dec over the next few decades would be falsified with such an observation [of "a negative observed trend"] are equally bogus.

And this gentle readers is exactly why I explained in a recent post that Keelyside et al. now means that a two-decade cooling trend (in RC parlance, a “negative observed trend over 20 years”) is now defined as consistent with predictions of warming.

Inconsistent With? One Answer

UPDATE: Real Climate has already dismissed the paper linked below as a failed effort.

Climate Audit provides a pointer to this paper (PDF) by Koutsoyiannis et al. which has the following abstract:

As falsifiability is an essential element of science (Karl Popper), many have disputed the scientific basis of climatic predictions on the grounds that they are not falsifiable or verifiable at present. This critique arises from the argument that we need to wait several decades before we may know how reliable the predictions will be. However, elements of falsifiability already exist, given that many of the climatic model outputs contain time series for past periods. In particular, the models of the IPCC Third Assessment Report have projected future climate starting from 1990; thus, there is an 18‐year period for which comparison of model outputs and reality is possible. In practice, the climatic model outputs are downscaled to finer spatial scales, and conclusions are drawn for the evolution of regional climates and hydrological regimes; thus, it is essential to make such comparisons on regional scales and point basis rather than on global or hemispheric scales. In this study, we have retrieved temperature and precipitation records, at least 100‐year long, from a number of stations worldwide. We have also retrieved a number of climatic model outputs, extracted the time series for the grid points closest to each examined station, and produced a time series for the station location based on best linear estimation. Finally, to assess the reliability of model predictions, we have compared the historical with the model time series using several statistical indicators including long‐term variability, from monthly to overyear (climatic) time scales. Based on these analyses, we discuss the usefulness of climatic model future projections (with emphasis on precipitation) from a hydrological perspective, in relationship to a long‐term uncertainty framework.

The paper provides the following conclusions:

*All examined long records demonstrate large overyear variability (long‐term fluctuations) with no systematic signatures across the different locations/climates.

*GCMs generally reproduce the broad climatic behaviours at different geographical locations and the sequence of wet/dry or warm/cold periods on a mean monthly scale.

*However, model outputs at annual and climatic (30‐year) scales are irrelevant with reality; also, they do not reproduce the natural overyear fluctuation and, generally, underestimate the variance and the Hurst coefficient of the observed series; none of the models proves to be systematically better than the others.

*The huge negative values of coefficients of efficiency at those scales show that model predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average.

*This makes future climate projections not credible.

*The GCM outputs of AR4, as compared to those of TAR, are a regression in terms of the elements of falsifiability they provide, because most of the AR4 scenarios refer only to the future, whereas TAR scenarios also included historical periods.

May 09, 2008

Real Climate's Bold Bet

The Real Climate guys have offered odds on future temperature changes, which is great because it gives us a sense of their confidence in predictions of future global average temperatures. Unfortunately, RCs foray into laying odds is not as useful as it might be.

The motivation for this bet is the recent Keenlyside et al. paper that has caused a set of mixed reactions among the commenters in the blogosphere. Some commenters here have stridently argued that the predictions in the Keelyside et al. paper are perfectly consistent with predictions of climate models in the IPCC. However, when one such commenter here was asked to show a single IPCC climate model run showing no temperature increase for the 2 decades following the late 1990s he submitted an irrelevant link and disappeared. Others have argued that the Keenlyside et al. projections (and this includes Keenlyside) are inconsistent with the IPCC predictions. Real Climate apparently falls into this latter camp.

The Real Climate Bet (and there is also one for a later period) is that the period 1994-2004 will have a higher average temperature than the period 2000-2010. Since the periods have in common 2000-2004, we can throw those out as irrelevant. Thus, the bet is really about whether the period 1994-1998 will be warmer than the period 2005-2010. And since we know the temperatures for 2005 to present, the bet is really about what will happen in 2009 and 2010. (Using UKMET temps here.)

It is strange to see the Real Climate guys wagering on 2-year climate trends when they already taught us a lesson that 8 years is far to short for trends to be meaningful. But perhaps there is some other reason why they offer this bet. That reason is that they are playing with a stacked deck, which is what you do when looking for suckers. The following figure shows why.

RcsBold.jpg

For the Real Climate guys to lose the bet global average temperatures for 2009 and 2010 would have to fall by about 0.30 from the period 2005-present (and I've assumed Jan-Mar as the 2008 value, 2008 obviously could wind up higher or lower). Real Climate has boldly offered 50-50 odds that this will happen. This is a bit like giving 50-50 odds that Wigan will come back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to Manchester United. Who would take that bet?

Another interpretation of the odds provided by RC is that they actually believe that there is a 50% chance that global temperatures will decrease by more than 0.30 over the next few years. Since I don't think they actually believe that, it is safe to conclude that they've offered a suckers bet. Too bad. When Real Climate wants to offer a 50-50 bet in which the bettor gets to pick which side to take in the bet (i.e., the definition of 50-50) then we'll know that they are serious.

May 08, 2008

Consistent With, Again

On NPR's Fresh Air earlier this week, Al Gore suggests that Typhoon Nargis, which may have killed 100,000 people in Myanmar, is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, or does he? He said "we’re seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming."

What could he have meant? If you ask me, I'd say that the "consistent with" chronicles continue . . .

PS. Those wanting to do something positive in the face of this tragedy might visit this site.

Teats on a Bull

Here is a very thoughtful comment sent in by email on the ""consistent with chronicles". I haven't identified the author, since he didn't ask me to post it. But it is worth a read about how climate science is received by one rancher in West Tennessee. I appreciate the feedback.

I am neither an academic nor a scientist. I raise cattle in West Tennessee. I came across your ruminations on the uses and meaning (or lack thereof) of the expression "consistent with" in environmental debates. I enjoyed it very much. You make some very valid, interesting, and to your critics irritating points.

You hear "consistent with" employed in other circumstances as well, as for example when a prosecuting attorney says certain evidence is "consistent with" his or her theory of who committed a crime. However a good defense attorney will almost surely point out that the evidence in question is "consistent with" other explanations as well. Thus, at least in legal dealings, the "consistent with" argument doesn't get one very far.

Which brings me to my point. You're absolutely right to ask what kinds of evidence would be inconsistent with environmental theories, for just the reasons you outline, but of equal or perhaps greater importance is the question "With what other theories or explanations is the same evidence consistent?" It is not so terribly unusual for facts or evidence to be consistent with multiple theories, even ones that contradict one another. I'm clearly not qualified to judge, but could the cited evidence also be "consistent with" environmental theories involving sunspot activity, the Gulf Stream, el Nino, or lord knows what else?

There's another problem I see with the "consistent with" construction: it never addresses the issue of probability. One sees this frequently with the use of "possible." For many folks the claim that something, no matter how implausible, is "possible" is enough to end a discussion. The mere theoretical possibility of something is to their minds proof of its reality. And the truth is it's virtually impossible to prove, especially to such people, that something is impossible. The best one can do is assess probabilities. However, to the true believer, even the highest statistical improbability carries little if any weight. The same, I think, is true for those who offer the "consistent with" argument. Although to their minds they may be equivalent, "consistent with" is not the same thing as "equal to," just as "possible" is not the same thing as "actual."

My personal feeling is that "consistent with" is a hedge term that has about as much meaning, and carries about as much weight, as what we here in West Tennessee call a WAG, or wild ass guess. The number of things a thing can be "consistent with" is so large as to rob the expression of meaning, or communicative value. If my veterinarian looked at one of my cows and informed me that her swollen belly was "consistent with" her being pregnant, I'm not sure I'd find that of much value, as it's also "consistent with" a number of other things, some benign, some fatal.

"Consistent with" doesn't help me make decisions on the farm. With regards to the much more vast and consequential issue of global weather predictions, "consistent with" is to me about as useful as teats on a bull.

Again, you produced a fine article and I enjoyed reading it. Keep pushing environmentalist towards honesty and clarity. A very great deal is at stake, as I'm sure you know.


Iain Murray on Climate Policy

Over at his blog Iain Murray, who is with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has a thoughtful response to my initial post on elements of any successful approach to climate change. I won't try to summarize Iain's lengthy post, so go there read it and come back. (Thanks to BP for the pointer.)

Here are some very quick responses of my own.

1. I appreciate Iain's efforts to "propose an alternative framework that may be more appealing to conservative policy-makers." In the U.S there is a wide gap between Democrats and Republicans on many aspects of climate policy. If this gap is to close in the form of shared agreement on action, it will result from having an open discussion of policies resulting in compromises, and not by the finger-pointing, name calling, and derision that so often accompanies political debates on climate change. As Walter Lippmann once wrote, the goal of politics is not to get people to think alike, but to get people who think differently to act alike.

2. On adaptation Iain and I see to agree more than disagree. I recognize that the concept of "sustainable development" carries with it much symbolic baggage and people read into the concept an awful lot. I don't see a Malthusian perspective in the concept, far from it. I actually see that technological progress that eliminates limits and opens possibilities as key to sustainable development. There is much more to say, but on issues of technology and trade, i see no real significant disagreements here.

3. Iain is correct in pointing out the real costs associated with making carbon-based energy more expensive. This is the main reason that I see that its political prospects are seriously limited. But even so, Iain probably recognizes that what he calls "costs" are viewed by many people as "benefits". That is, many people would like energy to be more pricier, even if it results in costs for some other people . For some, they focus on the non-market costs of carbon-based energy and thus evaluate the costs/benefits with some implicit valuation of the intangibles, but others simply prefer the outcomes associated with pricier energy. I have no expectation that people with vastly different values will come to agreement on costs and benefits associated with pricing carbon, hence, I see its prospects as limited in any case.

4. Iain likes the idea of making carbon-free energy "more affordable" but has some different recommendations than I do on how it might be done. Great. I don't think that anyone has a magic bullet solution, so agreement on the goal ought to be a enormous first step in its achievement. This is one reason why I listed a laundry list of options. I would hope that Iain would agree that the world really hasn't set forth in this direction in any real seriousness, at least not as compared to the intensity of action focused on pricing carbon. But we seem to agree on the goals here.

Iain has some more specific actions described at his blog that are worth a read. If anyone else wants to share their reactions to this discussion they are welcome to do so in the comments or as a guest blog.

May 06, 2008

Elements of Any Successful Approach to Climate Change

This post summarizes, in capsule form, what I believe to be the necessary elements of any successful suite of policies focused on climate mitigation and adaptation. This post is short, and necessarily incomplete with insufficient detail, nonetheless, its purpose is to set the stage for future, in depth discussions of each element discussed below. The elements discussed below are meant to occur in parallel. All are necessary, none by itself sufficient. I welcome comments, critique, and questions.

1. Adaptation

Whatever the world does on mitigation, adaptation will be necessary. And by adaptation I don’t simply mean adaptation to the marginal impacts of human-caused climate change, as presented under the Framework Convention on Climate Change. I mean adaptation to climate, and as such, a concept much more closely related to the original notion of sustainable development. Adaptation is therefore core to any approach to climate change that seeks to ameliorate the effects of climate on people and the environment. Much of my research over the past 15 years has focused on this subject, and long-time readers of this blog will know my position well.

2. Make Carbon Emissions Pricier

Unrestrained emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will no doubt have effects on the global earth system, including the oceans, atmosphere, and land surface. There is a chance that these effects could be relatively benign, but there is also a chance that the effects could be quite severe. I personally lean toward the latter view, but I recognize that there is ample scientific knowledge available for people to selectively construct any position they’d like along this spectrum. I have little expectation that climate scientists, despite their notable work alerting the world to the risks associated with unmitigated emissions, have much prospect for accurately predicting the evolution of the global climate system (and especially its regional manifestations) on the time scale on which decisions related to mitigation and adaptation need to be made. In fact, I think there is a very good chance that some enthusiastic climate modelers will overstretch their claims and hurt their own cause. Even so, I have concluded that it is only prudent to establish some cost to emitting carbon (a global carbon tax is the theoretical ideal).

At the same time, because the global energy system is driven almost entirely by carbon-emitting fuels, putting a price on carbon will necessarily result in higher costs for energy and everything that results from using energy. This is of course the entire point of putting a price on carbon. Anyone suggesting anything different is being misleading. Now some will argue that over the longer term putting a price on carbon will result in benefits, especially when non-market outcomes are considered. Perhaps this is the case, and for purposes of discussion I’d simply grant the point. But in the short term, it is equally true that the costs of energy will increase. For this reason I am not optimistic about the prospects of putting a meaningful price on carbon anywhere, much less via a global treaty. People will react strongly to increasing costs, whether they are associated with energy, food, transportation, or whatever. Strong reactions will be felt in the form of electoral outcomes and thus in policy positions (exhibit A = McCain/Clinton pandering with a gas tax holiday; exhibit B = Last week’s UK elections, etc.). I am certainly not opposed to efforts to put a price on carbon, but at the same time we also need to be fully aware of the realities of politics which suggest that putting a price on carbon may not actually occur or, if it does occur, may be implemented at a meaningless level in small parts of the global economy. Therefore, we’d better be ready with another strategy when these sorts of approaches inevitably fail.

3. Make Carbon Free Energy Cheaper

The flip side to making carbon pricier is to make carbon-free energy sources relatively cheaper. The first step in this part of the strategy is to shift the massive subsidies that government provides to fossil fuel to non-carbon fuel energy sources. This by itself won’t make carbon-free energy systems cheaper, but it will facilitate the deployment and adoption of some currently pre-commercial technologies that may be on the wrong side of being competitive. I can see no justification for continued subsidies of dirty energy, but here as well we need to recognize the political challenges of displacing entrenched interests, keeping in mind for instance the example of the challenges of removing agricultural subsidies around the rich world. Energy subsidies will be equally difficult to displace.

Therefore, perhaps more important are measures that focus government investments on accelerating the development and deployment of carbon-free energy technologies. These measures include robust public funding for research from exploratory to applied; pilot programs to test and demonstrate promising new technologies; public-private partnerships to encourage private sector participation in high risk ventures; training programs to expand the number of scientists and engineers working on a wide variety of energy R&D projects; government procurement programs to provide a predictable market for promising new technologies; prizes for the achievement of important technological thresholds; multilateral funds and international research centers to help build a global innovation capacity; as well as policy incentives to encourage adoption of existing and new energy-efficient technologies, which in turn fosters incremental learning and innovation that often leads to rapidly improving performance and declining costs.

If there are to be targets and timetables associated with international negotiations, then they should focus on the development and deployment of carbon-free energy systems in the context of ever-increasing global demand for energy. Such a focus will be far more meaningful than the easily gamed, mostly symbolic, and reality-detached focus on concentration targets or, even worse, degrees Celsius.

4. Energy Modernization

The world needs more energy, vastly more so. So a central element of any national or international energy policy will necessarily include creating access to reliable, cheap energy. Consider that something like 2 billion people have no access to electricity around the world. It is a, in my view, simply a moral obligation of those around the world with high standards of living to help those who do not. This means focusing on energy modernization, but doing so in full recognition that carbon-based energy technologies, which are so readily available in much of the developing world are poised for ever more intensive development. I recommend a focus on energy modernization not simply for altruistic reasons, but in full recognition that it is in the narrow self-interests of the rich world to help foster new markets, new trading partners, and a growing global economy. In the future the greatest potential for this growth is in the developing world.

5. Air Capture Backstop

All of the hand wringing, name calling, and finger pointing in the world won’t change the fact that steps 2, 3, and 4 may not limit the growth of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at levels now deemed to be acceptable in policy discussions (pick your number – 560, 500, 450, 350, 280, whatever). Sorry, but it is true. Thus, so long as policy makers want to limit the growth in concentrations (which I think makes good sense), then they will want to focus on developing the capability to directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – a technology called “air capture”.

Even if approaches under 2, 3, and 4 above prove wildly successful I really doubt that such social policies can hit any target concentration within a few hundred ppm anyway. So the development of air capture technologies represents not only a backstop, but also a way down the road to fine tune carbon policies focused on concentrations, should that be desired. I have absolutely no doubts that with air capture as the focus of R&D over a few decades it can be achieved at pretty reasonable costs (but they will still be costs) using approaches today not yet commonly discussed. In fact I view the technical challenges of air capture much (!) more optimistically than suggestions that we can change the lifestyles and energy using habits of more than 6 billion people. In addition, the costs of air capture provide a hard estimate of the true costs of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and thus provide a valuable baseline for evaluating other approaches based on social engineering. In my view air capture is the only form of geoengineering that makes any sense whatsoever.

6. Recognize that Climate Change is Not Only Carbon Dioxide

Stabilizing concentrations of carbon dioxide makes good sense, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that carbon dioxide emissions are the sole meaningful human forcing of the global earth system at local, regional, or global scales. Thus, we might with some effort successfully modernize the global energy system, and in the process decarbonizes it, but then find ourselves looking squarely at other human activities that affect the climate, and thus have human and environmental impacts.

These activities include other greenhouse gases, but also aerosol emissions, land use change, irrigation, chemical deposition, albedo effects, and others. We have entered an era where humans have a large and profound impact on the world, and to think that it is just carbon dioxide (or that carbon dioxide is all that matters) is myopic and misleading.

These are the elements that I believe together to be necessary in any approach to climate adaptation and mitigation that has any prospects to succeed. I will focus future posts on further discussing the specifics of each element, providing references and justifications, and connecting them each to actual policies that are the subject of current discussion.

Boulder Science Cafe, May 13th 5:30 RedFish

May 13, 2008. Roger Pielke Jr. CIRES, CU Boulder. "Have we underestimated the Carbon Dioxide Challenge?" Details. RedFish, 5:30PM, 2027 13th Street.

May 02, 2008

The Consistent-With Chronicles

Scientists are fond of explaining that recent observations of the climate are "consistent with" predictions from climate models. With this construction, scientists are thus explicitly making the claim that models can accurately predict the evolution of those climate variables. Here are just a few recent examples:

"What we are seeing [in recent hurricane trends] is consistent with what the global warming models are predicting," Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratory in Princeton, N.J., said Friday. link
In a change that is consistent with global warming computer models, the jet streams that govern weather patterns around the world are shifting their course, according to a new analysis by the Carnegie Institution published in Geophysical Research Letters. link
Francis Zwiers, the director of the climate research division of Environment Canada, said research consistently showed the addition of sulfate aerosols and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has changed rainfall patterns in the Arctic. Zwiers and his colleagues made their findings using 22 climate models that looked at precipitation conditions from the second half of the 20th century. Writing in the journal Science, Zwiers said these findings are consistent with observed increases in Arctic river discharge and the freshening of Arctic water masses during the same time period. link
The fact that we are seeing an expansion of the ocean’s least productive areas as the subtropical gyres warm is consistent with our understanding of the impact of global warming. But with a nine-year time series, it is difficult to rule out decadal variation. link

All of this talk of observations being "consistent with" the predictions from climate models led me to wonder -- What observations would be inconsistent with those same models?

Logically, for a claim of observations being "consistent with" model predictions to have any meaning then there also must be some class of observations that are "inconsistent with" model predictions. For if any observation is "consistent with" model predictions then you are saying absolutely nothing, while at the same time suggesting that you are saying something meaningful. In other contexts this sort of talk is called spin.

So I have occasionally used this blog to ask the question -- what observations would be inconsistent with model predictions?

The answer that keeps coming up is "no observations" -- though a few commenters have suggested that a temperature change of 10 degrees C over a decade would be inconsistent, as too would be the glaciation of NYC over the next few years. These responses certainly are responsive, but I think help to make my point.

Others, such as climate modeler James Annan, suggest that my goal is to falsify global warming theory (whatever that is):"no-one is going to "falsify" the fact that CO2 absorbs LW radiation". No. James is perhaps trying to change the subject, as I am interested in exactly what I say I am interested in -- to understand what observations might be inconsistent with predictions from "global warming models," in the words of climate modeler Tom Knutson, cited above.

Others suggest that by asking this questions I am providing skeptics with "talking points." The implication I suppose is that I should not be looking behind the curtain, lest I find a little wizard at the controls and reveal that we are all actually in Oz. How silly is this complaint? If the political agenda of those wanting action on climate change is so sensitive to someone asking questions of climate models that it risks collapsing, then it is a pretty frail agenda to begin with. I actually do not think that it is so frail, and in fact, my view is that the science, and policies justified based on scientific claims, will be stronger by openly discussing these issues.

A final set of reactions has been that climate models only predict trends over the long-term, such as 30 years, and that anyone looking to examine short-term climate behavior is either stupid or willfully disingenuous. It is funny how this same complaint is not levied at those scientists making claims of "consistent with," such as in those examples listed above. Of course, any time period can be used to compare model predictions with observations -- uncertainties will simply need to be presented as a function of the time period selected. When scientists (and others) argue against rigorously testing predictions against observations, then you know that the science is in an unhealthy state.

So, to conclude, so long as climate scientists make public claims that recent observations of aspects of the climate are "consistent with" the results of "global warming models," then it is perfectly appropriate to ask what observations would be "inconsistent with" those very same models. Until this follow up question is answered in a clear, rigorous manner, the incoherent, abusive, and misdirected responses to the question will have to serve as answer enough.

April 30, 2008

Global Cooling Consistent With Global Warming

For a while now I've been asking climate scientists to tell me what could be observed in the real world that would be inconsistent with forecasts (predictions, projections, etc.) of climate models, such as those that are used by the IPCC. I've long suspected that the answer is "nothing" and the public silence from those in the outspoken climate science community would seem to back this up. Now a paper in Nature today (PDF) suggests that cooling in the world's oceans couldthat the world may cool over the next 20 years few decades , according to Richard Woods who comments on the paper in the same issue, "temporarily offset the longer-term warming trend from increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere", and this would not be inconsistent with predictions of longer-term global warming.

I am sure that this is an excellent paper by world class scientists. But when I look at the broader significance of the paper what I see is that there is in fact nothing that can be observed in the climate system that would be inconsistent with climate model predictions. If global cooling over the next few decades is consistent with model predictions, then so too is pretty much anything and everything under the sun.

This means that from a practical standpoint climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global climate policy. I am sure that some model somewhere has foretold how the next 20 years will evolve (and please ask me in 20 years which one!). And if none get it right, it won't mean that any were actually wrong. If there is no future over the next few decades that models rule out, then anything is possible. And of course, no one needed a model to know that.

Don't get me wrong, models are great tools for probing our understanding and exploring various assumptions about how nature works. But scientists think they know with certainty that carbon dioxide leads to bad outcomes for the planet, so future modeling will only refine that fact. I am focused on the predictive value of the models, which appears to be nil. So models have plenty of scientific value left in them, but tools to use in planning or policy? Forget about it.

Those who might object to my assertion that models are of no practical use beyond political promotion, can start by returning to my original question: What can be observed in the climate over the next few decade that would be inconsistent with climate model projections? If you have no answer for this question then I'll stick with my views.

April 25, 2008

Malaria and Greenhouse Gases

Did you know that today is "World Malaria Day"? I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't; a search of Google News shows 233 stories on "world malaria day" published in the past 24 hours. A search of "climate change" over the past 24 hours shows 45,819 stories. This post is about the inevitable conflict in objectives that results when we frame the challenge of global warming in terms of "reducing emissions" rather than "energy modernization." The result is inevitably a battle between mitigation and adaptation, when in reality they should be complements.

Why does malaria matter? According to Jeffrey Sachs:

The numbers are staggering: there are 300 to 500 million clinical cases every year, and between one and three million deaths, mostly of children, are attributable to this disease. Every 40 seconds a child dies of malaria, resulting in a daily loss of more than 2,000 young lives worldwide. These estimates render malaria the pre-eminent tropical parasitic disease and one of the top three killers among communicable diseases.

The Economist reported a few weeks ago on efforts to eradicate malaria. The article referenced a study by McKinsey and Co. on the "business case" (PDF) for eradicating malaria. Here are the reported 5-year benefits:

• Save 3.5 million lives

• Prevent 672 million malaria cases

• Free up 427,000 hospital beds in sub-Saharan Africa

• Generate more than $80 billion in increased GDP for Africa

I want to focus on the prospects for increasing African GDP, for as we have learned via the Kaya Identity, an increase in GDP will necessarily mean an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. So what are the implications of eradicating malaria for future greenhouse gas emissions from Africa?

To answer this question I obtained data on African greenhouse gas emissions from CDIAC, and I subtracted out South Africa, which accounts for a large share of current African emissions. I found that the average annual increase from 1990-2004 was 5.2%, which I will use as a baseline for projecting business-as-usual emissions growth into the future.

The next question is what effect the eradication of malaria might have on African GDP. The McKinsey & Co. report referenced a paper by Gallup and Sachs (2001, link) which speculates (and I think that is a fair characterization) that complete eradication could boost GDP growth by as much as 3% per year. This would take African emissions growth rates to 8.2%, which is still well short of what has been observed in China this decade, and thus not at all unreasonable. So I'll use this as an upper bound (not as a prediction, to be clear). So if we graph future emissions under my definition of business-as-usual and also the Gallup/Sachs upper bound, we get the following curves to 2050.

Malaria Scenarios.png

The figure shows that by eradicating malaria, it is conceivable that there will be an corresponding increase in annual African emissions of more than 11 GtC above BAU. Today, the entire world has about 9 GtC. For those following our debate with Joe Romm earlier this week, this would mean that he would have to come up with another way to get 10 more "wedges," as rapid African growth is included in none of the BAU emissions scenarios. Put another way, the success of his proposed policies depends on not eradicating malaria since rapid African GDP growth busts his wedge budget.

The implications should be obvious: If a goal of climate policy is simply to "reduce emissions" then this goal clearly conflicts with efforts to eradicate malaria, which will inevitably lead to an increase in emissions. But if the goal is to modernize the global energy system -- including the developing the capacity to provide vast quantities of carbon-free energy, then there is no conflict here.

This distinction helps to explain why there persists an adaptation vs. mitigation debate, and why it is that advocates of adaptation (to which eradicating malaria falls under) are often excoriated as "deniers" or "delayers" -- adaptation just doesn't help the emissions reduction challenge. The continued denigration of those who support adaptation will continue until we reframe the climate debate in terms of energy modernization and adaptation, which are complementary approaches to sustainable development.

Over at The New Scientist Fred Pearce takes a broader view and warns of "green fascism" on the issue of development and population:

But there is another question that I find increasingly being asked. Should we be trying to stop others having babies, especially people in poor countries with fast-growing populations?

I must say I thought this kind of illiberal thinking had been banished from the environmental movement. But it keeps seeping back. When I give public talks on climate change, I am often asked if all the efforts in the rich world won't be wiped out by rising populations in the poor world.

Isn't overpopulation more dangerous than overconsumption? I say no. But the unpalatable truth is that a lot of environmental thinking over the past half century has been underpinned by an unhealthy preoccupation with the breeding propensity of Asians and Africans. . .

Only recently, US groups opposed to all migration tried to get their policies adopted by the blue-chip environment group, the Sierra Club. To many they sounded like a fringe group. Actually they were an echo of the earlier mainstream.

And the echo is becoming louder. We hear it in the climate change debate. No matter that the average European or North American has carbon emissions 10 times greater than the average Indian or African, somehow it is those pesky breeding foreigners who are really to blame.

And now food shortages are growing and we will get more. Ehrlich, we are bound to be told, was right after all. You have been warned: green fascism could soon be on the march.

It is long overdue to rethink how we think about the climate debate.

April 23, 2008

Joe Romm’s Fuzzy Math

[UPDATE: Joe Romm replies in the comments: "Roger -- Thanks for catching my C vs CO2 error.those are very hard to avoid. And thank you for this post. I probably should have elaborated on this issue already -- so I'll just do it in a new post, which will take me a few hours to put together. As you'll see, there actually isn't a gap in my math -- there is a gap in Socolow's and Pacala's math that most people (you included) miss. I'll leave it at that, for now, and Post the link when I am finished."]

Readers here will know that Joe Romm has been extremely critical of the idea that we need any new technological advances to achieve stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at a level such as 450 ppm. Now Joe helpfully lays out his plan for how stabilization at such a low level might be achieved. It turns out that there is a significant gap in Joe’s math. Even the remarkably ambitious (some would say impossibly fantastic) range of implementation activities that he proposes cannot even meet his own stated goals for success. The only way for him to close the mathematical gap that he has is to rely on – get this -- assumptions of spontaneous decarbonization of the global economy (and by this I mean specifically reductions in energy per economic growth and reductions in carbon per unit energy). In fact, the emissions reductions that he needs to occur automatically (i.e., assumed) for his math to work out are larger than those he proposes through implementation.

Joe relies on a useful concept from Pacala and Socolow (2004, PDF) called the "stabilization wedge" defined as follows:

A wedge represents an activity that reduces emissions to the atmosphere that starts at zero today and increases linearly until it accounts for 1 GtC/year of reduced carbon emissions in 50 years.

Each wedge thus equates to a reduction of 25 GtC over 50 years.

Joe starts out by observing that we are at about 8.4 GtC ("30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year") and "rising 3.3% per year" (for consistency I am expressing all units in GtC, though do note that Joe switches back and forth with carbon dioxide). He says that "We need to peak around 2015 to 2020 at the latest, then drop at least 60% by 2050 (to 4 billion tons a year or less)." Here I think that Joe actually means 4 GtC and not carbon dioxide, which we’ll adopt as Joe’s chosen mid-century target value. Joe presents 14 proposed wedges worth of implementation: 4 are focused on efficiency, 4 on sequestration, and 6 on carbon-free energy totaling about 12.5 terawatts (compare).

OK, let’s look at the math that Joe provides and how his proposed actions square with his goal. Let’s set aside political realism and all that, and just focus on the simple arithmetic of mitigation. If emissions continue to rise at 3.3% per year then by 2058 total global emissions will be about 42 GtC. With Joe’s 14 wedges all successfully implemented that would equate to an emissions reduction of 33% to 28 GtC per year, falling 24 GtC (i.e., 24 wedges)short of his goal of 4 GtC.

Well, you might say that emissions rising at 3.3% per year is unrealistic; after all, in the last two decades of the last century the global economy became more efficient and the world relied on less carbon intensive sources of fuel. The rate of this decline from 1980-2000 was about 1.0% per year, so maybe it’ll happen again at this rate from 2008-2058. Why not? Increasing emissions at the lower rate of 2.3% per year would indeed make a huge difference, meaning that total emissions in 2058 would be about 26 GtC – representing a reduction equal to the contribution of 16 wedges!! Yet even with this generous assumption of 16 free wedges, after we subtract Joe’s 14 wedges we’d still be left with an annual emissions gap of 12 GtC.

But wait, the careful reader might object, and report to us that Joe already assumes vast improvements in efficiencies -- in fact 4 total of his 14 wedges. Is it reasonable to assume that we can get 20 (16 free + 4 from Joe) wedges of improved energy efficiency and decarbonization of the energy supply? Maybe, maybe not, but the assumption sure helps the math. And yet it still doesn’t get us all of the way to Joe’s goal.

What about if we shorten the time frame? Joe did suggest that we need to implement each wedge over four decades and not five: "If we could do the 14 wedges in four decades, we should be able to keep CO2 concentrations to under 450 ppm." Of course, one wedge over four decades is equal to 20 GtC not 25 GtC, so we’ll call this a "short wedge."

A 3.3% growth in emissions to 2048 would result in annual emissions totaling about 31 GtC. Subtracting 14 of Joe’s short wedges would still leave us 13 GtC short of his goal of 4 GtC. OK, I guess that it’s probably time to invoke those assumptions again. With a return to the 1980-2000 rate of decarbonization of the global economy and a 2.3% rate of emissions increase, the 2048 emissions would be about 21 GtC. If we subtract out Joe’s 14 short wedges that still has Joe missing his target by 3 "short wedges," which we could probably erase by upping the assumed decarboniztion of the global economy to about 1.5% per year.

In short, the only way that Joe Romm’s ambitious solution even comes close to the mark is by assuming a significant spontaneous decarbonization of the global economy (i.e., reductions in energy and carbon intensities). Because Joe does not tell us how these spontaneous reductions will occur, his math is, at best, fuzzy. It seems quite odd that Joe, who has said that the fate of the planet is at stake, is willing to bet our future on baseline carbon dioxide emissions increasing at a rate of less than 2.0% per year, plus some fantastically delusional expectations of the possibilities of policy implementation (and the political realism of Joe's solution will have to wait for another post). It may be unwelcome and uncomfortable for some, but Joe’s fuzzy math explains exactly why innovation must be at the core of any approach to mitigation that has a chance of succeeding.

Is it possible that assumed decarbonization of the global economy carries the weight of future emissions reductions? Sure, its possible. Is this something you want to bet on? Maybe some do, but I'd be much more confident with an approach that can succeed even if carbon dioxide growth rates exceed 2.0% per year.

April 22, 2008

The Central Question of Mitigation

[Updated: In the comments Skipper points out a units error (Thanks!). That would be 20,000 nuclear plants, not 2,000!]

The central question can be found at the bottom of this long, technical post. In 1998 Hoffert et al. published a seminal paper in Nature (PDF) which argued that:

Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 at twice pre-industrial levels while meeting the economic assumptions of "business as usual" implies a massive transition to carbon-free power, particular in developing nations. There are no energy systems technologically ready at present to produce the required amounts of carbon-free power.

Hoffert et al. provide a figure which illustrates the amount of carbon-free energy that will be needed assuming that concentrations of carbon dioxide are to be stabilized at 550 ppm, and the global economy grows at 2.9% per year to 2025 and 2.3% per year thereafter. I have updated this figure to 2008 (estimated) values as indicated below.

carbonfreeenergy.png

The figure shows carbon free energy required to achieve stabilization at 550 ppm carbon dioxide as a function of the rate of average energy intensity decline. The figure also shows 1990 total energy consumption (about 11 terawatts, TW) and the share of this valuefrom carbon-free sources (about 1.2 TW). I have updated both of these values to 2008 using data from the EIA, which I extrapolated to 2008 values, for which I arrive at 17.4 TW of total energy consumption of which 2.4 TW are carbon-free.

Hoffert et al. estimated that we'd need 10-30 TW of carbon free primary energy production by 2050, assuming energy intensity declines of 1.0-2.0% over the first 5 decades of the 21st century. So far at least, that assumption has proved optimistic, as actual energy intensity has increased, as indicated by the blue dot on the leftward-extended horizontal axis. If energy intensity does not improve beyond this value then the world will need 22 TW of carbon-free energy by 2025, and if this value works out to a net 0.5% decline through 2025, then this figure would be halved to 11 TW. For 2050 the values are 51 and 25 TW respectively.

The units of energy can be difficult to interpret. How much is 10 TW of energy? A run-of-the-mill nuclear power plant provides about 500 megawatts; so if you have 2,000 of these then you have 1 terawatt. So 20,000 nuclear plants -- or the equivalent -- by 2025 would do the trick of providing 10 TW.

In a subsequent paper in Science 2002 Hoffert et al. discuss the options available to meet technological challenge of providing 10 TW of carbon-free energy:

Combating global warming by radical restructuring of the global energy system could be the technology challenge of the century. We have identified a portfolio of promising technologies here--some radical departures from our present fossil fuel system. Many concepts will fail, and staying the course will require leadership. Stabilizing climate is not easy. At the very least, it requires political will, targeted research and development, and international cooperation. Most of all, it requires the recognition that, although regulation can play a role, the fossil fuel greenhouse effect is an energy problem that cannot be simply regulated away.

They responded to critiques of their 2002 paper with this (emphasis added):

Market penetration rates of new technologies are not physical constants. They can be strongly impacted by targeted research and development, by ideology, and by economic incentives. Apollo 11 landed on the Moon less than a decade after the program started. We are confident that the world's engineers and scientists can rise to the even greater challenge of stabilizing global warming. But it does not advance the mitigation cause to gloss over technical hurdles or to say that the technology problem is already solved.

Any discussion of the technologies needed to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations is incomplete without showing the arithmetic of energy production and consumption. This simple math is too often overlooked in the highly politicized to and fro over mitigation.

The central question of the mitigation challenge is thus the following: What technologies will provide the world's future power needs, and do so in a carbon-free manner? Show your work.

April 21, 2008

A Post-Partisan Climate Politics?

Californina Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger provides a positive and optimistic view of of climate policy in a speech yesterday at Yale. You can watch it here. Here is an excerpt:

So I urge you to continue to be open‑minded on our environment. Do not dismiss or do not accept an idea because it has a Republican label or a Democratic label or a conservative label or a liberal label. Think for yourself. This is especially true on environment. So I have great faith in your ability to find new answers and to find new approaches. Don't accept what the old people say. Don't accept the old ways. Don't accept the old ways or the old politics of Democrats and Republicans. Stir things up. Be fresh and new the way you look at things.

Is a post-partisan climate politics possible?

Please Tell Me What in the World Joe Romm is Complaining About?

Joe Romm has continued his hysterical, content-free attacks on me and my colleagues for daring to suggest a view not 100% the same as his own. How dare we. After taking a close look at some of Joe’s writing, it turns out that he seems to agree with just about everything I’ve written on energy policy, and his continued (mis)characterizations of my views simply don’t square with what I’ve actually written.

Here are some examples:

On whether current projections of future emissions growth may possibly underestimate the mitigation challenge, Joe agrees with us that they just might:

[Socolow and Pacala] assume "Our BAU [business as usual] simply continues the 1.5% annual carbon emissions growth of the past 30 years." Oops! Since 2000, we’ve been rising at 3% per year (thank you, China). That means instead of BAU doubling to 16 GtC in 50 years, we would, absent the wedges, double in 25 years. That would mean each wedge needs to occur in half the time, assuming our current China-driven pace is the new norm (which is impossible to know, but I personally doubt it is). . . A similar problem to this is that many of the economic models used by the IPCC assume BAU rates of technology improvement and energy efficiency that are very unlikely to occur absent strong government action, so they are probably overly optimistic.

This last statement is of course exactly what we say in our Nature paper. So our argument about the possibility of understating the magnitude of the mitigation challenge that that Romm has criticized repeatedly (without actually questioning our numbers, but writing a lot of overheated prose), he in fact agrees with. Interesting. Weird.

In addition, I have never written anything against the deployment of existing carbon-free technologies. Quite the opposite. So when Romm says that I have called for an R&D-only approach he is either ignorant or lying, to be blunt. In fact I have argued for a vigorous short-term focus, such as in testimony before the U.S. Congress in 2006 (PDF:

When it comes to effective substantive action on mitigation, I would argue that the available research and experience shows quite clearly that progress is far more likely when such actions align a short-term focus with the longer-term concerns. In practice, this typically means focusing such actions on the short-term, with the longer-term concerns taking a back seat. Examples of such short-term issues related to mitigation include the costs of energy, the benefits of reducing reliance on fossil fuels from the Middle East, the innovation and job-creating possibilities of alternative energy technologies, particulate air pollution, transportation efficiencies, and so on.

And last year Dan Sarewitz and I wrote more specifically of how such a challenge would be met in practice (PDF. After reading Romm's writings, I cannot figure out at all what in the world Joe Romm would disagree with in the following:

Nevertheless, the broad and diverse portfolio of policies and programs necessary to catalyze a long-term technological transformation to a low-carbon energy system is reasonably well understood, even if the path and timing of the transition cannot be precisely engineered. These measures include robust public funding for research spanning the gamut from exploratory to applied; pilot programs to test and demonstrate promising new technologies; public-private partnerships to incentivize private sector participation in high risk ventures (such as those now used to induce pharmaceutical companies to develop tropical disease vaccines); training programs to expand the number of scientists and engineers working on a wide variety of energy R&D projects; government procurement programs that can provide a predictable market for promising new technologies; prizes for the achievement of important technological thresholds; multilateral funds for collaborative international research; international research centers to help build a global innovation capacity (such as the agricultural research institutes at the heart of the Green Revolution); as well as policy incentives to encourage adoption of existing and new energy-efficient technologies, which in turn fosters incremental learning and innovation that often leads to rapidly improving performance and declining costs.

In fact, significant aspects of such a portfolio were proposed and modestly funded during the Clinton Administration in the mid 1990s (Holdren and Baldwin, 2002), but they were politically doomed from the outset because they were too narrowly promoted as climate change policies, rather than as advancing a broad set of national interests and public goals and goods. They did not survive into the Bush Administration; nor did they significantly find their way into the international climate regime. Indeed, the Kyoto approach is a disincentive to implementing many of the sorts of measures listed above because they will not contribute to a nation’s ability to meet its short-term targets.

So Joe Romm’s continued, overheated, and plain weird attacks are difficult to interpret given that that he (a) has written that he agrees with our analysis of the possibility that current baseline expectations for future energy use may underestimate the challenge of mitigation, and (b) he completely ignores the fact that I have consistently supported a broad approach to innovation, including a focus on R&D, but much more. It is true that Joe Romm and I disagree about the value of adaptation, but his complaints of late have been about mitigation. But even if we disagree a bit on the specifics of climate policy, so what? Is his energy really best spent attacking others trying to address this challenge in good faith?

I certainly can’t figure out his incessant attacks and name-calling, but it looks increasingly like they have nothing to do with the merits of our views on mitigation, since they appear to be pretty compatible. Should Joe continue to play the mischaracterization and attack game, I will respond as needed, but I am hoping that he can instead focus on making positive arguments for particular policies, and leave the junior high school chest thumping where it belongs.

April 20, 2008

Kristof on PWG

Nicholas Kristof has a column in the Sunday NYT on the recent Nature paper by Tom Wigley, Chris Green, and me. Here is an excerpt:

Three respected climate experts made that troubling argument in an important essay in Nature this month, offering a sobering warning that the climate problem is much bigger than anticipated. That’s largely because of increased use of coal in booming Asian economies.

For example, imagine that we instituted a brutally high gas tax that reduced emissions from American vehicles by 25 percent. That would be a stunning achievement — and in just nine months, China’s increased emissions would have more than made up the difference.

China and the United States each produces more than one-fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. China’s emissions are much smaller per capita but are soaring: its annual increase in emissions is greater than Germany’s total annual emissions.

Please read the whole thing.

And if you are new to our site -- Welcome! -- and you can find our Nature paper here (in PDF), a short essay on adaptation here (in PDF), and my book The Honest Broker, here.

April 17, 2008

Climate Change Interview with John Holdren

Regular readers may find it surprising to see me post on climate change, but you don't see this every day.

Harvard's John Holdren is currently on television (at least on the East Coast) discussing climate change for two segments with a national figure. The big deal, which includes the name of the interviewer, after the jump.

If you looked at the timestamp, you might have guessed, but Dr. Holdren is on The Late Show with David Letterman. Dave is being relatively serious, joking only about noticing climate change when a pond in his backyard would boil in the summers. Letterman describes himself as someone who's come around on the issue, and I think it's genuine, as I recall him noting other signs of climate change at various times during his show over the last several years.

Holdren is acquitting himself well, unlike certain other noted scientists who have appeared on popular television to discuss scientific issues (Dr. Agre, I'm looking at you). He's nearly jargon free, and aside from the gaffe of not getting up until after the show breaks for commercial, appeared to be a consummate pro. Nice job.

Those in other time zones can probably catch the show later this evening. Dr. Holdren is the second guest. I suspect it will be available online at some point, if not at CBS.com, then at other providers.

Posted on April 17, 2008 10:32 PM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Bruggeman, D. | Climate Change

Geoengineering: Who Decides?

An April 16 interview on the BBC (mp3) on the topic of geoengineering by Sarah Montague with Ken Caldeira of Stanford and David Keith from the University of Calgary raises some interesting issues about how the climate science community seeks to influence political outcomes through its decisions about what research to conduct and discuss in public.

Dr. Keith was first asked if geoengineering offers a "realistic prospect for a solution to global warming":

Keith: I think that "solution" is much too big a word. The sort of things we are talking about are not solutions in the sense that they would not compensate for the environmental damage of all of the carbon dioxide we’re putting in the air, but they might still be things that in some bad circumstances we’d want to do to limit the worst damage of that carbon dioxide. So I think of these more as band aids, but band aid is a pejorative word, but it is also something that we use.

Sarah M: And could contribute?

Keith: Yes

After Ken Caldeira recommends doing more research to evaluate the potential effectiveness of geoengineering he is asked whether such strategies could indeed provide "part of the solution";

Caldeira: Yes, none of these solutions will completely reverse the effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but as David points out it looks as if many of these schemes have the potential to reduce the consequences of carbon dioxide emissions. . .

The conversation next turned to the political implications of geoengineering, and specifically its effects on what options are considered in debate on climate change.

Sarah M: I suppose the problem with any idea like this [geoengineering] Professor Keith is that you are possibly distracting from the business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

David Keith: Absolutely, I think that this has been people’s biggest fear in talking about this at all, that the idea that some of this risk management or band aid solutions are out there might make people less committed to cutting carbon dioxide emissions and I think that was a sort of universal fear that you heard at the conference [of the European Geosciences Union] and among various people who work on these technologies is exactly that.

So, to recap: scientists think that geoengineering has the potential "to reduce some of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions" but some scientists think that scientists should not discuss the prospects for geoengineering because it will distract from other approaches to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, decisions about what research to conduct and what is appropriate to discuss is shaped by the political preferences of scientists. This won’t be news to scholars of science in society, but it should be troubling because it is unfortunately characteristic of the climate science community. I personally have seen this dynamic at work when engaging in discussions of adaptation and also the true magnitude of the mitigation challenge.

Of course, neither Caldeira or Keith are among those who want to limit research or talk about geoengineering, but they obviously are well aware of those people among their colleagues (as am I). The interview ends with an rather glib policy recommendation by Caldeira:

Caldeira: . . . The question of which is better to do, which is more environmentally sensitive, to let the polar bears go extinct or put some dust in the upper atmosphere? And I think that it is not clear that choosing the extinction of polar bears is the more environmentally friendly choice.

Perhaps this question was meant to provoke an intellectual "thought experiment," but since it wasn’t presented as such, I’d be interested in hearing from Ken or anyone else about any available research that might suggest that geoengineering offers the prospect of altering the probabilities of future polar bear extinction. It is exactly this sort of imprecise, scientifically unsupportable discussion of policy alternatives that the scientific community should avoid.

Finally, let me make my own position clear. I prefer that both research and discussion of geoengineering take place. I am confident that the vast majority of such technologies can be shown to be a very bad idea on the merits of the policy arguments for and against. The one exception I'd suggest is the direct air capture of carbon dioxide, which some people don’t even include as a geoengineering technology. One thing I am sure of is that scientists should encourage political debate over policy options for responding to accumulating greenhouse gases to take place out in the open, involving policy makers and the public, and resist the urge to try to tilt the political playing field by altering what they allow their colleagues to work on or discuss in public. The climate debate has too much of this behavior already.

Bush CO2 Plan in Context

For those of you who might wish to place the plans announced by President Bush yesterday into context, according to data from the US EIA (xls):

US CO2 emissions from 2026-2030 are projected to increase by only 0.84% per year. So stabilizing at 2025 levels is not an ambitious goal, given the small rate of increase projected to be occurring for the US at that time. To put this another way, the average annual increase in US emissions from 2025 to 2030 will be equal to about 2.5 days of China’s projected 2030 emissions also using projections from the EIA (which in fact probably represents a dramatic underestimate of where China’s emissions are actually headed, as we suggested in Nature two weeks ago). For those wanting to spin things the other way, you might point out that the proposed five year effects on carbon dioxide of Bush's plans 2026-2030 are about twice the magnitude of the proposed five year effects of the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.

April 16, 2008

Peter Webster on Predicting Tropical Cyclones

Some wise words from Georgia Tech's Peter Webster on our ability to predict the future incidence of tropical cyclones (or TCs, which includes hurricanes):

Unless we can explain physically the history of the number and intensity of TCs in the recent past, then determining the number and intensity of TCs in the future will be either an extrapolation of very poor data sets or a belief in incomplete and inexact models.

April 15, 2008

Biofuels and Mitigation/Adaptation

In Europe the debate over biofuels production targets has become the most recent example of the larger debate over mitigation versus adaptation. Biofuels have been held up by some as offering a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels, and thus contributing in some way to the mitigation of climate change. The European Union has gone so far as to adopt biofuel production targets.

At the same time the world has seen food prices increase dramatically in recent times with some people pointing a finger at biofuels as contributing to those price increases. The increased price of food means that those with the most tenuous access to nutrition could slip into malnutrition or worse. This is why one UN official called biofuels production policies a "crime against humanity."

Deutsche Welle has a nice overview:

The European Union said it is sticking to its biofuel goals despite mounting criticism from top environmental agencies and poverty advocates.

"There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels," Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said Monday, April 14.

But her boss struck a different tone, acknowledging that the EU had underestimated problems caused by biofuels and saying that the 27-nation block planned to "move very carefully."

Yet the EU is wary of abandoning biofuels amid worries that doing so could derail its landmark climate change and energy package. In it, Europe pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Part of the package includes setting a target for biofuels to make up 10 percent of automobile fuel.

Biofuel a culprit in food crisis

Jean ZieglerBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Ziegler called biofuel a "crime against humanity"

In recent months food prices have increased sharply. Biofuels are seen as one of several culprits. Land that used to be planted with food crops has been converted to biofuel production, which has increased prices.

UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told German radio Monday that the production of biofuels is "a crime against humanity" because of its impact on global food prices.

The UN's Ziegler isn't alone in his criticism of biofuel.

The debate over biofuels illustrates that the debate over mitigation and adaptation is not just academic, but reflected in real world outcomes. It also highlights that policies can have unintended consequences. If we factor in recent research that claims that the carbon-cutting potential of biofules has been overstated, then it appears that the high hopes for biofuels as a contributor to mitigation probably need to be scaled back dramatically.

April 11, 2008

Kudos to Kerry Emanuel

I have always held Kerry Emanuel in high regard, because he calls things like he sees them, but he also listens to others who might not share his views. He is, in short, a great scientist.

So it was not too surprising to see that Kerry's views have evolved on the issue of hurricanes and climate change, as science has progressed. A Houston Chronicle story reports today the following:

One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming has intensified recent hurricane activity says he will reconsider his stand.

The hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this week unveiled a novel technique for predicting hurricane activity. The new work suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries.

The research, appearing in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is all the more remarkable coming from Emanuel, a highly visible leader in his field and long an ardent proponent of a link between global warming and much stronger hurricanes.

His changing views could influence other scientists.

"The results surprised me," Emanuel said of his work, adding that global warming may still play a role in raising the intensity of hurricanes but what that role is remains far from certain.

I emailed Kerry to ask if the story accurately reflected his views. He replied that it was a bit exaggerated, but basically OK. Those engaged in the political debate over climate change who are skeptical of a link between hurricanes and climate change might try to make some hay from this news report. But here at Prometheus we'd suggest viewing Kerry's evolving view in the much broader context, which we have shared on multiple occasions, namely:

there are good reasons to expect that any conclusive connection between global warming and hurricanes or their impacts will not be made in the near term.

So don't get to excited about the latest paper in hurricane climatology, the field evolves slowly, and the views of of our best scientists evolve with it.

Lucia Liljegren on Real Climate Spinmeisters

Lucia Liljegren has a considered post up on Real Climate's odd post on my recent letter to Nature Geoscience. I apologize for our comment problems on that thread, but perhaps this one will work better, and you can always comment at Lucia's site, or try to get through the screeners at Real Climate. Is it just me or has the Real Climate discussion board become completely empty of anything resembling scientific discussion?

Holding the Poor Hostage

Anyone who wants to see how the misplaced opposition to adaptation actually hurts poor people need look further than thie report out today from ClimateWire:

Environmental and humanitarian activist groups plan to formally ask the World Bank to back away from plans to create a $500 million trust fund aimed at helping poor nations cope with climate change.

The letter, which representatives of several organizations confirmed Thursday is being drafted and will be signed by more than 100 organizations, comes as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund launch their 2008 spring meeting, attended by finance ministers from across the world.

Among the reasons cited for opposing adaptation funds is that the World Bank is supporting the development of a giant coal plant in India:

Groups said their overarching concern, though, is the World Bank's fossil fuel-rich energy portfolio. The bank's approval this week of $450 million for a major coal-fired power plant in India, many said, undermines its attempts to go green.

"There's a lot of concern about the World Bank taking over of the [adaptation program] because of their ongoing funding of fossil fuel projects," said Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, a nonprofit group based in Washington that advocates for clean energy and against foreign aid to the international oil industry.

"It is not a credible institution for managing these funds, especially given its poor environmental track record," added Karen Orenstein, extractive industries campaign coordinator with the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth.

"If the World Bank is truly interested in being a leader in fighting climate change, they shouldn't start out by financing a huge mega-coal project," she said.

So you read that right, lets take away money that could have positive benefits improving the lives of people in the developing world because of concerns about a fossil fuel project. This is a real-world example of how continuing efforts to place adaptation in opposition to mitigation have a material effect on people's lives.

Does anyone really think that opposing energy development and adaptation will make the climate agenda more appealing to people in India? Why can't these groups support adaptation and clean energy at the same time, rather than placing them in opposition?

April 10, 2008

Real Climate on My Letter to Nature Geosciences

The folks at the Real Climate blog have offered up some comments on my letter to Nature Geosciences (PDF) which appeared last week. In the condescending tone that we have come to expect from Real Climate, they helpfully frame their comments in terms of teaching me some lessons. I encourage you to read the whole post, but here is my response (submitted for their posting approval) to their three main points, which I've highlighted in bold:

Thanks for this discussion. Full text of the letter can be found here:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2592-2008.07.pdf

1. IPCC already showed a very similar comparison as Pielke does, but including uncertainty ranges.

RESPONSE: Indeed, and including the uncertainty ranges would not change my conclusion that:

"Temperature observations fall at
the low end of the 1990 IPCC forecast range
and the high end of the 2001 range. Similarly,
the 1990 best estimate sea level rise projection
overstated the resulting increase, whereas the
2001 projection understated that rise."

2. If a model-data comparison is done, it has to account for the uncertainty ranges - both in the data (that was Lesson 1 re noisy data) and in the model (that's Lesson 2).

RESPONSE: I did not do a "model-data comparison". One should be done, though, I agree.

3. One should not mix up a scenario with a forecast - I cannot easily compare a scenario for the effects of greenhouse gases alone with observed data, because I cannot easily isolate the effect of the greenhouse gases in these data, given that other forcings are also at play in the real world.

RESPONSE: Indeed. However, I made no claims about attribution, so this is not really relevant to my letter.

Thanks again, and I'll be happy to follow the discussion.


April 09, 2008

Interview with Frank Laird

Center faculty affiliate Frank Laird is interviewed over at the Breakthrough Institute on energy policy and climate change.

April 08, 2008

Carbon Intensity of the Economy

It is always good when debates can be resolved by appeals to data, because it helps to eliminate ambiguity.

Joe Romm expressed concern that I had shown a graph of energy intensity of the global economy to suggest that the overall decarbonization of the global economy did not decrease over the poeriod 1890-1970. That was this figure:

GEI.png

Romm explained to his readers how serious a mistake I had made:

Obviously carbon per GDP can go in a completely different direction than energy per GDP. If Pielke’s analytical mistake isn’t crystal clear to anyone reading this blog, please let me know. So my problem with him isn’t semantics. Pielke’s argument is simply wrong. His analysis is flawed.

OK Joe, lets look at carbon per GDP over the same time period:

CI of GDP.png

Readers are now in a position to judge for themselves whether or not the argument I made is materially affected in this case by using one figure over the other. The alternative perhaps is that Joe Romm is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. As I said, thank goodness for data.

Joe Romm’s Dissembling

Joe Romm is someone who I’ve never met, but he has taken on a somewhat odd obsession with attacking me over the past few weeks, and I have come to the conclusion that he is dishonest and uninterested in constructive discussion.

I have come to this conclusion after reading his most recent diatribe, which takes a semantic issue, inflates it with a lot of heated rhetoric, and pretends that it is something meaningful when it is not.

The molehill that Romm seeks to make a mountain out of is over the difference between "decarbonization of the economy" versus "decarbonization of primary energy supply."

The difference between the concepts, and their relationship, is easily explained by the Kaya Identity, which is the basis for all emissions scenarios, including those used by the IPCC. The Kaya Identity holds that four factors can be used to develop scenarios of future emissions:

P = Population
GDP/P = Per capita wealth
Total Energy/GDP = Energy intensity
Carbon/Total Energy = Carbon intensity

Carbon emissions = P * GDP/P * TE/GDP * C/TE

You can see from the cancellation of the terms that the units match on both sides. If you take carbon intensity and energy intensity together, you get C/GDP which is often referred to as "carbon intensity of the economy" to avoid confusion with "carbon intensity of primary energy." Because total energy of the economy is dominated by fossil fuels, trends in "energy intensity" and "carbon intensity of the economy" are very closely related.

A close look at the Kaya Identity shows that carbon emissions can go down by only one of several ways:

Reduce P
Reduce GDP/P
Reduce TE/GDP
Reduce C/TE

In our Nature article we stated quite clearly that:

Decarbonization of the global energy system depends mainly on reductions in energy intensity and carbon intensity. These result from technological changes that improve energy efficency and/or replace carbon-emitting systems with ones that have lower (or no) net emissions.

In other words, we do not think that either population is going to decrease or per capita wealth, so the focus must be on carbon intensity and energy intensity, which we clearly define as "decarbonization of the global energy system" (and not decarbonization of total energy). We wrote in exactly this manner to be absolutely clear about our meaning.

Similarly in a blog post I wrote:

During and following the industrial revolution, the world experienced a long period of carbonization of the global economy . . .

Note that I did not say "carbonization of total energy supply" as Romm would have his readers believe. Romm is either horribly sloppy in his reading habits or willfully malicious in his intent.

Joe Romm’s focus on semantics and definitions is the classic approach of someone who feels that they can’t win a debate on substance, and must resort to dissembling and misdirection. I for one will no longer give Joe Romm the benefit of the doubt. His actions may fool a few who wish to be fooled, but ultimately he is just discrediting himself with such behavior.

Posted on April 8, 2008 12:43 PM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Climate Change

Green Car Congress on PWG

Here is a link to an excellent summary and thoughtful discussion of our Nature Commentary (PWG) at Green Car Congress written by Jack Rosebro.

April 07, 2008

Joe Romm on Air Capture Research

Joe Romm, whose voluminous, hysterical attacks on me and my co-authors Tom Wigley and Chris Green have become somewhat cartoonish, has far more in common with my views than he thinks. Here is what he says on a recent Real Climate post on air capture:

But we should surely do a fair amount of research on air capture, since, by not later than the 2020s, we’re going to get desperate for emissions reductions, and by the 2030s, we’re going to be very desperate and willing to pursue expensive options we that aren’t yet politically realistic.

Investment in research to support a potential breakthrough new technology -- what a great idea Joe!

Gwyn Prins on PWG in The Guardian

Gwyn Prins, a professor at the London School of Economics who is also a friend and collaborator, has a thoughtful op-ed in The Guardian with his views on the significance of our Nature commentary of last week. Here is an excerpt:

The global economy is not decarbonising - it is recarbonising. This was noticed by the experts in the IPCC but not reported in its Summary for Policymakers, the politically negotiated document mostly read by politicians and journalists. If the free rider of decarbonisation is not available, the challenge to move quickly to a radically different type of global climate policy is all the greater.

What would a materially effective policy do? It would break the link between poverty reduction and carbon emission. It would recognise that the developing world needs to consume - and will consume - more energy, not less. It would recognise that attempting to control human-created carbon emissions by setting binding output targets and relying on artificial carbon markets and dodgy offsets, as Kyoto does, has not and never will work.

Such policy would shift to the input side, and concentrate on radical improvements in the production and use of energy. It would focus first on the sectors of all economies that are the heaviest consumers of energy: power generation, building, cement and metals production. The sectors that western environmentalists have prioritised hitherto, such as road and air transport, should be much further down the list. If all automobile use in the US stopped tonight, the reduction in global emissions would be less than 6%. Instead, there must be a much larger commitment to fundamental energy technology research and development.

Read it here.

BBC Special on Adaptation

Last week BBC4 aired a special on adaptation to climate change, in which I am interviewed along with Richard Tol, Mark Lynas, Tim Flannery, and others. You can read a transcript here.

Posted on April 7, 2008 01:17 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

April 02, 2008

Commentary in Nature

[Update #4: The guys at Grist Magazine apparently have not yet read our paper, which probably explains why one of their commentators explains that everything we say is right but common wisdom, while another says that everything we say is wrong. At least they have their bases covered. Why don't these guys at Grist actually read the paper before commenting? One wonders.]

[Update #3: Andy Revkin of the NYT provides some comments as well here.]

[Update #2: John Tierney of the NYT times provides excerpts of an extended set of comments that I shared with him here.]

[Update: Here is a short interview I did with Scitizen link.]

Tom Wigley, Chris Green, and I have a Commentary in today's Nature on the technology challenge of stabilization. It has already generated some discussion and this discussion will be the focus of some of my posts over the next weeks.

Meantime, please have a look at this summary that Tom, Chris, and I prepared:

PWG on PWG

The challenge of stabilizing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere may be much more difficult that currently realized. In a commentary published April 3, 2008 in Nature, Roger Pielke, Jr. (University of Colorado), Tom Wigley (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and Chris Green (McGill University) argue that the magnitude of the technology challenge associated with stabilizing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have been significantly underestimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The reason for this underestimate lies in the assumptions of decarbonization common to all scenarios of future emissions growth used by the IPCC. These assumptions may be far too optimistic, and if so, will hide from view the magnitude of the technology challenge associated with stabilizing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In this commentary the authors reveal these assumptions, and discuss their significance for policy making.

Indeed, the authors present evidence that the first decade of the 21st century has seen greater emissions of CO2 than projected by IPCC due to rapid economic development, particularly in Asia. In recent years, the world as a whole has begun to re-carbonize, breaking a long-term trend in which carbon dioxide per unit energy was assumed instead to continue to decline indefinitely.

Stabilization of the concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is the primary objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), approved by almost all counties, including the USA. Stabilization requires, eventually, reducing the emissions of these gases by large amounts relative to today, a task commonly referred to as "mitigation." For CO2, mitigation requires replacing current and likely future fossil-fuel-based energy systems by carbon neutral energy sources -- that is, sources of energy that are either fossil-fuel free, are accompanied by the capture and storage of CO2, or are otherwise carbon-neutral.

The costs of mitigation are generally estimated by comparing emissions under a baseline scenario where emissions evolve in the absence of climate policies, with a scenario in which the emissions are reduced (via climate policy) to achieve a chosen atmospheric concentration, called a stabilization target. Pielke, Wigley and Green note that the standard baseline scenarios considered for these calculations already include large amounts of carbon-neutral technologies that are assumed to be developed and implemented spontaneously. In the cases the authors consider, 57 to 96% of the cumulative emissions reduction required for CO2 stabilization at around 500 ppm have been assumed by IPCC to occur automatically, meaning that the majority of the emissions reduction needed to stabilize concentrations is assumed to occur automatically..

Rather than starting with assumptions about future spontaneous technological innovations, the authors’ calculations begin with a set of "frozen technology" scenarios as baselines, i.e., emissions scenarios in which energy technologies are assumed to remain at present levels. This contrasts with previous approaches, which use baselines that already include major technology changes, and, consequently, large spontaneous increases in carbon-neutral energy sources. With a "frozen technology" approach, the full scope of the carbon-neutral technology challenge is placed into clear view.

With the full scope of the technology challenge placed into view, the question then arises as to how much of this challenge will occur spontaneously, and how much must be driven by new policies. Pielke and his colleagues suggest that the amount of spontaneous development of carbon-neutral energy sources has been overestimated in previous analyses, diverting attention away from technological innovation, thereby underestimating the need for policy-driven technology development.

The authors conclude by saying "… there is no question whether technological innovation is necessary – it is. The question is, to what degree should policy focus explicitly on motivating such innovation? The IPCC plays a risky game in assuming that the spontaneous advancement of technological innovation will carry most of the burden of achieving future emissions reductions, rather than focusing on those conditions necessary and sufficient for such innovations to occur."

Letter to Nature Geoscience

Nature's Climate Feedback blog provides a nice summary of a correspondence that I authored published today in Nature Geoscience:

Today in a letter to Nature Geoscience (subscription required), Roger Pielke, Jr, questions whether models from that 2001 generation improve on the predictive power of their forbears.

Pielke checks predictions from all four IPCC reports, dating back to 1990, against reality. Each report made a series of 'if-then' statements about the likely results of various emissions scenarios; in hindsight, Pielke can pick out which of these possible greenhouse experiments has actually been running on Earth since 1990 and compare the results to the IPCC's shifting hypotheses.

Whereas the 2001 projections undershot the observed temperatures and sea levels, the 1990 projections overshot them, he concludes. Projections of temperature and sea level fell substantially between the 1990 and 1995 IPCC reports, when aerosols were added to models and carbon-cycle simulations were tweaked. But because they dropped too far, the adjusted post-1995 projections "are not obviously superior in capturing climate evolution", says Pielke.

March 29, 2008

Setting a Trap for the Next President

An editorial in todays New York Times reports that the Bush Administration (and specifically the U.S. EPA) is considering some action on climate change:

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act clearly empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to address greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. The ruling instructed the agency to determine whether global warming pollution endangers public health and welfare — an "endangerment finding" — and, if so, to devise emissions standards for motor vehicles.

One year has passed, and despite repeated promises from President Bush and the E.P.A. administrator, Stephen Johnson, nothing has happened. And it seems increasingly likely that nothing will happen while Mr. Bush remains in office. Last week, Mr. Johnson notified Congress that he had discovered new regulatory complexities and decided against immediate action. Instead, he planned to offer an "advanced notice of proposed rule-making," which requires a lengthy comment period and a laborious bureaucratic process that would almost certainly stretch beyond the end of Mr. Bush’s term.

The NYT fails to see one important aspect of this strategy. Issuing an "Advanced Notice of Proposed Regulation" (ANPR) is in fact a significant step in the regulatory process. Importantly, in the regulatory process it turns the burden of of proof around from the need to show harm in order for regulation to occur, to the need to show safety for the regulation not to occur. Proving that a substance is safe, under the assumption that it is harmful, is a much more difficult challenge than the opposite.

So if the Bush Administration were in fact to issue an ANPR it would be a fairly significant act, especially for this administration. It would signal that greenhouse gas regulations are in fact coming.

But the important question is when. The Times notes correctly that the regulatory process would stretch beyond Bush's term. And of course this might be precisely the point of issuing an ANPR. It would saddle the next Administration with the challenge of figuring out how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from autos. As we have recently seen in Europe, creating and implementing such regulations is a messy affair.

Not long ago I wrote of this possibility in my column for Bridges (PDF):

So if a Democrat is elected in November 2008, which appears likely, it seems eminently plausible that the Bush Administration would help the new administration get off to a running start by leaving them with a proposed rule, under the EPA, for the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. Even the possibility of such a late-hour action is probably enough for the declared Democratic presidential candidates to be very careful about calling for dramatic action on climate change, lest – if elected – they find themselves getting what they asked for.

Because no one really yet knows how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by any significant amount, a strong proposed rule on climate change issued in the final months of the Bush Administration would create all sorts of political difficulties for the next president, just as those late-hour rules proposed by President Clinton did for President Bush. If reducing emissions indeed proves to be easy, as some have suggested, President Bush would get credit for taking decisive action. If it proves difficult and costly, as many suggest, then the next administration would bear the political backlash.

Common wisdom that the Bush Administration will not act meaningfully on climate change may in the end prove to be correct. But, at the same time, remember that lame ducks are unpredictable creatures.

My guess -- and it is nothing more than a guess -- is that the announcement of an ANPR on automobile emissions will occur -- if it is to occur at all -- after the November election, and only if a Democrat is elected. Of course, if McCain wins the election and the Bush Administration still announces the ANPR, then you can assume that there is still little love lost between the two, as the ANPR would saddle McCain with some sure problems during his presidency.

Finally, if you'd like to read the story of how Jimmy Carter's late-hour ANPR on stratospheric ozone eventually paved the way for domestic regulations and then international accords, please have a look at the following paper:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., and M. M. Betsill, 1997: Policy for Science for Policy: Ozone Depletion and Acid Rain Revisited. Research Policy, 26, 157-168. (PDF)

March 27, 2008

Those Nice Guys at Grist

The Gristmill Blog is an interesting place, not least because of the heaps of scorn they frequently direct my way. In their latest rant Dave Roberts takes issue with a poorly-worded story by Alan Zarembo in yesterday's L.A. Times (which we've discussed and clarified here) by attacking me.

Dave now says that my views on climate change are in fact the mainstream:

In short, the solutions [Pielke] advocates are the same ones pushed by just about everyone in the climate debate: a mix of adaptation and mitigation.

Of course it was not so long ago that Dave himself said quite bluntly of adaptation in June, 2006:

There's one way to directly address climate change, and that's reducing the GHG emissions that drive it. In the context of the climate-change debate, advocating for adaptation means advocating for a non-response. It means advocating for nothing. I, for one, am not going to provide that kind of political cover for those who are protecting their corporate contributors.

Unfortunately the anti-adaptation views that Dave held in 2006 are still widely shared in the policy and advocacy communities. For example, less than a year ago Tim Flannery called adaptation "morally repugnant" and a "form of genocide."

[UPDATE: A reader suggests that a fuller quote from Tim Flannery is more appropriate. I do not disagree. Here is what the reader pointed to from Flannery: "I think that adaptation, except in the more trivial ways, is a very dangerous route to go down.... I see adaptation, if we take it too far, as really a form of genocide."]

Al Gore is notably against adaptation as well. And several of us characterized the continuing policy challenges in a Commentary in Nature last year (PDF).

So while it is good to see that Dave appears to have mostly come around on adaptation and now sees it as an essential part of responding to climate change, there still is a lot of work to do. It is pretty bizarre that he has to go on the attack when his main point seems to be that he agrees with my views. Its about time. Now if only we can get Grist's Joe Romm straight on energy policy. We'll tackle that next week;-)

Posted on March 27, 2008 03:04 PM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment

March 26, 2008

LA Times on Adaptation

Pielke LA Times.gif

The image above is from a LA Times story by Alan Zarembo and is based on some of our reserach on future hurricane damages under changes in both climate and society. Zarembo provides a perspective on a group of scholars and advocates that I once called "nonskeptical heretics." Nonskeptical because they accept the science presented by the IPCC (as noted by Zarembo), and heretics because they take strong issue with many of the closely held assumptions that have come to frame the debate over climate policies.

Zarembo characterizes one of the most insidious assumptions -- that support for adaptation necessarily means a loss of support for mitigation:

Other scientists say that time is running out to control carbon dioxide emissions and that the call to adapt is providing a potentially dangerous excuse to delay. . . Although most scientists agree that adaptation should play a major role in absorbing the effects of climate change, they say that buying into the heretics' arguments will dig the world into a deeper hole by putting off greenhouse gas reductions until it is too late.

Well, no. It is a strawman to argue that strong support for adaptation means that one cannot also provide strong support for mitigation. A problem arises for mitigation-first proponents when they invoke things like hurricanes, malaria, and drought as justification for mitigation when clearly adaptive responses will be far more effective. Those who persist in linking mitigation to reducing such climate impacts will always find themselves on the wrong side of what research has shown -- namely, climate change is a much smaller factor in such impacts than societal factors (compare the graph above). It is true. Get over it.

The best arguments for mitigation were presented by Zarembo coming from Steve Schneider, who rightly pointed to the uncertain but highly consequential impacts of human-caused climate change:

"You can't adapt to melting the Greenland ice sheet," said Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University. "You can't adapt to species that have gone extinct."

If advocacy for action on mitigation emphasized these very large scale long-term impacts, rather than disasters, disease, etc., then there would be no need for adaptation and mitigation to be presented as opposing approaches. Consider that none of the people quoted in the Zarembo story who I know (including me) have suggested that adaptation can replace mitigation, particularly for issues like sea level rise and specifies extinction. So the argument that adaptation can't deal with sea level rise over a century or more is somewhat of a strawman as well.

The reality is that whatever the world decides to do on mitigation, we will have no choice but to improve our adaptation to climate. Humans have been improving their adaptation to climate forever and will continue to do so. Since we are going to adapt, we should do it wisely. And this means rejecting bad policy arguments when offered in the way of substitutes for adaptation, like the tired old view that today's disaster losses are somehow a justification for changes to energy policies. Misleading policy arguments and should be pointed out as such, because they hurt both the cause of adaptation, but ironically the cause of mitigation as well.

If mitigation advocates do not like being told that their misleading arguments poorly serve policy debate, well, they should probably try to come up with a more robust set of arguments. Arguing that support for adaptation undercuts support for mitigation is a little like making the argument that support for eating healthy and getting exercise (adapting one's lifestyle) undercuts support for heart surgery research (mitigating the effects of heart disease). Obviously we should seek both adaptation and mitigation in the context of heart disease.

If the case for action on energy policy is so overwhelmingly strong (and again, I think that it is), then there should be no reason to resort to misleading arguments completely detached from the conclusions of a wide range of analyses. Misleading arguments may be politically expedient in the short term, but cannot help the mitigation cause in the long run. And dealing with the emissions of greenhouse gases will take place over the long run. Meantime, we'll adapt.

March 25, 2008

Why adaptation is not sufficient

Just after I post suggesting that it would be more constructive to get out of the zero-sum construction of adaptation and mitigation, the LA Times has a story featuring Roger Pielke, Jr. and others saying we should give up on mitigation and focus on adaptation: "His research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it."

[Correction: Roger informs me that this quotation mischaracterizes his position as posing a dichotomy between adaptation and mitigation. I apologize for taking the reporter's words at face value without checking their veracity first. The comment that follows, then, does not refer specifically to Roger's views, but I leave it because the false perception that we must choose between adaptation and mitigation is common and I wish to make clear that it's wrong.]

That's just not going to do it, in part because it ignores the value of ecosystem services. I would like anti-mitigationists to address how adaptation will address ecosystems, particularly the effect of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems.

I am also very concerned about the economic effects of disrupting terrestrial ecosystems on agriculture. I have a hard time believing anti-mitigation arguments based on cost-benefit analyses that set a zero value on threats to ecosystem services simply because they don't know how to quantify those.

Beyond the effects on ecosystems, water scarcity is a significant threat and the policy literature is littered with the remains of papers suggesting that technological fixes would solve water scarcity problems. One of my favorites is Alvin Weinberg in the 1960s suggesting that nuclear-powered desalination would resolve the Israeli/Arab conflict in short order. If droughts become more severe in many parts of the world, history suggests that adaptation is likely to be much more difficult and expensive than we think.

Adaptation is absolutely necessary because no matter what we do we can't stop some amount of climate change over the coming century, but without mitigation we're looking at very big downside risks, not so much in the maximum-likelihood case, but in exactly the sort of low-probability/high-consequence stuff to which, according to Pielke's flood policy research, our political system is very bad at adapting even in the absence of anthropogenic climate change.

So if our political system stinks at managing floods, coastal storm risks, and fresh-water resources in the absence of anthropogenic climate change, why would it manage better if climate change does turn out to significantly increase the mean severity and/or variance of the distribution?

Adaptation is important but I would like to propose that farm subsidies would be a much more deserving budget category to raid in order to pay for it than GHG mitigation. This is particularly apt because agriculture will need to do much more adapting than most economic sectors.

Or we could try for a coupled mitigation-adaptation funding scheme: Impose a carbon tax at the well head, the mine shaft, or the port of entry and use the proceeds to pay for adaptation. Would this not be an elegant Pigovian solution which would let the market decide how to balance mitigation and adaptation?

Are both of these suggestions naive and unlikely to get through a committee on the Hill? Of course, but neither is it likely that we'll see anyone in Congress pushing to reallocate billions of dollars from Lieberman-Warner toward helping Bangladesh to deal with rising sea levels or sub-Saharan Africa to adapt its agriculture to drought.

But to cast climate policy as a zero-sum division of resources, especially when the total pie is so inadequately small, is tediously unimaginative. [Deleted reference to this position as representing Pielke's views]

Posted on March 25, 2008 11:23 PM View this article | Comments (11)
Posted to Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change

March 24, 2008

Why no candidate positions on adaptation?

Over at the NY Times, Nicki Bennett makes a guest post on Nicholas Kristoff's "On the Ground" blog about climate change and Dhaka Bangladesh. After some fairly boilerplate stuff about how climate change is likely to affect people there, she raises an important point that we don't see reported sufficiently:

Back at the office, feeling curious, I decide to conduct a quick (and totally unscientific) experiment to check how much people in the United States actually care about the issue: I log onto the websites of the main U.S. presidential candidates to see if they have a position on climate change. Some of them talk about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. None talk about paying money into the climate change “adaptation” fund. And none are talking about the impact of climate change on poor people – or what they might do about the fact that places like Bangladesh and New Orleans are already being bashed by climate-related disasters and slowly losing land to rising sea levels.

This makes me think about how we seem to hear from many proponents of adaptation policy only when they are setting mitigation and adaptation against each other as slices in a zero-sum climate policy pie.

It would be nice to hear more discussion of adaptation independently of mitigation. I wonder whether separating the two issues more in public discourse would make it easier to press for adaptation policy by making it harder for candidates to say in essence, "I gave at the office with my mitigation policy."

Posted on March 24, 2008 10:26 AM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change

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

March 19, 2008

6 Days in 2012: Effect of the CDM on Carbon Emissions

This is a somewhat technical post on a fairly narrow issue. This week in class we had the pleasure of a visit by Wolfgang Sterk from the Wuppertal Institute (in Germany), who provided a really excellent presentation on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol and the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

His presentation discussed, and also raised some further questions about, the effectiveness of the CDM. So out of curiosity I have asked, and answered below, the question: What effect does the CDM have on carbon dioxide emissions to 2012?

The answer can be determined by looking at the excellent database of CDM projects provided by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Kanagawa, Japan.

What I did first is exclude all non-carbon dioxide-related projects in the CDM database. I then included projects that are "registered" (in the works) and "issued" (in the pipeline), and assumed that all projects so listed will be in fact implemented with 100% success.

Through 2012, the total reductions in future carbon dioxide emissions under the CDM totals about 175 millions tons of carbon, or about 35 million tons of carbon per year.

How much is this amount of carbon?

This means that the cumulative emissions that would have occurred on January 1, 2012 will now occur before noon on January 7, 2012. You read that right. The cumulative effect of the CDM on carbon dioxide emissions is to delay total emissions by about 6.5 days.

To be fair the CDM was never designed to be a solution to the climate problem. But even so, this seems to me to be an exceedingly small impact for such an incredibly complex program. I can not explain how complex it is (see the PDF linked in the following sentence). In fact, simply taking an unscientific qualitative ratio of complexity (PDF) to effectiveness (6 and a half days delay in cumulative emissions), I have come to the conclusion that the CDM offers little hope of contributing much to the challenge of transforming the global energy system. If it is part of the solution, then it is an understatement to say that that it it is a very, very, very, very small part.

March 18, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Now according to Grist Magazine's Joe Romm I am a "delayer/denier" because I've asked what data would be inconsistent with IPCC predictions. Revealed truths are not to be questioned lest we take you to the gallows. And people wonder why some people see the more enthusiastic climate advocates akin to religious zealots.

I am happy to report that it is quite possible to believe in strong action on mitigation and adaptation while at the same time ask probing questions of our scientific understandings.

March 17, 2008

UK Emissions

UK CO2.png

The graph above is from a report (PDF) of the UK government's National Audit Office, which explains some of the difficulties in accounting for carbon emissions at the national level.

The report has received some attention for this figure and what the following passage means for emissions reduction targets currently under consideration by the UK Parliament:

Figure 13 demonstrates that there have been no reductions in UK carbon dioxide emissions if measured on the basis of the Accounts rather than on the basis of the IPCC/Kyoto reporting requirements.

One point worth making is that the difference between UK Environmental Accounts and Kyoto accounting stems from international aviation and shipping (not included by Kyoto) and the treatment of tourists and nonresidents in the UK. These sort of issues obviously play a large role in the ability of countries to meet Kyoto targets. One wonders what the effect on the ability of countries to meet Kyoto targets would be if carbon emissions were accounted for on an UK Environmental Accounting Basis.

It would seem that the passage of ambitious targets and timetables for UK emissions reductions has been made less likely by this report, and yet at the same time it can't be good news for those wanting that third runway at Heathrow.

March 15, 2008

Update on Falsifiability of Climate Predictions

gmt_testnoextra.jpg

UPDATE 2:40PM 3-15-08: Within a few hours of this post, as we might have expected, rather than contributing to the substantive discussion, a climate scientist chooses instead to tell us how stupid we are for even discussing such subjects. We are told that "until the temperature obviously and unambiguously turns up again, this kind of stuff is going to continue." Isn't that what this post says? For the "stuff" read on below.

Regular readers will recall that not long ago I asked the climate community research community to suggest what climate observations might be observed on decadal time scales that might be inconsistent with predictions from models. While Real Climate has decided to take a pass on this question other scientists and interested observers have taken up the challenge, no doubt with interest added by the recent cooling in the primary datasets of global temperature.

A very interesting perspective is provided by Lucia Liljegren, who has several interesting posts on observations versus predictions. The figure above is from her analysis. Her complete analysis can be found here. She has several follow up posts in which she discusses other aspects of the analysis and links to a few other, similar explorations of this issue. She writes:

No matter which major temperature measuring group we examine, or which reasonable criteria for limiting our choices we select, it appears that possible that something not anticipated by the IPCC WG1 happened soon after they published their predictions for this century. That something may be the shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation; it may be something else. Statistics cannot tell us.

It may turn out that this something is a relatively infrequent but climatologically important, feature that results in unusually cold weather . Events that happen at a rate of 1% do happen– at a rate of 1%. So, if recent flat trend is the 1% event, then 30 year trend in temperatures will resume.

For what it’s worth: I believe AGW is real, based on physical arguments and longer term trends, I suspect we will discover that GCM’s are currently unable to predict shifts in the PDO. The result is the uncertainty intervals on IPCC projections for the short term trend were much too small.

Of course, the reason for the poor short term predictions may turn out to be something else entirely. It remains to those who make these predictions to try to identify what, if anything, resulted in this mismatch between projections and short term data. Or to stand steadfast and wait for La Nina to break and the weather to begin to warm.

Those wanting to quibble with her analysis would no doubt observe that the uncertainty around IPCC predictions for the short term is undoubtedly larger that then IPCC itself presented. Lucia in fact suggests this in her analysis, making one wonder if uncertainties are indeed larger than presented, why didn't the IPCC say so?

In 2006 my father and I wrote about the possible effects on the climate debate of short-term predictions that do not square with observations:

predictions represent a huge gamble with public and policymaker opinion. If more-or-less steady global warming does not occur as forecast by these models, not only will professional reputations be at risk, but the need to reduce threats to the wide spectrum of serious and legitimate environmental concerns (including the human release of greenhouse gases) will be questioned by some as having been oversold. For better or worse, a failure to accurately predict the changes in the global average surface temperature, global average tropospheric temperature, ocean average heat content change, or Arctic sea ice coverage would raise questions on the reliance of global climate models for accurate prediction on multi-decadal time scales.

In one of the comments in response to that post a climate scientist (and Real Climate blogger) took us to task for raising the issue suggesting that there was no really reason to speculate about such things given that, "I’ve pointed out that in the obs, there is no sign of > 2 yr decreasing trends."

Another climate scientist commented that climate models were completely on target:

Re the possibility that the Earth is acting in a way that the models hadn’t predicted, I must say I’m pretty relaxed about that. Let’s wait a few more years and see, eh?

I have not yet seen rebuttals to Lucia's analysis, or others like it (she points to a few), which are not peer-reviewed analyses, yet certainly of some merit and worth considering. There continues to be good reasons for climate scientists to begin more openly discussing the limitations of short-term climate predictions and the implications for understanding uncertainties. They have these discussions among themselves all of the time. For example, with a view quite similar to my own, Real Climate's Gavin Schimdt suggests that if the full context of a prediction from a climate model is not understood, then:

model results have an aura of exactitude that can be misleading. Reporting those results without the appropriate caveats can then provoke a backlash from those who know better, lending the whole field an aura of unreliability.

None of this discussion means that the basic conclusion that greenhouse gases affect the climate system is wrong, or that action to mitigate emissions do not make sense. What it does mean is that we should be concerned about the overselling of climate predictions and the corresponding risks to public credibility and advocacy built upon these predictions.

March 03, 2008

The Deficit Model Bites Back

We have often argued that efforts to communicate science in order to realize political objectives rarely work and sometimes backfire. This is of course a critique of the so-called "deficit model" of science communication.

Here is another example from Kellstedt et al. from the journal Risk Analysis (PDF), with implications for all of those efforts to educate people about the science of climate change:

Perhaps ironically, and certainly contrary to the assumptions underlying the knowledge-deficit model, as well as the marketing of movies like Ice Age and An Inconvenient Truth, the effects of information on both concern for global warming and responsibility for it are exactly the opposite of what were expected. Directly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less responsible he or she feel for it; and indirectly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less concerned he or she is for it. These information effects, while striking, are consistent with the findings of Durant and Legge(47) with respect to genetically modified foods, and with those of Evans and Durant(48) with respect to embryo research. Thus, we contribute another parcel of evidence that the knowledge-deficit model is inadequate for understanding mass attitudes about scientific controversies. . .

. . . despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming and climate change are real phenomena that create risks for the earth’s future, among the mass public, the more confidence an individual has in scientists, the less responsible he or she tends to feel for global warming, and the less concerned he or she is about the problem. Perhaps this simply reflects an abundance of confidence that scientists can engineer a set of solutions to mitigate any harmful effects of global warming.13 But it can not be comforting to the researchers in the scientific community that the more trust people have in them as scientists, the less concerned they are about their findings.

Of course, if my point is to educate you about the futility of education, then I've gotten myself into an interesting paradox, haven't I?

Posted on March 3, 2008 02:56 AM View this article | Comments (8)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Education

February 28, 2008

Matthews and Caldeira on the Mitigation Challenge

Just when you thought that the mitigation challenge was dismal, Matthews and Caldeira publish a paper in GRL suggesting that things are in fact worse than that:

In the absence of human intervention to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere [e.g., Keith et al., 2006], each unit of CO2 emissions must be viewed as leading to quantifiable and essentially permanent climate change on centennial timescales. We emphasize that a stable global climate is not synonymous with stable radiative forcing, but rather requires decreasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. We have shown here that stable global temperatures within the next several centuries can be achieved if CO2 emissions are reduced to nearly zero. This means that avoiding future human-induced climate warming may require policies that seek not only to decrease CO2 emissions, but to eliminate them entirely.

Have we mentioned that air capture is coming? And that is whether we like it or not.

February 25, 2008

Air Capture in the U.S. Congress

Senator John Barosso (R-WY) has introduced a bill promoting a technology policy for air capture research, including prizes for technological achievements. From the press release:

U.S. Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has introduced a bill aimed at developing technology to remove existing excess green houses gases from the atmosphere and permanently sequester them.

The "Greenhouse Gas Emission Atmospheric Removal Act," or GEAR Act, will establish an award system for scientists and researchers.

"My proposal takes a new look at climate change," Barrasso said. "This approach removes excess greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere. The GEAR Act aims to tap into human potential and the American spirit to develop the technological solutions we need to address climate change."

"Where ever you find yourself on the issue of climate change, we can agree on one important dynamic – change not only awaits us - it is banging on the door. We need to change it on our terms before Washington ’s massive bureaucracy changes it for us."

"It makes sense that we explore proposals to remove and permanently sequester excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to slow or reverse climate change. The best way to develop the technology we need to achieve this is through a system of financial awards, or prizes, for achieving technological goals established by Congress."

"Putting strict limits on our economy is not the answer to climate change. A healthy economy that spurs American ingenuity makes more sense to me."

Mark Northam, Director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming , said: "Removal of greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere is the Holy Grail of climate change mitigation solutions. As currently envisioned, successful technologies will mimic natural processes and over time will help to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at acceptable levels."

The full text of the bill follows after the jump.

S. 2614

To facilitate the development, demonstration, and implementation of technology for use in removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

FEBRUARY 8 (LEGISLATIVE DAY, FEBRUARY 6), 2008

Mr. BARRASSO introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A BILL

To facilitate the development, demonstration, and implementation of technology for use in removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Greenhouse Gas Emission Atmospheric Removal Act" or the "GEAR Act".

SEC. 2. STATEMENT OF POLICY.

It is the policy of the United States to provide incentives to encourage the development and implementation of technology to permanently remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a significant scale.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:

(1) COMMISSION.-The term "Commission" means the Greenhouse Gas Emission Atmospheric Removal Commission established by section 5(a).

(2) GREENHOUSE GAS.-The term "greenhouse gas" means-

(A) carbon dioxide;

(B) methane;

(C) nitrous oxide;

(D) sulfur hexafluoride;

(E) a hydrofluorocarbon;

(F) a perfluorocarbon; and

(G) any other gas that the Commission determines is necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act.

(3) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.-The term "intellectual property" means-

(A) an invention that is patentable under title 35, United States Code; and

(B) any patent on an invention described in subparagraph (A).

(4) SECRETARY.-The term "Secretary" means the Secretary of Energy.

SEC. 4. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION ATMOSPHERIC REMOVAL PROGRAM.

The Secretary, acting through the Commission, shall provide to public and private entities, on a competitive basis, financial awards for the achievement of milestones in developing and applying technology that could significantly slow or reverse the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by permanently capturing or sequestrating those gases without significant countervailing harmful effects.

SEC. 5. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION ATMOSPHERIC REMOVAL COMMISSION.

(a) Establishment.-There is established within the Department of Energy a commission to be known as the "Greenhouse Gas Emission Atmospheric Removal Commission".

(b) Membership.-

(1) COMPOSITION.-The Commission shall be composed of 11 members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who shall provide expertise in-

(A) climate science;

(B) physics;

(C) chemistry;

(D) biology;

(E) engineering;

(F) economics;

(G) business management; and

(H) such other disciplines as the Commission determines to be necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act.

(2) TERM; VACANCIES.-

(A) TERM.-A member of the Commission shall serve for a term of 6 years.

(B) VACANCIES.-A vacancy on the Commission-

(i) shall not affect the powers of the Commission; and

(ii) shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment was made.

(3) INITIAL MEETING.-Not later than 30 days after the date on which all members of the Commission have been appointed, the Commission shall hold the initial meeting of the Commission.

(4) MEETINGS.-The Commission shall meet at the call of the Chairperson.

(5) QUORUM.-A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number of members may hold hearings.

(6) CHAIRPERSON AND VICE CHAIRPERSON.-The Commission shall select a Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from among the members of the Commission.

(7) COMPENSATION.-A member of the Commission shall be compensated at level III of the Executive Schedule.

(c) Duties.-The Commission shall-

(1) subject to subsection (d), develop specific requirements for-

(A) the competition process;

(B) minimum performance standards;

(C) monitoring and verification procedures; and

(D) the scale of awards for each milestone identified under paragraph (3);

(2) establish minimum levels for the capture or net sequestration of greenhouse gases that are required to be achieved by a public or private entity to qualify for a financial award described in paragraph (3);

(3) in coordination with the Secretary, offer those financial awards to public and private entities that demonstrate-

(A) a design document for a successful technology;

(B) a bench scale demonstration of a technology;

(C) technology described in subparagraph (A) that-

(i) is operational at demonstration scale; and

(ii) achieves significant greenhouse gas reductions; and

(D) operation of technology on a commercially viable scale that meets the minimum levels described in paragraph (2); and

(4) submit to Congress-

(A) an annual report that describes the progress made by the Commission and recipients of financial awards under this section in achieving the demonstration goals established under paragraph (3); and

(B) not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, a report that describes the levels of funding that are necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act.

(d) Public Participation.-In carrying out subsection (c)(1), the Commission shall-

(1) provide notice of and, for a period of at least 60 days, an opportunity for public comment on, any draft or proposed version of the requirements described in subsection (c)(1); and

(2) take into account public comments received in developing the final version of those requirements.

(e) Peer Review.-No financial award may be provided under this Act until such time as the proposal for which the award is sought has been peer reviewed in accordance with such standards for peer review as the Commission shall establish.

SEC. 6. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CONSIDERATIONS.

(a) In General.-Title to any intellectual property arising from a financial award provided under this Act shall vest in 1 or more entities that are incorporated in the United States.

(b) Reservation of License.-The United States-

(1) may reserve a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license, to have practiced for or on behalf of the United States, in connection with any intellectual property described in subsection (a); but

(2) shall not, in the exercise of a license reserved under paragraph (1), publicly disclose proprietary information relating to the license.

(c) Transfer of Title.-Title to any intellectual property described in subsection (a) shall not be transferred or passed, except to an entity that is incorporated in the United States, until the expiration of the first patent obtained in connection with the intellectual property.

SEC. 7. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this Act.

SEC. 8. TERMINATION OF AUTHORITY.

The Commission and all authority of the Commission provided under this Act terminate on December 31, 2020.


A Sense of Proportion

3rd runway protest.jpg

At London's Heathrow airport today environmental activists evaded security and climbed onto the tail of a British Air 777 to protest plans for building a third runway at the airport.

Meantime, last month the Chinese government announced plans to build 97 new airports in the next 12 years.

China announced plans Saturday to build nearly 100 new airports by 2020 to cater for soaring demand.

The proposals will mean eight out of every ten residents will live within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of an airport within 12 years, the General Administration of Civil Aviation said.

It put the cost of building the 97 new airports at 450 billion yuan (61.6 billion dollars).

Air traffic volume rose 16 percent to 185 million passengers in 2007, according to official figures.

The General Administration predicts passenger traffic will grow by 11.4 percent a year between now and 2020, and freight traffic by 14 percent.

The number of airports serving more than 30 million passengers a year will rise from three now to 13, it said.

Posted on February 25, 2008 09:20 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

February 22, 2008

New blog on carbon offsets and sequestration

Several students in our Science and Technology Policy class here at the University of Colorado are writing blogs for their projects this semester. I'd like to introduce you to them over a couple of posts. The first is called The Emission and covers issues related to carbon offsets, sequestration, and all things related to policy focusing on the carbon side of things. Please check it out!

Posted on February 22, 2008 04:32 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Climate Change

February 18, 2008

Climate Model Predictions and Adaptation

At a recent conference on adaptation in London, I co-authored a presented paper (with Suraje Dessai, Mike Hulme, and Rob Lempert) on the the role of climate model forecasts in support of adaptation. Our argument is that climate models don't forecast very well on time and spatial scales of relevance to decision makers facing adaptation choices, and even if they did, given irreducible uncertainties robust decision making is a better approach than seeking to optimize.

For more evidence of why it is that climate models are of little predictive use in adaptation decision making, consider the recent discussion of cooling in Antarctica and the southern oceans from RealClimate:

The pioneer climate modelers Kirk Bryan and Syukuro Manabe took up the question with a more detailed model that revealed an additional effect. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica the mixing of water went deeper than in Northern waters, so more volumes of water were brought into play earlier. In their model, around Antarctica "there is no warming at the sea surface, and even a slight cooling over the 50-year duration of the experiment." In the twenty years since, computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed.

Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that.

Today CSIRO in Australia reports that southern oceans have in fact been warming:

The longest continuous record of temperature changes in the Southern Ocean has found that Antarctic waters are warming and sea levels are rising, an Australian scientist said Monday.

I have no doubt that these observations of warming will also be found, somehow, to be consistent with predictions of climate models. And that is the problem; climate scientists, especially those involved in political advocacy for action on climate change, steadfastly refuse to describe what observations over the short term (i.e., when most adaptation decisions are made) would be inconsistent with model predictions. So all observations are consistent with predictions of climate models.

The reason for this situation of total ambiguity is a perceived need to maintain the public credibility of climate model predictions over the very long term in support of political action on climate change in the face of relentless attacks for politically motivated skeptics. So what do we get? Nonsensical and useless pronouncements such as a cooling southern ocean and a warming southern ocean are both consistent with climate model predictions, thus we can trust the models.

The lesson for decision makers grappling with adaptation to future climate changes? Make sure that your decisions are robust to a wide range of future possibilities, and use caution in seeking to optimize based on this or that prediction of the near-term future.

February 15, 2008

Carbon Emissions Success Stories

Andy Revkin has an interesting post up about per capita emissions in various countries around the world. What countries have a per capita emissions level consistent with an 80 percent reduction from the world's current total emissions?

hypothetical emissions.png

The answer, as can be seen above in an image that I use in lectures (data from US EIA), is Haiti and Somalia. If everyone in the world lived as they do in these two countries, we'd have the emissions challenge licked.

What about the eco-sensitive UK? Sorry, if everyone lived as they do in the UK global carbon emissions would be more than twice the current world total. What about everyone lived as they do in eco-friendly Sweden? Sorry, emissions would be about one and a half times the current world total. United States? Don't even ask. China? just slightly below the current world total (and growing fast).

Bottom line? No country, save Haiti and Somalia, is currently producing emissions at a level even remotely consistent with levels consistent with an 80% reduction in the world's totals. Hence, all of the finger pointing and debates in political negotiations are based on relative hypocrisy ("We're doing relatively less bad that you are!") or faith-based assumptions in the efficacy of future policies ("Our targets are more aggressive than yours!").

There remains huge hurdles to achieving emissions reductions of the sort called for in current political debate. Until we see evidence of it actually occurring, somewhere, we should be very cautious about picking what policies will ultimately achieve results. Instead, we should try a diversity of approaches and see what works.

Posted on February 15, 2008 10:39 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

February 13, 2008

The Consistent-With Game: On Climate Models and the Scientific Method

I have been intrigued by the frequent postings over at Real Climate in defense of the predictive ability of climate models. The subtext of course is political – specifically that criticisms of climate models are an unwarranted basis for criticizing climate policies that are justified or defended in terms of the results of climate models. But this defensive stance risks turning climate modeling from a scientific endeavor to a pseudo-scientific exercise in the politics of climate change.

In a post now up, Real Climate explains that cooling of Antarctica is consistent with the predictions of climate models:

A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming.

And we have learned from Real Climate that all possible temperature trends of 8 years in length are consistent with climate models, so too are just about any possible observed temperature trends in the tropics, so too is a broad range of behavior of mid-latitude storms, as is the behavior of tropical sea surface temperatures, so too is a wide range of behaviors of the tropical climate, including ENSO events, and the list goes on.

In fact, there are an infinite number of things that are not inconsistent with the predictions of climate models (or if you prefer, conditional projections). This is one reason why a central element of the scientific method focuses on the falsifiability of hypotheses. According to Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Falsifiability (or refutability or testability) is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment. That something is "falsifiable" does not mean it is false; rather, it means that it is capable of being criticized by observational reports. Falsifiability is an important concept in science and the philosophy of science. Some philosophers and scientists, most notably Karl Popper, have asserted that a hypothesis, proposition or theory is scientific only if it is falsifiable.

Are climate models falsifiable?

I am not sure. Over at Real Climate I asked the following question on its current thread:

There are a vast number of behaviors of the climate system that are consistent with climate model predictions, along the lines of your conclusion:
"A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming."

I have asked many times and never received an answer here: What behavior of the climate system would contradict models of global warming? Specifically what behavior of what variables over what time scales? This should be a simple question to answer.

Thanks!

As often is the case, Real Climate lets their commenters provide the easy answers to difficult questions. Here are a few choice responses that Real Climate viewed as contributing to the scientific discussion:

If Pielke wants to contribute constructively to this area of science, he should become a climate modeler himself and discuss such questions in the scientific literature. Otherwise, unless he can present some strong reason for doubting the competence or objectivity of people who do such work, he should listen to people who do work in the area.


. . .
Roger, your question is rather broad and vague. What aspect of the science are you seeking to falsify? See, that is precisely the problem when you have a theory that draws support from such a broad range of phenomena and studies as does the current theory of climate. It is rather like saying, "How would we falsify the theory of evolution?" When a theory has made many predictions and explained many diverse phenomena, it is quite difficult to falsify as a whole. You may be able to look at pieces of it and add to the understanding. Climate science is quite a mature field; future revolutions are quite unlikely. Changes will come but will likely be incremental. It is very hard to envision a development that would significantly alter our understanding of greenhouse forcing unless our whole understanding of climate is radically wrong, and that seems unlikely.

The good news is that there are a range of serious scholars working on the predictive skill of climate models. And there are some folks, myself included, who think that climate models are largely of exploratory or heuristic value, rather than predictive (or consolidative). (And perhaps a post on why this distinction is of crucial importantce may be a good idea here.) But you won’t hear about them at Real Climate.

Once you start playing the "consistent with" or "not inconsistent with" game, you have firmly placed yourself into a Popperian view of models as hypotheses to be falsified. And out of fear that legitimate efforts at falsifiability will be used as ammunition by skeptics (and make no mistake, they will) in the politics of climate change, issues of falsification are simply ignored or avoided. A defensive posture is adopted instead. And as Naomi Oreskes and colleagues have observed, this is a good way to mislead with models.

One of the risks of playing the politics game through science is that you risk turning your science – or at least impressions of it – into pseudo-science. If policy makers and the public begin to believe that climate models are truth machines -- i.e., nothing that has been, will be, or could be observed could possibly contradict what they say -- then a loss of credibility is sure to follow at some point when experience shows them not to be (and they are not). This doesn’t mean that humans don’t affect the climate or that we shouldn’t be taking aggressive action, only that accurate prediction of the future is really difficult. (For the new reader I am an advocate for strong action on both adaptation and mitigation, despite what you might read in the comments at RC.)

So beware the "consistent with" game being played with climate models by activist scientists, it is every bit as misleading as the worst arguments offered by climate skeptics and a distraction from the challenge of effective policy making on climate change.

For Further Reading:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2003: The role of models in prediction for decision, Chapter 7, pp. 113-137 in C. Canham and W. Lauenroth (eds.), Understanding Ecosystems: The Role of Quantitative Models in Observations, Synthesis, and Prediction, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. (PDF)

Sarewitz, D., R.A. Pielke, Jr., and R. Byerly, Jr., (eds.) 2000: Prediction: Science, decision making and the future of nature, Island Press, Washington, DC.

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

January 30, 2008

Witanagemot Justice And Senator Inhofe’s Fancy List

Witan_hexateuch.jpg

Anyone interested in the intersection of science and politics has to be watching with some amusement and more than a little dismay at the spectacle of professional immolation that the climate science community has engaged in following the release of Senator James Inhofe’s list of 400+ climate skeptics.

The amusement comes from the fact that everyone involved in this tempest in a teapot seems to be working as hard as possible in ways contrary to their political interests.

From the perspective of Senator Inhofe, by producing such a list he has raised the stakes associated with any scientist going public with any concerns about the scientific consensus on climate change. Not only would announcement of such concerns lead one to risk being associated with one of the most despised politicians in the climate science community, but several climate scientists have taken on as their personal responsibility the chore of personally attacking people who happen to find themselves on the Senator’s list. What young scholar would want to face the climate science attack dogs? Of course, those sharing the Senator’s political views may not mind being on such a list, but this does nothing more than further politicize climate science.

And this leads to the repugnant behavior of the attack dog climate scientists who otherwise would like to be taken seriously. By engaging in the character assassination of people who happen to find themselves on Senator Inhofe’s list they reinforce the absurd notion that scientific claims can be adjudicated solely by head counts and a narrow view of professional qualifications. They can’t. (See this enlightening and amusing discussion by Dan Sarewitz of leading experts arguing over who is qualified to comment on climate issues.) But by suggesting that knowledge claims can be judged by credentials the attack dog scientists reinforce an anti-democratic authoritarian streak found in the activist wing of the climate science community. Of course, from the perspective of the activist scientists such attacks may be effective if they dissuade other challenges to orthodoxy, but surely climate scientists deserving of the designation should be encouraging challenges to knowledge claims, rather than excoriating anyone who dares to challenge their beliefs.

I recently chatted with Steve Rayner and Gwyn Prins, authors of the brilliant and provocative essay The Wrong Trousers (PDF), who found themselves , somewhat bizarrely, on Senator Inhofe’s list. Neither has expressed anything resembling views challenging claims of human-caused climate change, however they are (rightly) critical of the political approach to climate change embodied by Kyoto. I asked them what they thought about being on the Senator’s list. Steve Rayner asked if there was some way to sue the Senator for defamation, tongue only partly in cheek. Gwyn Prins offered the following gem:

I think that pointing out that the mere fact of this funny headcounting is worthy of note: In the Anglo-Saxon witanagemot justice was achieved by oath-swearing so the number and the status of your oath-swearers mattered more than the facts of the matter; and this issue is being adjudicated on both sides – denialists and climate puritans – in just such a manner.

He is right of course, and this brings us to the dismay. The climate science community – or at least its most publicly visible activist wing – seems to be working as hard as possible to undercut the legitimacy and the precarious trust than society provides in support of activities of the broader scientific community. Senator Inhofe is a politician, and plays politics. If activist climate scientists wish to play the Senator’s game, then don’t be surprised to see common wisdom viewing these activists more as political players than trustworthy experts. If this is correct then maybe the Senator is a bit more astute than given credit for.

Ultimately, the mainstream climate science community might share with their activist colleagues the same sort of advice Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) offered to former President Bill Clinton – "chill."

January 26, 2008

Updated IPCC Forecasts vs. Observations

IPCC Verification w-RSS correction.png

Carl Mears from Remote Sensing Systems, Inc. was kind enough to email me to point out that the RSS data that I had shared with our readers a few weeks ago contained an error that RSS has since corrected. The summary figure above is re-plotted with the corrected data (RSS is the red curve). At the time I wrote:

Something fishy is going on. The IPCC and CCSP recently argued that the surface and satellite records are reconciled. This might be the case from the standpoint of long-term linear trends. But the data here suggest that there is some work left to do. The UAH and NASA curves are remarkably consistent. But RSS dramatically contradicts both. UKMET shows 2007 as the coolest year since 2001, whereas NASA has 2007 as the second warmest. In particular estimates for 2007 seem to diverge in unique ways. It'd be nice to see the scientific community explain all of this.

For those interested in the specifics, Carl explained in his email:

The error was simple -- I made a small change in the code ~ 1 year ago that resulted in a ~0.1K decrease in the absolute value of AMSU TLTs, but neglected to reprocess data from 1998-2006, instead only using it for the new (Jan 2007 onward) data. Since the AMSU TLTs are forced to match the MSU TLTs (on average) during the overlap period, this resulted in an apparent drop in TLT for 2007. Reprocessing the earlier AMSU data, thus lowering AMSU TLT by 0.1 from 1998-2006, resulted in small changes in the parameters that are added to the AMSU temperatures to make them match MSU temperatures, and thus the 2007 data is increased by ~0.1K. My colleagues at UAH (Christy and Spencer) were both very helpful in diagnosing the problem.

It is important to note that the RSS correction does not alter my earlier analysis of the IPCC predictions (made in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007) and various observations. Thanks again to Carl for alerting me to the error and giving me a chance to update the figures with the new information!

January 20, 2008

I'm So Confused

Last week I received an email from our Chancellor, Bud Peterson, warning me and my CU colleagues of the perils of engaging in political advocacy activities as a university employee. Here is an excerpt:

TO: Boulder Campus Teaching & Research Faculty, Staff, Deans, Directors, Dept Chairs

FROM: Office of the Chancellor

SENDER: Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson

DATE: January 18, 2008

SUBJECT: Guidelines on Campaign-Related Activities by Members of the University Community

Dear Colleagues:

In light of the many political campaigns currently, or soon to be, underway at the national, state and local levels, I would like to provide you with a set of guidelines we, as members of the University community, should keep in mind as we consider our own activities and level of involvement. The guidelines were developed by the Office of the University Counsel, and if you have questions, I urge you to contact Counsel's office at 303-492-7481.

GUIDELINES ON CAMPAIGN-RELATED ACTIVITIES BY MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSITY
COMMUNITY

IN GENERAL, UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEES MAY NOT:

* Engage in any activity during working hours designed to urge electors to vote for or against any campaign issues, which include campaigns for public office, state-wide campaign issues or referred measures, and local campaign issues or levies.

* Employees wishing to participate in a campaign activity should take personal leave.

* Use office supplies or equipment, including computers, telephones, printers or facsimile machines to create materials urging electors to vote for or against a campaign issue.

* Use their University email accounts to urge electors to vote for or against a campaign issue, or to forward materials that urge electors to vote for or against a campaign issue.

* Use University-hosted websites to urge electors to vote for or against a campaign issue.

At the same time Chancellor Peterson has endorsed faculty participation in a January 31 political advocacy effort called "Focus the Nation," which seeks to motivate action on climate change.

Here is how The Colorado Daily describes the activity:

There's also a hint of politics involved: the teach-in is scheduled for Jan. 31, shortly before statewide primaries and caucuses, and is timed to place pressure on political candidates. [Colorado's caucus is Feb. 5].

"We wanted to do it right in the height of the early primaries to ensure that climate change is at the forefront of the issues," [Garrett] Brennan [media director for Focus the Nation] said.

After all, raising awareness about climate change is one thing, he said. Actually solving it is another.

"The solutions are pretty cut and dry," Brennan said. "You're not going to create an art installation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Raising awareness - making it personal to people - is multidisciplinary. The solutions are policies that are going to get passed."

That could be one reason that voter-registration group New Era Colorado will be on campus that day, displaying poster-board profiles that detail each candidate's stance on environmental issues.

The website for Focus the Nation lists the policy actions that it wishes to focus our nation's attention on and for me to discuss in the classroom, and here are a few of the options that I am supposed to provide to my students:

To stabilize global warming at the low end of the possible range (3-4 degrees F) will require deep cuts in global warming pollution beginning in about 2020. In the US, reductions in emissions of roughly 15%-20% per decade will be needed.

Place a tax on each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) embodied in fossil fuels. Set the tax high enough to initially stabilize nationwide emissions, and then have the tax rise over time, generating steady cuts in pollution. Use tax revenue to (1) compensate lower income Americans for higher energy prices, and (2) to assist impacted workers, especially in coal mining.

To the extent that coal use is unavoidable, only allow coal plants that capture and permanently sequester their emissions in geologic formations.

Cap total carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution emitted in the US through a system of a fixed number of permits; auction the permits to emitters; use auction revenue to (1) compensate lower income Americans for higher energy prices, and (2) to assist impacted workers, especially in coal mining.

By 2030, require by law that all new buildings in the US be "carbon neutral" (no net emissions of global warming pollution from fossil fuel combustion).

Set the emerging biofuels sector on a sustainable basis through: (1) A Low Carbon Fuel Standard that sets a goal for reducing carbon intensity in the total light and heavy duty vehicles fuels mix by10 percent by 2020, and (2) Mount a major effort to research, develop, demonstrate and deploy sustainable biofuels feedstocks and technologies.

Prevent CO2 emissions and remove atmospheric CO2 through forest conservation, management and restoration. Include forests in cap & auction system, allowing the trade of forest emissions reductions that are real, additional, verifiable, and permanent.

For the United States as a whole, adopt California’s standards requiring a 23% reduction in global warming pollution from new vehicles sold by 2012, and a 30% reduction in global warming pollution from new vehicles sold by 2016.

I am so confused.

Focus the Nation is unadulterated political advocacy. But my campus forbids me to use my official time, paid for by taxpayers, to advocate for particular campaign issues. But global warming is so important. But my Chancellor forbids me to engage in political advocacy as part of my job. But my Chancellor is the keynote speaker for our Focus the Nation activities. But my job is to teach not indoctrinate. But I actually agree with many of the proposed policies. But it is not my job to use my platform as a professor to tell students what to think; I am supposed to teach them how to think and come to their own conclusions. But if I don't go along I'll be castigated as one of those bad guys, like a Holocaust denier or slave owner. But doing the right thing is so obvious.

Thank goodness I am on sabbatical.

January 18, 2008

Temperature Trends 1990-2007: Hansen, IPCC, Obs

The figure below shows linear trends in temperature for Jim Hansen's three 1988 scenarios (in shades of blue), for the IPCC predictions issued in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007 (in shades of green), and for four sets of observations (in shades of brown). I choose the period 1990-2007 because this is the period of overlap for all of the predictions (except IPCC 2007, which starts in 2000).

temp trends.png

Looking just at these measures of central tendency (i.e., no formal consideration of uncertainties) it seems clear that:

1. Trends in all of Hansen's scenarios are above IPCC 1995, 2001, and 2007, as well as three of the four surface observations.

2. The outlier on surface observations, and the one consistent with Hansen's Scenarios A and B is the NASA dataset overseen by Jim Hansen. Whatever the explanation for this, good scientific practice would have forecasting and data collection used to verify those forecasts conducted by completely separate groups.

3. Hansen's Scenario A is very similar to IPCC 1990, which makes sense given their closeness in time, and assumptions of forcings at the time (i.e., thoughts on business-as-usual did not change much over that time).

The data for the Hansen scenarios was obtained at Climate Audit from the ongoing discussion there, and the IPCC and observational data is as described on this site over the past week or so in the forecast verification exercise that I have conducted. This is an ongoing exercise, as part of a conversation across the web, so if you have questions or comments, please share them, either here, or if our comment interface is driving you nuts (as it is with me), then comment over at Climate Audit where I'll participate in the discussions.

January 16, 2008

UKMET Short Term Global Temperature Forecast

UKMET Short Term Forecast.png

This figure shows a short-term forecast of global average temperature issued by the UK Meteorological Service, with some annotations that I've added and described below. The forecast is discussed in this PDF where you can find the original figure. This sort of forecast should be applauded, because it allows for learning based on experience. Such forecasts, whether eventually shown to be wrong or right, can serve as powerful tests of knowledge and predictive skill. The UK Met Service is to be applauded. Now on to the figure itself.

The figure is accompanied by this caption:

Observations of global average temperature (black line) compared with decadal ‘hindcasts’ (10-year model simulations of the past, white lines and red shading), plus the first decadal prediction for the 10 years from 2005. Temperatures are plotted as anomalies (relative to 1979–2001). As with short-term weather forecasts there remains some uncertainty in our predictions of temperature over a decade. The red shading shows our confidence in predictions of temperature in any given year. If there are no volcanic eruptions during the forecast period, there is a 90% likelihood of the temperature being within the shaded area.

The figure shows both hindcasts and a forecast. I've shaded the hindcasts in grey. I've added the green curve which is my replication of the global temperature anomalies from the UKMET HADCRUT3 dataset extended to 2007. I've also plotted as a blue dot the prediction issued by UKMET for 2008, which is expected to be indistinguishable from the temperature of years 2001 to 2007 (which were indistinguishable from each other). The magnitude of the UKMET forecast over the next decade is almost exactly identical to the IPCC AR4 prediction over the same time period, which I discussed last week.

I have added the pink star at 1995 to highlight the advantages offered by hindcasting. Imagine if the model realization begun in 1985 had been continued beyond 1995, rather than being re-run after 1995. Clearly, all subsequent observed temperatures would have been well below that 1985 curve. One important reason for this is of course the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, which was not predicted. And that is precisely the point -- prediction is really hard, especially when conducted in the context of open systems, and as is often said, especially about the the future. Our ability to explain why a prediction was wrong does not make that prediction right, and this is a point often lost in debate about climate change.

Again, kudos to the UK Met Service. They've had the fortitude to issue a short term prediction related to climate change. Other scientific bodies should follow this lead. It is good for science, and good for the use of science in decision making.

January 15, 2008

Verification of IPCC Sea Level Rise Forecasts 1990, 1995, 2001

Here is a graph showing IPCC sea level rise forecasts from the FAR (1990), SAR (1995), and TAR (2001).

IPCC Sea Level.png

And here are the sources:

IPCC Sea Level Sources.png

Observational data can be found here. Thanks to my colleague Steve Nerem.

Unlike temperature forecasts by the IPCC, sea level rise shows no indication that scientists have a handle on the issue. As with temperature the IPCC dramatically decreased its predictions of sea level rise in between its first (1990) and second (1995) assessment reports. It then nudged down its prediction a very small amount in its 2001 report. The observational data falls in the middle of the 1990 and 1995/2001 assessments.

Last year Rahmstorf et al. published a short paper in Science comparing observations of temperature with IPCC 2001 predictions (Aside: it is remarkable that Science allowed them to ignore IPCC 1990 and 1995). Their analysis is completely consistent with the temperature and sea level rise verifications that I have shown. On sea level rise they concluded:

Previous projections, as summarized by IPCC, have not exaggerated but may in some respects even have underestimated the change, in particular for sea level.

This statement is only true if one ignores the 1990 IPCC report which overestimated both sea level rise and temperature. Rahmstorf et al. interpretation of the results is little more than spin, as it would have been equally valid to conclude based on the 1990 report:

Previous projections, as summarized by IPCC, have not underestimated but may in some respects even have exaggerated the change, both for sea level and temperature.

Rather than spin the results, I conclude that the ongoing debate about future sea level rise is entirely appropriate. The fact that the IPCC has been unsuccessful in predicting sea level rise, does not mean that things are worse or better, but simply that scientists clearly do not have a handle on this issue and are unable to predict sea level changes on a decadal scale. The lack of predictive accuracy does not lend optimism about the prospects for accuracy on the multi-decadal scale. Consider that the 2007 IPCC took a pass on predicting near term sea level rise, choosing instead to focus 90 years out (as far as I am aware, anyone who knows differently, please let me know).

This state of affairs should give no comfort to anyone: over the 21st century sea level is expected to rise, anywhere from an unnoticeable amount to the catastrophic, and scientists have essentially no ability to predict this rise, much less the effects of various climate policies on that rise. As we've said here before, this is a cherrypickers delight, and a policy makers nightmare. It'd be nice to see the scientific community engaged in a bit less spin, and a bit more comprehensive analysis.

January 14, 2008

James Hansen on One Year's Temperature

NASA's James Hansen just sent around a commentary (in PDF here) on the significance of the 2007 global temperature in the context of the long-term temperature record that he compiles for NASA. After Real Climate went nuts over how misguided it is to engage in a discussion of eight years worth of temperature records, I can''t wait to see them lay into Jim Hansen for asserting that one year's data is of particular significance (and also for not graphing uncertainty ranges):

The Southern Oscillation and the solar cycle have significant effects on year-to-year global temperature change. Because both of these natural effects were in their cool phases in 2007, the unusual warmth of 2007 is all the more notable.

But maybe it is that data that confirms previously held beliefs is acceptable no matter how short the record, and data that does not is not acceptable, no matter how long the record. But that would be confirmation bias, wouldn't it?

Anyway, Dr. Hansen does not explain why the 2007 NASA data runs counter to that of UKMET, UAH or RSS, but does manage to note the "incorrect" 2007 UKMET prediction of a record warm year. Dr. Hansen issues his own prediction:

. . . it is unlikely that 2008 will be a year with an unusual global temperature change, i.e., it is likely to remain close to the range of (high) values exhibited in 2002-2007. On the other hand, when the next El Nino occurs it is likely to carry global temperature to a significantly higher level than has occurred in recent centuries, probably higher than any year in recent millennia. Thus we suggest that, barring the unlikely event of a large volcanic eruption, a record global temperature clearly exceeding that of 2005 can be expected within the next 2-3 years.

I wonder if this holds just for the NASA dataset put together by Dr. Hansen or for all of the temperature datasets.

Updated Chart: IPCC Temperature Verification

I've received some email comments suggesting that my use of the 1992 IPCC Supplement as the basis for IPCC 1990 temperature predictions was "too fair" to the IPCC because the IPCC actually reduced its temperature projections from 1990 to 1992. In addition, Gavin Schmidt and a commenter over at Climate Audit also did not like my use of the 1992 report. So I am going to take full advantage of the rapid feedback of the web to provide an updated figure, based on IPCC 1990, specifically, Figure A.9, p. 336. In other words, I no longer rely on the 1992 supplement, and have simply gone back to the original IPCC 1990 FAR. Here then is that updated Figure:

IPCC Verification 90-95-01-07 vs Obs.png

Thanks all for the feedback!

Pachauri on Recent Climate Trends

Last week scientists at the Real Climate blog gave their confirmation bias synapses a workout by explaining that eight years of climate data is meaningless, and people who pay any attention to recent climate trends are "misguided." I certainly agree that we should exhibit cautiousness in interpreting short-duration observations, nonetheless we should always be trying to explain (rather than simply discount) observational evidence to avoid the trap of confirmation bias.

So it was interesting to see IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri exhibit "misguided" behavior when he expressed some surprise about recent climate trends in The Guardian:

Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said he would look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century.

"One would really have to see on the basis of some analysis what this really represents," he told Reuters, adding "are there natural factors compensating?" for increases in greenhouse gases from human activities.

He added that sceptics about a human role in climate change delighted in hints that temperatures might not be rising. "There are some people who would want to find every single excuse to say that this is all hogwash," he said.

Ironically, by suggesting that their might be some significance to recent climate trends, Dr. Pachauri has provided ammunition to those very same skeptics that he disparages. Perhaps Real Climate will explain how misguided he is, but somehow I doubt it.

For the record, I accept the conclusions of IPCC Working Group I. I don't know how to interpret climate observations of the early 21st century, but believe that there are currently multiple valid hypotheses. I also think that we can best avoid confirmation bias, and other cognitive traps, by making explicit predictions of the future and testing them against experience. The climate community, or at least its activist wing, studiously avoids forecast verification. It just goes to show, confirmation bias is more a more comfortable state than dissonance -- and that goes for people on all sides of the climate debate.

Verification of IPCC Temperature Forecasts 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007

Last week I began an exercise in which I sought to compare global average temperature predictions with the actual observed temperature record. With this post I'll share my complete results.

Last week I showed a comparison of the 2007 IPCC temperature forecasts (which actually began in 2000, so they were really forecasts of data that had already been observed). Here is that figure.

surf-sat vs. IPCC.png

Then I showed a figure with a comparison of the 1990 predictions made by the IPCC in 1992 with actual temperature data. Some folks misinterpreted the three curves that I showed from the IPCC to be an uncertainty bound. They were not. Instead, they were forecasts conditional on different assumptions about climate sensitivity, with the middle curve showing the prediction for a 2.5 degree climate sensitivity, which is lower than scientists currently believe to the most likely value. So I have reproduced that graph below without the 1.5 and 4.5 degree climate sensitivity curves.

IPCC 1990 verification.png

Now here is a similar figure for the 1995 forecast. The IPCC in 1995 dramatically lowered its global temperature predictions, primarily due to the inclusion of consideration of atmospheric aerosols, which have a cooling effect. You can see the 1995 IPCC predictions on pp. 322-323 of its Second Assessment Report. Figure 6.20 shows the dramatic reduction of temperature predictions through the inclusion of aerosols. The predictions themselves can be found in Figure 6.22, and are the values that I use in the figure below, which also use a 2.5 degree climate sensitivity, and are also based on the IS92e or IS92f scenarios.

IPCC 1995 Verification.png

In contrast to the 1990 prediction, the 1995 prediction looks spot on. It is worth noting that the 1995 prediction began in 1990, and so includes observations that were known at the time of the prediction.

In 2001, the IPCC nudged its predictions up a small amount. The prediction is also based on a 1990 start, and can be found in the Third Assessment Report here. The most relevant scenario is A1FI, and the average climate sensitivity of the models used to generate these predictions is 2.8 degrees, which may be large enough to account for the difference between the 1995 and 2001 predictions. Here is a figure showing the 2001 forecast verification.

IPCC 2001 Verification.png

Like 1995, the 2001 figure looks quite good in comparison to the actual data.

Now we can compare all four predictions with the data, but first here are all four IPCC temperature predictions (1990, 1995, 2001, 2007) on one graph.

IPCC Predictions 90-95-01-07.png

IPCC issued its first temperature prediction in 1990 (I actually use the prediction from the supplement to the 1990 report issued in 1992). Its 1995 report dramatically lowered this prediction. 2001 nudged this up a bit, and 2001 elevated the entire curve another small increment, keeping the slope the same. My hypothesis for what is going on here is that the various changes over time to the IPCC predictions reflect incrementally improved fits to observed temperature data, as more observations have come in since 1990.

In other words, the early 1990s showed how important aerosols were in the form of dramatically lowered temperatures (after Mt. Pinatubo), and immediately put the 1990 predictions well off track. So the IPCC recognized the importance of aerosols and lowered its predictions, putting the 1995 IPCC back on track with what had happened with the real climate since its earlier report. With the higher observed temperatures in the late 1990s and early 2000s the slightly increased predictions of temperature in 2001 and 2007 represented better fits with observations since 1995 (for the 2001 report) and 2001 (for the 2007 report).

Imagine if your were asked to issue a prediction for the temperature trend over next week, and you are allowed to update that prediction every 2nd day. Regardless of where you think things will eventually end up, you'd be foolish not to include what you've observed in producing your mid-week updates. Was this behavior by the IPCC intentional or simply the inevitable result of using a prediction start-date years before the forecast was being issued? I have no idea. But the lesson for the IPCC should be quite clear: All predictions (and projections) that it issues should begin no earlier than the year that the prediction is being made.

And now the graph that you have all been waiting for. Here is a figure showing all four IPCC predictions with the surface (NASA, UKMET) and satellite (UAH, RSS) temperature record.

IPCC Verification 90-95-01-07 vs Obs.png

You can see on this graph that the 1990 prediction was obviously much higher than the other three, and you can also clearly see how the IPCC temperature predictions have creeped up as observations showed increasing temperatures from 1995-2005. A simple test of my hypothesis is as follows: In the next IPCC, if temperatures from 2005 to the next report fall below the 2007 IPCC prediction, then the next IPCC will lower its predictions. Similarly, if values fall above that level, then the IPCC will increase its predictions.

What to take from this exercise?

1. The IPCC does not make forecast verification an easy task. The IPCC does not clearly identify what exactly it is predicting nor the variables that can be used to verify those predictions. Like so much else in climate science this leaves evaluations of predictions subject to much ambiguity, cherrypicking, and seeing what one wants to see.

2. The IPCC actually has a pretty good track record in its predictions, especially after it dramatically reduced its 1990 prediction. This record is clouded by an appearance of post-hoc curve fitting. In each of 1995, 2001, and 2007 the changes to the IPCC predictions had the net result of improving predictive performance with observations that had already been made. This is a bit like predicting today's weather at 6PM.

3. Because the IPCC clears the slate every 5-7 years with a new assessment report, it is guarantees that its most recent predictions can never be rigorously verified, because, as climate scientists will tell you, 5-7 years is far too short to say anything about climate predictions. Consequently, the IPCC should not predict and then move on, but pay close attention to its past predictions and examine why the succeed or fail. As new reports are issued the IPCC should go to great lengths to place its new predictions on an apples-to-apples basis with earlier predictions. The SAR did a nice job of this, more recent reports have not. A good example of how not to update predictions is the predictions of sea level rise between the TAR and AR4 which are not at all apples-to-apples.

4. Finally, and I repeat myself, the IPCC should issue predictions for the future, not the recent past.

Appendix: Checking My Work

The IPCC AR4 Technical Summary includes a figure (Figure TS.26) that shows a verification of sorts. I use that figure as a comparison to what I've done. Here is that figure, with a number of my annotations superimposed, and explained below.

IPCC Check.png

Let me first say that the IPCC probably could not have produced a more difficult-to-interpret figure (I see Gavin Schmidt at Real Climate has put out a call for help in understanding it). I have annotated it with letters and some lines and I explain them below.

A. I added this thick horizontal blue line to indicate the 1990 baseline. This line crosses a thin blue line that I placed to represent 2007.

B. This thin blue line crosses the vertical axis where my 1995 verification value lies, represented by the large purple dot.

C. This thin blue line crosses the vertical axis where my 1990 verification value lies, represented by the large green dot. (My 2001 verification is represented by the large light blue dot.)

D. You can see that my 1990 verification value falls exactly on a line extended from the upper bound of the IPCC curve. I have also extended the IPCC mid-range curve as well (note that my extension superimposed falls a tiny bit higher than it should). Why is this? I'm not sure, but one answer is that the uncertainty range presented by the IPCC represents the scenario range, but of course in the past there is no scenario uncertainty. Since emissions have fallen at the high end of the scenario space, if my interpretation is correct, then my verification is consistent with that of the IPCC.

E. For the 1995 verification, you can see that similarly my value falls exactly on a line extended from the upper end of the IPCC range. This would also be consistent with the IPCC presenting the uncertainty range as representing alternative scenarios. The light blue dot is similarly at the upper end of the blue range. What should not be missed is that the relative difference between my verifications and those of the IPCCs are just about identical.

A few commenters over at Real Climate, including Gavin Schmidt, have suggested that such figures need uncertainty bounds on them. In general, I agree, but I'd note that none of the model predictions presented by the IPCC (B1, A1B, A2, Commitment -- note that all of these understate reality since emissions are following A1FI, the highest, most closely) show any model uncertainty whatsoever (nor any observational uncertainty, nor multiple measures of temperature). Surely with the vast resources available to the IPCC, they could have done a much more rigorous job of verification.

In closing, I guess I'd suggest to the IPCC that this sort of exercise should be taken up as a formal part of its work. There are many, many other variables (and relationships between variables) that might be examined in this way. And they should be.

January 11, 2008

Real Climate's Two Voices on Short-Term Climate Fluctuations

Real Climate has been speaking with two voices on how to compare observations of climate with models. Last August they asserted that one-year's sea ice extent could be compared with models:

A few people have already remarked on some pretty surprising numbers in Arctic sea ice extent this year (the New York Times has also noticed). The minimum extent is usually in early to mid September, but this year, conditions by Aug 9 had already beaten all previous record minima. Given that there is at least a few more weeks of melting to go, it looks like the record set in 2005 will be unequivocally surpassed. It could be interesting to follow especially in light of model predictions discussed previously.

Today, they say that looking at 8 years of temperature records is misguided:

John Tierney and Roger Pielke Jr. have recently discussed attempts to validate (or falsify) IPCC projections of global temperature change over the period 2000-2007. Others have attempted to show that last year's numbers imply that 'Global Warming has stopped' or that it is 'taking a break' (Uli Kulke, Die Welt)). However, as most of our readers will realise, these comparisons are flawed since they basically compare long term climate change to short term weather variability.

So according to Real Climate one-year's ice extent data can be compared to climate models, but 8 years of temperature data cannot.

Right. This is why I believe that whatever one's position of climate change is, everyone should agree that rigorous forecast verification is needed.

Post Script. I see at Real Climate commenters are already calling me a "skeptic" for even discussing forecast verification. For the record I accept the consensus of the IPCC WGI. If asking questions about forecast verification is to be tabooo, then climate science is in worse shape than I thought.

January 10, 2008

Verification of 1990 IPCC Temperature Predictions

1990 IPCC verification.png

I continue to receive good suggestions and positive feedback on the verification exercise that I have been playing around with this week. Several readers have suggested that a longer view might be more appropriate. So I took a look at the IPCC's First Assessment Report that had been sitting on my shelf, and tried to find its temperature prediction starting in 1990. I actually found what I was looking for in a follow up document: Climate Change 1992: The Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment (not online that I am aware of).

In conducting this type of forecast verification, one of the first things to do is to specify which emissions scenario most closely approximated what has actually happened since 1990. As we have discussed here before, emissions have been occurring at the high end of the various scenarios used by the IPCC. So in this case I have used IS92e or IS92f (the differences are too small to be relevant to this analysis), which are discussed beginning on p. 69.

With the relevant emissions scenario, I then went to the section that projected future temperatures, and found this in Figure Ax.3 on p. 174. From that I took from the graph the 100-year temperature change and converted it into an annual rate. At the time the IPCC presented estimates for climate sensitivities of 1.5 degree, 2.5 degrees, and 4.5 degrees, with 2.5 degrees identified as a "best estimate." In the figure above I have estimated the 1.5 and 4.5 degree values based on the ratios taken from graph Ax.2, but I make no claim that they are precise. My understanding is that climate scientists today think that climate sensitivity is around 3.0 degrees, so if one were to re-do the 1990 prediction with a climate sensitivity of 3.0 the resulting curve would be a bit above the 2.5 degree curve shown above.

On the graph you will also see the now familiar temperature records from two satellite and two surface analyses. It seems pretty clear that the IPCC in 1990 over-forecast temperature increases, and this is confirmed by the most recent IPCC report (Figure TS.26), so it is not surprising.

I'll move on to the predictions of the Second Assessment Report in a follow up.

January 09, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science, Part 3

By popular demand, here is a graph showing the two main analyses of global temperatures from satellite, from RSS and UAH, as well as the two main analyses of global temperatures from the surface record, UKMET and NASA, plotted with the temperature predictions reported in IPCC AR4, as described in Part 1 of this series.

surf-sat vs. IPCC.png

Some things to note:

1) I have not graphed observational uncertainties, but I'd guess that they are about +/-0.05 (and someone please correct me if this is wildly off), and their inclusion would not alter the discussion here.

2) A feast for cherrypickers. One can arrive at whatever conclusion one wants with respect to the IPCC predictions. Want the temperature record to be consistent with IPCC? OK, then you like NASA. How about inconsistent? Well, then you are a fan of RSS. On the fence? Well, UAH and UKMET serve that purpose pretty well.

3) Something fishy is going on. The IPCC and CCSP recently argued that the surface and satellite records are reconciled. This might be the case from the standpoint of long-term liner trends. But the data here suggest that there is some work left to do. The UAH and NASA curves are remarkably consistent. But RSS dramatically contradicts both. UKMET shows 2007 as the coolest year since 2001, whereas NASA has 2007 as the second warmest. In particular estimates for 2007 seem to diverge in unique ways. It'd be nice to see the scientific community explain all of this.

4) All show continued warming since 2000!

5) From the standpoint of forecast verification, which is where all of this began, the climate community really needs to construct a verification dataset for global temperature and other variables that will be (a) the focus of predictions, and (b) the ground truth against which those predictions will be verified.

Absent an ability to rigorously evaluate forecasts, in the presence of multiple valid approaches to observational data we run the risk of engaging in all sorts of cognitive traps -- such as availability bias and confirmation bias. So here is a plea to the climate community: when you say that you are predicting something like global temperature or sea ice extent or hurricanes -- tell us is specific detail what those variables are, who is measuring them, and where to look in the future to verify the predictions. If weather forecasters, stock brokers, and gamblers can do it, then you can too.

January 08, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science, Part 2

Yesterday I posted a figure showing how surface temperatures compare with IPCC model predictions. I chose to use the RSS satellite record under the assumption that the recent IPCC and CCSP reports were both correct in their conclusions that the surface and satellite records have been reconciled. It turns out that my reliance of the IPCC and CCSP may have been mistaken.

I received a few comments from people suggesting that I had selectively used the RSS data because it showed different results than other global temperature datasets. My first reaction to this was to wonder how the different datasets could show different results if the IPCC was correct when it stated (PDF):

New analyses of balloon-borne and satellite measurements of lower- and mid-tropospheric temperature show warming rates that are similar to those of the surface temperature record and are consistent within their respective uncertainties, largely reconciling a discrepancy noted in the TAR.

But I decided to check for myself. I went to the NASA GISS and downloaded its temperature data and scaled to a 1980-1999 mean. I then plotted it on the same scale as the RSS data that I shared yesterday. Here is what the curves look like on the same scale.

RSS v. GISS.png

Well, I'm no climate scientist, but they sure don't look reconciled to me, especially 2007. (Any suggestions on the marked divergence in 2007?)

What does this mean for the comparison with IPCC predictions? I have overlaid the GISS data on the graph I prepared yesterday.

AR4 Verificantion Surf Sat.png

So using the NASA GISS global temperature data for 2000-2007 results in observations that are consistent with the IPCC predictions, but contradict the IPCC's conclusion that the surface and satellite temperature records are reconciled. Using the RSS data results in observations that are (apparently) inconsistent with the IPCC predictions.

I am sure that in conducting such a verification some will indeed favor the dataset that best confirms their desired conclusions. But, it would be ironic indeed to see scientists now abandon RSS after championing it in the CCSP and IPCC reports. So, I'm not sure what to think.

Is it really the case that the surface and satellite records are again at odds? What dataset should be used to verify climate forecasts of the IPCC?

Answers welcomed.

January 07, 2008

Forecast Verification for Climate Science

Last week I asked a question:

What behavior of the climate system could hypothetically be observed over the next 1, 5, 10 years that would be inconsistent with the current consensus on climate change?

We didn’t have much discussion on our blog, perhaps in part due to our ongoing technical difficulties (which I am assured will be cleared up soon). But John Tierney at the New York Times sure received an avalanche of responses, many of which seemed to excoriate him simply for asking the question, and none that really engaged the question.

I did receive a few interesting replies by email from climate scientists. Here is one of the most interesting:

The IPCC reports, both AR4 (see Chapter 10) and TAR, are full of predictions made starting in 2000 for the evolution of surface temperature, precipitation, precipitation intensity, sea ice extent, and on and on. It would be a relatively easy task for someone to begin tracking the evolution of these variables and compare them to the IPCC’s forecasts. I am not aware of anyone actually engaged in this kind of climate forecast verification with respect to the IPCC, but it is worth doing.

So I have decided to take him up on this and present an example of what such a verification might look like. I have heard some claims lately that global warming has stopped, based on temperature trends over the past decade. So global average temperature seems like a as good a place as any to provide an example.

I begin with the temperature trends. I have decided to use the satellite record provided by Remote Sensing Systems, mainly because of the easy access of its data. But the choice of satellite versus surface global temperature dataset should not matter, since these have been reconciled according to the IPCC AR4. Here is a look at the satellite data starting in 1998 through 2007.

RSS TLT 1998-2007 Monthly.png

This dataset starts with the record 1997/1998 ENSO event which boosted temperatures a good deal. It is interesting to look at, but probably not the best place to start for this analysis. A better place to start is with 2000, but not because of what the climate has done, but because this is the baseline used for many of the IPCC AR4 predictions.

Before proceeding, a clarification must be made between a prediction and a projection. Some have claimed that the IPCC doesn’t make predictions, it only makes projections across a wide range of emissions scenarios. This is just a fancy way of saying that the IPCC doesn’t predict future emissions. But make no mistake, it does make conditional predictions for each scenario. Enough years have passed for us to be able to say that global emissions have been increasing at the very high end of the family of scenarios used by the IPCC (closest to A1F1 for those scoring at home). This means that we can zero in on what the IPCC predicted (yes, predicted) for the A1F1 scenario, which has best matched actual emissions.

So how has global temperature changed since 2000? Here is a figure showing the monthly values, indicating that while there has been a decrease in average global temperature of late, the linear trend since 2000 is still positive.

RSS TLT 2000-2007 Monthly.png

But monthly values are noisy, and not comparable with anything produced by the IPCC, so let’s take a look at annual values.

RSS 2000-2007 Annual.png

The annual values result in a curve that looks a bit like an upwards sloping letter M.

The model results produced by the IPCC are not readily available, so I will work from their figures. In the IPCC AR4 report Figure 10.26 on p. 803 of Chapter 10 of the Working Group I report (here in PDF) provides predictions of future temperature as a function of emissions scenario. The one relevant for my purposes can be found in the bottom row (degrees C above 1980-2000 mean) and second column (A1F1).

I have zoomed in on that figure, and overlaid the RSS temperature trends 2000-2007 which you can see below.

AR4 Verification Example.png

Now a few things to note:

1. The IPCC temperature increase is relative to a 1980 to 2000 mean, whereas the RSS anomalies are off of a 1979 to 1998 mean. I don’t expect the differences to be that important in this analysis, particularly given the blunt approach to the graph, but if someone wants to show otherwise, I’m all ears.

2. It should be expected that the curves are not equal in 2000. The anomaly for 2000 according to RSS is 0.08, hence the red curve begins at that value. Figure 10.26 on p. 803 of Chapter 10 of the Working Group I report actually shows observed temperatures for a few years beyond 2000, and by zooming in on the graph in the lower left hand corner of the figure one can see that 2000 was in fact below the A1B curve.

So it appears that temperature trends since 2000 are not closely following the most relevant prediction of the IPCC. Does this make recent temperature trends inconsistent with the IPCC? I have no idea, and that is not the point of this post. I'll leave it to climate scientists to tell us the significance. I assume that many climate scientists will say that there is no significance to what has happened since 2000, and perhaps emphasize that predictions of global temperature are more certain in the longer term than shorter term. But that is not what the IPCC figure indicates. In any case, 2000-2007 may not be sufficient time for climate scientists to become concerned that their predictions are off, but I’d guess that at some point, if observations don’t match predictions they might be of some concern. Alternatively, if observations square with predictions, then this would add confidence.

Before one dismisses this exercise as an exercise in randomness, it should be observed that in other contexts scientists associated short term trends with longer-term predictions. In fact, one need look no further than the record 2007 summer melt in the Arctic which was way beyond anything predicted by the IPCC, reaching close to 3 million square miles less than the 1978-2000 mean. The summer anomaly was much greater than any of the IPCC predictions on this time scale (which can be seen in IPCC AR4 Chapter 10 Figure 10.13 on p. 771). This led many scientists to claim that because the observations were inconsistent with the models, that there should be heightened concern about climate change. Maybe so. But if one variable can be examined for its significance with respect to long-term projections, then surely others can as well.

What I’d love to see is a place where the IPCC predictions for a whole range of relevant variables are provided in quantitative fashion, and as corresponding observations come in, they can be compared with the predictions. This would allow for rigorous evaluations of both the predictions and the actual uncertainties associated with those predictions. Noted atmospheric scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. (my father, of course) has suggested that three variables be looked at: lower tropospheric warming, atmospheric water vapor content, and oceanic heat content. And I am sure there are many other variables worth looking at.

Forecast evaluations also confer another advantage – they would help to move beyond the incessant arguing about this or that latest research paper and focus on true tests of the fidelity of our ability to forecast future states of the climate system. Making predictions and them comparing them to actual events is central to the scientific method. So everyone in the climate debate, whether skeptical or certain, should welcome a focus on verification of climate forecasts. If the IPCC is indeed settled science, then forecast verifications will do nothing but reinforce that conclusion.

For further reading:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2003: The role of models in prediction for decision, Chapter 7, pp. 113-137 in C. Canham and W. Lauenroth (eds.), Understanding Ecosystems: The Role of Quantitative Models in Observations, Synthesis, and Prediction, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. (PDF)

Sarewitz, D., R.A. Pielke, Jr., and R. Byerly, Jr., (eds.) 2000: Prediction: Science, decision making and the future of nature, Island Press, Washington, DC. (link) and final chapter (PDF).

January 02, 2008

Natural Disasters in Australia

Here (in PDF) is an interesting analysis by researchers at Macquarie University in Australia:

The collective evidence reviewed above suggests that social factors – dwelling numbers and values – are the predominant reasons for increasing building losses due to natural disasters in Australia. The role of anthropogenic climate change is not detectable at this time. This being the case, it seems logical approach that in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent investments be made to reduce society’s vulnerability to current and future climate and climate variability.

australia.png


We are aware of few policies explicitly developed to help Australian communities adapt to future climate change (Leigh et al., 1998). One positive example is improved wind loading codes introduced in the 1980s as part of a National Building Code of Australia. These codes have been mentioned already and were introduced for all new housing construction following the destruction of Darwin by Tropical Cyclone Tracy in 1974. As a result, dramatic reductions in wind-induced losses were observed following Tropical Cyclones Winifred (1986) and Aivu (1989) (Walker, 1999) and most recently, Larry (2006) (Guy Carpenter, 2006). While these measures were introduced in response to the immediate threat from current climatic events, the benefits will hold true under any future.

An increased threat from bushfires under global climate change is often assumed. However, our analyses suggest that while the prevalence of conditions leading to bushfires is likely to increase, the impact is unlikely to be as dramatic as the combined changes of all of the other factors that have so far failed to materially affect the likelihood of bushfires losses over the last century. This is not to ignore the threat posed by global climate change, but, at least in the case of fire in Australia, the main menace will continue to be the extreme fires. The threat to the most at-risk homes on the bushland-urban interface can only be diminished by improved planning regulations that restrict where and how people build with respect to distance from the forest. Again these are political choices.

Posted on January 2, 2008 02:17 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

January 01, 2008

Is there any weather inconsistent with the the scientific consensus on climate?

Two years ago I asked a question of climate scientists that never received a good answer. Over at the TierneyLab at the New York Times, John Tierney raises the question again:

What behavior of the climate system could hypothetically be observed over the next 1, 5, 10 years that would be inconsistent with the current consensus on climate change? My focus is on extreme events like floods and hurricanes, so please consider those, but consider any other climate metric or phenomena you think important as well for answering this question. Ideally, a response would focus on more than just sea level rise and global average temperature, but if these are the only metrics that are relevant here that too would be very interesting to know.

The answer, it seems, is "nothing would be inconsistent," but I am open to being educated. Climate scientists especially invited to weigh in in the comments or via email, here or at the TierneyLab.

And a Happy 2008 to all our readers!

December 26, 2007

End-of-2007 Hurricane-Global Warming Update

There are a few new papers out on hurricanes (or more generally, tropical cyclones) and global warming that motivate this update.

katrina-gore.jpg

Before sharing these new papers, let me provide a bit of background.

Regular readers will know that I began studying hurricanes during my post-doc years at NCAR, and even co-authored a book on them (PDF) with my father. I've been fortunate to get to know many of the people in the science community who study hurricanes and also to become familiar with the literature on hurricanes and climate change.

Let me also remind readers that I believe that there is little policy significance in the debate over hurricanes and global warming. Why not? Because no matter who is right, it won't do much to alter the ranking of alternative policies focused on addressing future storm impacts. This is an argument I make in this recent paper, which I'll point to for interested readers:

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Future Economic Damage from Tropical Cyclones: Sensitivities to Societal and Climate Changes, Proceedings of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 365:2717-2729.(PDF)

But from a political perspective, the issue remains of considerable importance, as those advocating action on energy policies based on stemming the impacts from future cyclones place themselves far out on a thin limb. As tempting as it is to invoke the impacts of hurricanes as a justification for action on climate-related energy policies, it really should be a "no go zone."

In 2004, I along with Chris Landsea, Max Mayfield, Jim Laver, and Richard Pasch decided to prepare a short, accessible summary on the state of the debate over hurricanes and climate change, which ultimately was published as a peer-reviewed paper in 2005 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (PDF). In that paper we concluded that the debate over hurricanes (and their impacts) and climate change would not be resolved anytime soon, and we provided three reasons for this:

First, no connection has been established between greenhouse gas emissions and the observed behavior of hurricanes (Houghton et al. 2001; Walsh 2004). Emanuel (2005) is suggestive of such a connection, but is by no means definitive. In the future, such a connection may be established [e.g., in the case of the observations of Emanuel (2005) or the projections of Knutson and Tuleya (2004)] or made in the context of other metrics of tropical cyclone intensity and duration that remain to be closely examined. Second, the peer-reviewed literature reflects that a scientific consensus exists that any future changes in hurricane intensities will likely be small in the context of observed variability (Knutson and Tuleya 2004; Henderson-Sellers et al. 1998), while the scientific problem of tropical cyclogenesis is so far from being solved that little can be said about possible changes in frequency. And third, under the assumptions of the IPCC, expected future damages to society of its projected changes in the behavior of hurricanes are dwarfed by the influence of its own projections of growing wealth and population (Pielke et al. 2000). While future research or experience may yet overturn these conclusions, the state of the peer-reviewed knowledge today is such that there are good reasons to expect that any conclusive connection between global warming and hurricanes or their impacts will not be made in the near term.

If I might pat ourselves on our collective backs for a moment, these conclusions that we reached in 2005 were echoed in 2006 by a much more comprehensive assessment report prepared by the World Meteorological Organization:

A consensus of 125 of the world’s leading tropical cyclone researchers and forecasters says that no firm link can yet be drawn between human-induced climate change and variations in the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones.

And then in 2007 by the IPCC. IPCC lead author Neville Nicholls characterized the report's conclusions on hurricanes and climate change as follows:

We concluded that the question of whether there was a greenhouse-cyclone link was pretty much a toss of a coin at the present state of the science, with just a slight leaning towards the likelihood of such a link.

So our 2005 paper has held up really well. Did we get some recognition from the IPCC for providing an accurate assessment of the state of the scientific debate and its relevance? Well, no. But maybe we at least could point to a citation in the relevant IPCC chapter, which of course summarized all of the peer-reviewed literature? Actually the IPCC ignored our review. It is not that they were unaware of it. The lead author for the relevant chapter (Chapter 3 of WG 1), Kevin Trenberth, said of our paper at the time it was released:

I think the role of the changing climate is greatly underestimated by Roger Pielke Jr. I think he should withdraw this article. This is a shameful article.

So, despite providing an accurate assessment of hurricanes and global warming in 2005 which was ultimately backed up by WMO and IPCC, given Kevin Trenberth's obvious bias against our views, we weren't really surprised to see our paper go uncited by the IPCC chapter that Kevin was lead author on. I did notice that Trenberth was somehow able to find room to mention his own work 95 times in that chapter, but I digress.

So our assessment of the state of the hurricane-global warming has held up really well. And in fact, I'd say that our assertion of the lack of a conclusive connection seems even stronger today. Over recent weeks I have become aware of 4 significant new papers on hurricanes and climate change that raise important questions about many aspects of the debate. I highlight these four papers not because they point toward certainty in the debate, quite the opposite: they indicate that the debate is alive and well, and uncertainty continues to reign on this subject. And unless you are paying attention to the literature, you'll probably never hear of these papers.

The first paper is one I mentioned a few weeks ago by Vecchi/Soden published in Nature . That paper suggested that identifying the signal of global warming in tropical cyclone behavior would be challenging in the context of ongoing climate variability. I wondered why that paper escaped media attention, despite being published in Nature and being a major contribution to the ongoing debate. Here are three other papers that will probably also escape media attention.

Statistician William Briggs has two new papers. One is in press with the Journal of Climate, and is titled "On the changes in number and intensity of North Atlantic tropical cyclones" (PDF). That paper concludes:

We find that to conclude that there has been an increase in the number of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic basin depends on from what date you start looking. Looking from 1900 gives strong evidence that an increase has taken place; however, data early from that period are certainly tainted by inadequate and missing observations, so the confidence we have in this evidence is greatly reduced. Starting from (the years around) 1966 does not give evidence of a linear increase, but starting from (the years around) 1975 does. These potential increases are noted after controlling for the effects of CTI, NAOI, and the AMO. These differences due to start date could be real, perhaps because of some underlying cyclicity in the data that coincidentally bottomed out around 1975 (after controlling for AMO etc.), or it may just be a good lesson that it's possible to pick and choose your starting date to argue either way: yes, there's been an increase, or no, there hasn't been.

Briggs is presenting a second paper at the upcoming AMS meeting in which he applies the same technique to other basins, in a paper titled, "Changes in number and intensity of tropical cyclones" (PDF). That paper concludes:

We find little evidence that the mean of the distribution of individual storm intensity, measured by storm days, track length, or individual storm PDI, has changed (increased or decreased) since 1975 over all the oceans. Again, there were certain noted increases in the Indian oceans, which may be real or may be due to flaws in the data: this is evidenced by the posteriors from these oceans being very sensitive to the priors used. We did, however, find an unambiguous increase in the variance of the distribution of storm intensity over all oceans. We also found that two components of intensity, storm days and track length, have likely decreased since 1990 over most oceans. Thus, we conclude that mean intensity has not been increasing, at least since 1975, and certainly not since 1990.

A fourth paper has just been published in the journal Risk Analysis by Kenneth Bogen, Edwin Jones, and Larry Fischer, titled, "Hurricane Destructive Power Predictions Based on Historical Storm and Sea Surface Temperature Data." That paper concludes:

Results obtained clearly challenge recent hypotheses about the effect of rising SST on future hurricane destructive potential . . .In contrast to a significant post-1970 positive trend in NAO SST and previous claims that this trend is linked to increased hurricane activity (Goldenberg et al., 2001; Emanuel, 2005; Trenberth, 2005; Webster et al., 2005; Hoyos et al., 2006; Santer et al., 2006; Trenberth & Shea, 2006), this study found little evidence of APDI trend or of a substantial APDI correlation with SST.

These papers suggest that the science of hurricane and global warming is healthy and new voices are bringing new ideas and methods to the debate. This is all good news. But it should also be apparent that the issue remains highly uncertain and contested. If anything, uncertainties have increased since we published our 2005 paper.

So I am going to stand pat with our conclusions first presented in 2005 in that shameful (but accurate) article:

[T]here are good reasons to expect that any conclusive connection between global warming and hurricanes or their impacts will not be made in the near term.

That is where things stand on this subject at the close of 2007.

Posted on December 26, 2007 05:22 AM View this article | Comments (2)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

December 21, 2007

On the Political Relevance of Scientific Consensus

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has released a report in which he has identified some hundreds of scientists who disagree with the IPCC consensus. Yawn. In the comments of Andy Revkin's blog post on the report you can get a sense of why I often claim that arguing about the science of climate change is endlessly entertaining but hardly productive, and confirming Andy's assertion that "A lot of us live in intellectual silos."

In 2005 I had an exchange with Naomi Oreskes in Science on the significance of a scientific consensus in climate politics. Here is what I said then (PDF):

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).

December 19, 2007

A Follow Up on Media Coverage and Climate Change

Last week I asked a few reporters and scholars why it is that a major paper in Nature last week on hurricanes and global warming received almost no media coverage whereas another paper released last summer received quite a bit more. Andy Revkin raised the issue on his blog which stimulated many more responses. With this post I’d like to report back on what I’ve heard, and what I’ve concluded, at least tentatively, on the role of the media in the climate debate.

First, there are a wide range of explanations for the differences in media coverage of the two papers. Here is a summary of what I heard (warning: not all explanations are consistent with each other):

*The media is biased toward sensational stories, and Vecchi/Soden was not sensational.

*The relevant media was distracted by the Bali climate meeting.

*The relevant media was distracted by the AGU meeting.

*The relevant media had an interest in stories that added to pressure to act on climate change in Bali.

*The media has (recently) begun to downplay research that suggests uncertainty in climate science.

*Nature did not promote the Vecchi/Soden paper, whereas NCAR aggressively promoted Webster/Holland.

*Vecchi/Soden buried their main message, so the news value was hard to see.

*The hurricane/climate change issue is “s/he said-s/he said” and not interesting.

*Hurricane season is over.

One question I asked of several people is the apparent paradox between the recent "balance as bias" thesis which holds that skeptical voices are given too much play in debate over climate change with the claims from several people I spoke to that the media tends to favor alarming stories in the climate debate. The best answer I got to this came from a reporter:

In general, news coverage favors the sensational rather than the mundane. For example, there were tons of stories this year on the arctic sea ice extent. Next year, if the sea ice doesn’t set a record, the coverage will be less by orders of magnitude.

However, within stories on global warming, there is a great pressure to be balanced. So if we have scientists saying human activity is causing the melting, there’s a desire to represent another viewpoint, no matter how much in the minority it may be.

So there’s an overall bias for sensationalism (or alarmism, when it comes to global warming). The simple reason is this attracts eyeballs. But within stories there’s an effort for balance.

To test this out the hypothesis of a general bias against skeptical voices I searched Google News for references (2004 to present) to "climate change" and "hurricanes" for both "William Gray" who advocates no discernible effect of global warming on hurricanes and "Kerry Emanuel" who advocates a very strong effect. There were 268 stories quoting Emanuel and 297 quoting Gray. This would suggest that, on the hurricane issue at least, there is no indication that the media has disfavored skeptical voices. These data don’t say much about the media favoring the sensational, as Gray’s presence in news stories might just be "balance" in a sensationalized story. More work would need to be done to say anything on that.

Looking to the academic literature Mullainathan and Shleifer (2002, full cite and link below) provide the best piece of research that I have seen on media bias. They focus on ideological biases and also what they call "spin." which is the same thing as favoring (or creating) sensational stories as suggested above. They suggest that (emphasis added):

. . . competition is an important argument for free press: despite the ideological biases of individual news suppliers, the truth comes out through competition. We show that, with Bayesian readers, this is indeed the case: competition undoes the biases from ideology. With readers who are categorical thinkers, however, the consequences of competition are more complex. We show that, in the absence of ideology, competition actually reinforces the adverse effects of spin on accuracy. Not only do the media outlets bias news reporting, but the stories reinforce each other. As each paper spins stories, it increases the incentives of later outlets to spin. This piling on of stories means non-ideological competition worsens the bias of spin. Moreover, spin can exacerbate the influence of one-sided ideology. When the first news outlet that uncovers the story is ideological and later ones are not, the first one sets the tone and later ones reinforce this spin. This can explain why and how inside sources leak information to news outlets: their principal motivation is to control how the story is eventually spun.

Our theory of news reporting falls between two extremes. The traditional view is that readers demand, and media outlets supply, pure information about political and economic markets, and thereby facilitate better consumer and voter choice (Coase 1974, Besley and Burgess 2001, Besley and Prat 2002, Djankov et al. 2002, Stromberg 2001, Dyck and Zingales 2002). The opposite but also plausible view, pursued by Mencken (1920) and Jensen (1976), sees the media as entertainment, with no obvious grounding in reality. The perspective of this paper is that media outlets provide neither unadulterated information, nor pure entertainment. News outlets may be biased for ideological reasons. And consumers, while not desiring pure entertainment as might be the case with sensational or human interest stories, do indirectly affect news content because of how they process information. So for reasons of ideology news outlets may bias information to please their owners, and for reasons of consumer psychology they may bias the information to please their readers.

These results have significant implications for media accuracy. They explain, in particular, how the media in the aggregate are likely to get to the bottom of a news story with significant ideological dimension. Ideological diversity serves as a safeguard against spin. Our results are consistent with Richard Posner's (1999) highly favorable assessment of the press in the coverage of the Clinton affair. Our results also show why media bias is most severe in the cases where no or little ideological diversity bears on the story, such as the investigation of Wen Ho Lee. In this case, the bias comes from spin, and spin causes the followers to pile on. Competition among media outlets is not a solution to the problem of spin - indeed, it makes the problem worse. Our paper makes the case for extreme ideological diversity in the media - in such diversity lies the best hope against spin.

If these findings are anywhere close to the mark, then they offer a powerful counterargument to the "balance as bias" thesis. The climate issue is characterized by a wide range of ideological perspectives, and it seems hard to justify why any of those perspectives should not be represented by the media. That means reporting on a wide range of political perspectives and the justifications for those views offered by those holding those perspectives, even if the reporter, or the vast majority of scientists or other groups, happens to disagree with either the politics or justifications. Where there is diversity balance is not bias, but bias is bias.

S. Mullainathan and A. Shleifer. 2002. Media Bias, NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES, Working Paper 9295 NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, October 2002, © 2002 by Sendhil Mullainathan and Andrei Shleifer. http://www.nber.org/papers/w9295

For further reading, see this New York Times book review on media bias by Richard Posner.

December 18, 2007

Climate Policy as Farce

According to The Telegraph to deal with the issue of climate change the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir David King, has encouraged a "cultural change" among women to prefer men who save energy, rather than hog it, such as by driving Ferrari's. And for those of you unfamiliar with UK newspapers, it is important to point out that The Telegraph is not the UK's version of The Onion.

Ferrari-599-GTB-Fiorano-Models-IMG_8118.jpg

Here is an excerpt:

Professor Sir David King said governments could only do so much to control greenhouse gas emissions and it was time for a cultural change among the British public.

And he singled out women who find supercar drivers "sexy", adding that they should divert their affections to men who live more environmentally-friendly lives.

His comments were greeted with anger by sports car drivers who insisted that their vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions were tiny compared with those from four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Sir David, who is due to retire as the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser at the end of the year, said individuals needed to change their behaviour.

"I was asked at a lecture by a young woman about what she could do and I told her to stop admiring young men in Ferraris," he said.

"What I was saying is that you have got to admire people who are conserving energy and not those wilfully using it."

Sir David, who persuaded the Government to start using the Toyota Prius, a hybrid car that claims to have lower emissions than most conventional cars, added: "Government has so many levers that it can pull - when it comes to the business sector it is quite effective.

"As soon as you come to the individual, however, they will buy a Ferrari, not because it is cheap to run or has low carbon dioxide emissions, but because young women think it is sexy to see men driving Ferraris. That is the area where a culture change is needed."

Meanwhile, Europe is divided about strengthening regulations on emissions from autos:

Emergency talks aimed at setting EU targets to reduce CO2 car emissions are being held today amid fears that bitter wrangling between car manufacturing countries could delay or even derail the process entirely.

The European Commission is due to adopt a draft regulation tomorrow on reducing carbon emissions from passenger cars to 120 grams per kilometre within five years, but a bitter fallout between European heavyweights has plunged the key negotiations into crisis. Member states with car manufacturers that traditionally produce heavy, energy-hungry cars are concerned that the emission targets will unfairly benefit those businesses that make lighter, more efficient vehicles.

France and Germany, in particular, are believed to be at loggerheads over the Commission's proposals. French manufacturers such as Peugeot-Citroen have already reduced their carbon emissions to 140g for their cars, whereas German companies such as BMW, Mercedes and Daimler still lag behind on emission targets because their vehicles are heavier and higher performance models. Sweden, which also tends to make larger cars, is also thought to be unhappy about the proposals, while Italy is backing France.

What is lost among this empty moralizing and trade disputes is that a zero-emission Ferrari would require no need to change the libidinal desires of young women (granting Prof. King's dubious premise), nor an embarrassing trade dispute between countries committed to reducing emissions.

These anecdotes -- frustrating and farcical as they may be -- illustrate a serious underlying point: Much of climate debate is exactly backwards. Advocates are spending far too much time arguing over how important that it is that others change their behavior, usually in ways that those doing the advocating would want regardless of climate change. In this way climate change becomes not a problem to be solved but a political weapon in service of other goals. The alternative to the dominant approach to climate change would be to initiate those steps that will actually make a difference, thus enabling political compromise. As Dan Sarewitz and I have often argued it is often technological advances that enable compromise rather than vice versa. And in the case of climate change those steps that will actually make a difference begin with making the costs of producing alternative energy cheaper than fossil fuels (as Shellenberger and Nordhaus have argued, and now Google), and working to make people and ecosystems more resilient/less vulnerable to climate impacts. Of course many groups are doing exactly this, but they are certainly not those leading the charge on climate policy.

December 17, 2007

Shellenberger on Bali

Over at the Breakthrough blog, Michael Shellenberger offers some straight talk on the outcome of the Bali meeting.

December 16, 2007

China's Growing Emissions

According to this paper by two researchers at the University of California carbon dioxide emissions in China are projected to grow between 11.05% and 13.19% per year for the period 2000-2010. What does this mean? I hope you are sitting down because you won’t believe this.

In 2006 China’s carbon dioxide emissions contained about 1.70 gigatons of carbon (GtC) (source). By 2010, at the growth rates projected by these researchers the annual emissions from China will be between 2.6 and 2.8 GtC. The growth in China's emissions from 2006-2010 is equivalent to adding the 2004 emissions of Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to China's 2006 total (source). The emissions growth in China at these rates is like adding another Germany every year, or a UK and Australia together, to global emissions. The graph below illustrates the point.

Think about that.

China Emissions.png

Posted on December 16, 2007 05:44 PM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

December 14, 2007

Chris Green on Emissions Target Setting

Chris Green, an economist from McGill University (Canada), has written an op-ed for the Global and Mail explaining why he thinks that the setting of long-term emissions targets just kicks the can down the road. This is sure to be an unpopular opinion among many in the climate debate, but ultimately I think he is right. Here is an excerpt:

It is not difficult to set forth the outlines of a potentially effective climate policy. Unfortunately, what may be effective is not necessarily politically acceptable. It now seems that the main barrier to an effective climate policy is the obsession with emission targets — a legacy of the Kyoto Protocol. Emission targets stand in the way of concentrating on actions whose payoff is mainly beyond the targeted time frame. Worse, because of an effective effort by climate-change "campaigners" to portray the Kyoto Protocol as humankind's last best hope on climate change, emission targets have now taken on a life of their own, particularly in political arenas susceptible to grandstanding behaviour. The evidence is all around us.

The fundamental problem with mandated emission reduction targets is that they focus on ends rather than on the technological means of achieving those ends. Because targets are assessed only rarely in terms of what is doable but usually in terms of what pressure groups think ought to be done, target-based policies lack credibility in virtually the same proportion in which they are politically popular. The Conference of the Parties session in Bali will indicate whether there is a sufficient number of countries prepared to say that the target-setting emperor has no clothes, and are ready to put a moratorium on this failed approach to climate policy.

The op-ed is distilled from a longer piece from the magazine Policy Options, and a PDF of that essay can be found here. It is well worth a read regardless of your views on the climate issue.

A Question for the Media

I've generally thought that the media has done a nice job on covering the climate issue over the past 20 years. There are of course leaders and laggards, but overall, I think that the community of journalists has done a nice job on a very tough issue. However, there are times when I am less impressed. Here is one example.

news.stories.png

Nature magazine, arguably the leading scientific journal in the world, published a paper this week by two widely-respected scholars -- Gabriel Vecchi and Brian Soden -- suggesting that global warming may have a minimal effect on hurricanes. Over two days the media -- as measured by Google News -- published a grand total of 3 news stories on this paper. Now contrast this with a paper published in July in a fairly obscure journal by two other respected scholars -- Peter Webster and Greg Holland -- suggesting that global warming has a huge effect on hurricanes. That paper resulted in 79 news stories stories over two days.

What accounts for the 26 to 1 ratio in news stories?

December 13, 2007

Reality Check

From Alan Zarembo writing in the LA Times today, this dose of reality:

Here's a recipe to head off the worst effects of global warming:

1. Start with 30 new nuclear power plants around the world.

2. Add 17,0000 wind turbines, 400 biomass power plants, two hydroelectric dams the size of China's Three Gorges Dam, and 42 coal or natural gas power plants equipped with still-experimental systems to sequester their carbon dioxide emissions underground.

3. Build everything in 2013. Repeat every year until 2030.

latimes13dec07.gif

It's an intentionally implausible plan presented this week by the International Energy Agency to make a point: For all the talk about emissions reductions, the actual work is way beyond what the world can achieve.

As delegates from 190 countries gather here on the Indonesian island of Bali to negotiate a "road map" for the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, some experts are wondering whether the meeting has lost touch with the reality of tackling climate change.

So far, the thousands of delegates have been consumed by a debate over caps on emissions of greenhouse gases that are the primary cause of global warming.

The United States and China -- the two biggest carbon polluters, each accounting for about 20% of worldwide emissions -- have opposed any hard caps.

But while the debate continues, the most fundamental question of what it will take to achieve meaningful reductions has gone largely forgotten.

December 12, 2007

Fun With Carbon Accounting

Dieter Helm of Oxford has a very interesting paper (PDF) on trends in carbon dioxide emissions in the UK (via Climate Feedback) when they are measured from a consumption basis versus the production basis used under the Kyoto Protocol. Here is an excerpt from the paper:

On the UNFCCC basis, UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 15% since 1990. In contrast, on a consumption basis, the illustrative outcome is a rise in emissions of 19% over the same period. This is a dramatic reversal of fortune. It merits an immediate, more detailed and more robust assessment. It suggests that the decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy may have been to a considerable degree an illusion. Trade may have displaced the UK’s greenhouse gas appetite elsewhere. . .

The UK’s record against the UNFCCC greenhouse gas indicator is impressive, achieving a fall in emissions between 1990 and 2005. It has already beaten its Kyoto target of 12.5% by 2008–12. Against its own domestic goal of a 20% CO2 reduction by 2010, progress has been
less impressive. The UK’s CO2 emissions have risen slightly recently, and last year lay only 5.3% below 1990 levels. This is despite the fact that the UK’s climate change policy programme focuses effort on tackling CO2.

All of the above figures were produced on a territorial accounting basis. When the account is extended to the Office for National Statistics’ residents’ basis, by including international transport and overseas activities, the picture looks worse. Emissions fell by only 11.9%, as shipping and international aviation boomed. Furthermore, airline passengers and firms from the UK consumed more greenhouse gases during their visits and activities abroad than overseas visitors and firms did in the UK, weakening the UK’s overall performance when these trade activities are included. The trend is an adverse one.

Yet, even this extended scope of measurement does not represent the true picture of the UK economy’s impact on the climate. To understand the UK’s true impact, the greenhouse gas accounts should be reported on a 'consumption basis'. On this basis, all greenhouse gases embodied in UK consumption are counted, and by adding greenhouse gases embedded in imports and subtracting greenhouse gases embedded in exports, the crude calculations presented here suggest that UK emissions have been rising steeply. Between 1990 and 2003 the crude calculation indicates a rise of 19%.

Posted on December 12, 2007 04:55 PM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

December 08, 2007

Prins and Rayner in the WSJ

In the weekend WSJ there is a thoughtful op-ed by Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner, presenting the argument that they discuss at length in their essay The Wrong Trousers (PDF). Here is how the WSJ op-ed begins:

This week in Bali, Indonesia, delegates are considering climate policy after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. We will witness a well-known human response to failure. Delegates will insist on doing more of what is not working: in this case more stringent emissions-reduction targets, and timetables involving more countries. A bigger and "better" Kyoto will be a bigger and worse failure.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was a symbolically important expression of concern about climate change. It sought to manipulate a basket of diverse greenhouse gases and all their sources. It required its signatories to show demonstrable progress toward a 5% emissions reduction over 1990 levels by 2005. It did so partly through an international cap-and-trade system, and also by establishing a Clean Development Mechanism that would enable big greenhouse-gas emitters to claim credit for reducing emissions which they secured by buying reductions elsewhere, in developing countries.

None of this has worked. Nevertheless, support for "Kyoto" has become the test by which individuals and nations demonstrate whether they are for or against the planet and its poor.

Kevin Rudd's Australian government just showed this. It will ratify the Protocol to show that it is serious about climate change. But Australia, like other countries already signed up to Kyoto, will produce no demonstrable reductions in emissions or even in anticipated emissions growth as a result of doing so.

Where emissions reductions have happened, notably in eastern Europe, re-unified Germany and the United Kingdom, they were the result of unrelated policies -- such as the collapse of communism, and with it the shutdown of highly inefficient and polluting industries, or Margaret Thatcher's smashing of union power by destroying the British coal industry, which meant the substitution of coal by cleaner North Sea gas.

Strip out Germany and the U.K. from the EU-15, and European emissions actually increased 10% between 1990 and 2005. In five countries, emissions rates rose more than in the U.S. Without the collapse of Russia and Ukraine, the Kyoto Protocol's "all signatory total" registers rises since 1990. Even in Japan, emission levels are rising. Kyoto's supporters blame nonsignatory governments, especially the U.S. and, (until last week) Australia.

Read the whole thing.

Posted on December 8, 2007 03:27 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

December 06, 2007

Why Action on Energy Policy is Not Enough

When in the comments on Tom's post about the recent scientists petition for action on climate change I complained that 200 scientists calling for action on climate change had ignored adaptation, Todd Neff, a local reporter from here in Boulder, helpfully explained to me why climate change is only about energy policy and not human development, and how a focus on the latter implies "pooh-poohing" the former:

Lots of things kill human beings and make them miserable. Poverty and income inequality is real, and 50-1 ratios and 7.3s versus 0.15s should be addressed with real vigor. But that's not what's being talked about in Bali. Pooh-poohing efforts to transform the energy system because poverty remains a problem despite Lyndon Johnson's best efforts strikes me as diverting from the point. These climate scientists are completely ignoring Tay-Sachs disease, too, not to mention tooth decay and this nefarious hiphop prisoner jeans-at-the-knees look that clearly risks widespread tripping among America's male teens.

The view that adaptation is not a part of climate change does seem to be widely shared among environmentalists who would like the climate issue to be narrowly looked at as only an energy issue. Not everyone agrees, particularly folks who work in developing countries. OXFAM for example (PDF) has a different perspective, reflected in this call for action in Bali:

To enable poor countries to adapt successfully, change needs to occur at many levels. Communities must be at the heart of efforts to build resilience, whether through improving economic choices, diversifying livelihoods, protecting eco-systems, or strengthening food and water security. Ministries must be able to integrate climate risk management into their overall planning and budgeting, and must also integrate adaptation into development-planning processes, restructure and strengthen institutions, and provide early-warning systems. In addition, they must ensure that climate risks are integrated into national and local disaster-risk reduction plans, so that they can tackle the underlying vulnerabilities that put communities at risk in the face of the increasing number of climate-related disasters.

Given rich countries' historic role in causing climate change, they now have two clear obligations: to stop harming, by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions hardest and fastest; and to start helping, by providing compensatory finance so that poor countries can adapt before they suffer the full impacts of climate change. . .

In 2005, the G8 countries promised to increase annual aid levels by $50bn by the year 2010. This finance would be a crucial step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, which aim to halve poverty by 2015. But it is still only 0.36 per cent of rich countries’ incomes – just half of the 0.7 per cent target they signed up to in 1970. Importantly, it is also a target that does not account for the costs of climate change. Two years on, aid to poor countries is falling, not rising and, if current trends continue, Oxfam calculates that the G8 will miss their promised increase by a staggering $30bn. This funding deficit would be a major concern even without climate change.

On top of this deficit, climate change will make it harder to realise the MDGs because it threatens the prospects of reaching every one of them. As the Stern Review states, the scale of additional funding needed for adaptation 'makes it still more important for developed countries to honour both their existing commitments to increase aid sharply and help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change.'

Mitigation and adaptation as complements, what an idea! The continued opposition to adaptation among advocates for action on climate change -- whether scientists or members of the media -- remains as baffling as ever to me.

Posted on December 6, 2007 03:42 AM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | International

December 05, 2007

Lieberman-Warner

Not only was there an announcement from Bali, but S. 2191 went from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to the full senate. That's a pretty big deal too. It's endorsed by a variety of environmental groups, including the Apollo Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense, League of Conservation Voters, National Environmental Trust, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, The Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists and The Wilderness Society.

Who knows how it'll fare, but I thought it possibly worth commenting on this tired minority response from some guy in Oklahoma.

Yep. It'll cost money. Whether that'll deal a devastating blow to "American families, American jobs, and the American way of life" is harder to judge.

Say, just what is the "American way of life" anyway? For that matter, what are "American jobs"? I won't even ask about "American families." That one sure created a stir in the last election.

Anyone care to take a stab at a definition? Props if you can offer a coherent answer without begging the question.

Historic Declaration by Climate Scientists

Just minutes ago, more than 200 climate scientists released an historic declaration at the United Nations Climate Conference in Bali. (Find it here: http://www.climate.unsw.edu.au/bali/) They warn that unless steps are taken immediately to begin bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control, "many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction."

The signatories, who include many scientists we here in Boulder know well, including Caspar Ammann, Beth Holland, Kevin Trenberth, and James White, state that global warming must be kept below 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial temperature. "Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050," according to the statement. That means "there is no time to lose." Greenhouse gas emissions must actually peak and begin to drop within the breathtakingly short period of the next 10 to 15 years.

As challenging as these goals may seem, the signatories are urging the world to go even further. "As scientists, we urge the negotiators to reach an agreement that takes these targets as a minimum requirement for a fair and effective global climate agreement."

I will be curious to hear from Prometheus readers whether they can remember an equivalent statement by a large group of prominent scientists. It involves nothing less than the fate of billions of human beings. And although the signatories have couched their declaration in scientific facts and findings, they have waded far out into political waters.

Dan Glick, a well known environmental writer and friend once related an anecdote to me about an interview he did a number of years back with a prominent scientist about climate change. Dan asked the scientist, "Based on what you just told me, why aren't you shouting from the rooftops?"

"Why do you think I am talking to you?" he responded.

Now it looks like scientists are no longer asking journalists to shout from the rooftops for them. They're doing it themselves.

Posted on December 5, 2007 09:03 PM View this article | Comments (13)
Posted to Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change

November 28, 2007

Carbon in North America

I didn't want the month to expire without mention of the release of "SAP 2.2", or The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle, a report three years in the making issued by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Disclaimer, I was co-lead for the report, which was authored by over 90 scientists from a wide variety of disciplines. The bottom-line punchline is that sources (such as emissions from energy) outweigh sinks (such as forest and soil uptake) in North America by approximately 3:1. This strongly suggests that sinks by themselves are not going to be sufficient to deal with removing emissions in the future. Sinks are also likely to decline and become more uncertain in the future-- consider the scientific reports just this month on the volatility of sinks (a few weeks ago, we heard about emissions from forest fires, this week, it is about the reduced carbon uptake during the drought of 2002).

Being a bit of an insider on this report, I wanted to share my own personal opinion on what was distinct and unique about this effort for carbon cycle science and for the CCSP reports issued thus far.

As far at the treatment of carbon cycle science, it was the first attempt that we were aware of that examined the balance of carbon at the continental scale in North America with a common data framework from the ground up, meaning not from atmospheric data. We of course built off of many previous efforts at a national or regional scale. The second notable approach was the decision to place equal emphasis on the human activity components of the carbon cycle in North America and the land (and coastal) components. Carbon cycle science is often presented as a budget with much detail on the land, ocean and atmosphere side, with not much detail for the "source" terms, the energy side of the question. The document includes chapters on energy extraction and conversion, transportation, buildings, industry and so on. Also, we included from the start economic and policy analyses to provide a decision-relevant context to our information. Finally, we tried our best to include stakeholders and potential users of the information from the start of the process, at the outline stage, all the way to the finished draft. We held three separate workshops, provided numerous opportunities for comment, and changed the structure and questions answered in response to our participants. The process took more time, resources and effort, but was essential in the team's mind to fulfilling our mandate to be policy-relevant. Only time will tell if we succeeded. Some of the news coverage can be found here:
usa today
AP
EENews
Rocky Mountain News
Science Daily
News.com

and blogged by Andy Revkin of the NY Times here:

Please check out the report, feedback welcome!

Posted on November 28, 2007 12:48 PM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Dilling, L. | Climate Change

November 26, 2007

It Will Take More than Holocaust Analogies

Andy Revkin reports on a spat between NASA's James Hansen and Kraig R. Naasz, the president of the National Mining Association. You can go read the details at Dot Earth. After you do that you might mull over the following factoids (emphasis added). . .

From the International Energy Association's 2007 World Energy Report (PDF):

In line with the spectacular growth of the past few years, coal sees the biggest increase in demand in absolute terms, jumping by 73% between 2005 and 2030 and pushing its share of total energy demand up from 25% to 28%. Most of the increase in coal use arises in China and India. . . Higher oil and gas prices are making coal more competitive as a fuel for baseload generation. China and India, which already account for 45% of world coal use, drive over four-fifths of the increase to 2030 in the Reference Scenario. In the OECD, coal use grows only very slowly, with most of the increase coming from the United States. In all regions, the outlook for coal use depends largely on relative fuel prices, government policies on fuel diversification, climate change and air pollution, and developments in clean coal technology in power generation. The widespread deployment of more efficient power-generation technology is expected to cut the amount of coal needed to generate a kWh of electricity, but boost the attraction of coal over other fuels, thereby leading to higher demand.

From some excellent reporting by the Christian Science Monitor:

In all, at least 37 nations [in Asia, Americas, EU, and elsewhere] plan to add coal-fired capacity in the next five years – up from the 26 nations that added capacity during the past five years. With Sri Lanka, Laos, and even oil-producing nations like Iran getting set to join the coal-power pack, the world faces the prospect five years from now of having 7,474 coal-fired power plants in 79 countries pumping out 9 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually – out of 31 billion tons from all sources in 2012.

One can understand why Stanford's David Victor offers a less-than-optimistic view of the issue, here is part of his comment posted at Dot Earth:

The reason coal matters so much is that it offers the best route for getting leverage on emissions–because coal is used mainly in large central generating stations that are managed by professionals and where economies of scale favor the installation of carbon storage, etc.

That means that simple-sounding solutions like shutting coal plants or passing moratoria are politically impractical and also probably will set back the cause. For example, some existing stations may offer cheaper routes for controlling emissions (such as through installation of post combustion capture) than building brand new units. We don’t know which routes will work, and until we know some more–which requires a much larger effort–it is hard to know what exactly to recommend.

Our group at Stanford has started tracking CCS projects, and what’s striking to us is that if you add up ALL the projects you get to an effort that is perhaps 1/100 of what is actually needed to halt emissions. The whole policy effort, so far, is Potemkin–it looks nice on the surface, but there’s little behind the facade. And to pin all that on coal isn’t right. The problem is us.

The reality is that energy from coal is here to stay. That David Victor sees coal plants as part of the solution to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and James Hansen does not illustrates how widely experts who agree on the need to limit emissions disagree on energy policy.

Posted on November 26, 2007 04:34 PM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

John Quiggin on Adaptation

Last week I took strong issue with a view of climate adaptation put forward by Australian economist John Quiggin. After some discussion, John has graciously provided an extended and considerably more nuanced view of his thoughts on adaptation, which we are happy to highlight here. (Thanks, John!):

There is no reason to expect too little adaptation in developed countries, assuming that individuals and firms act in their own interests, and that governments follow standard policy procedures aimed at selecting policies that promote the welfare of their constituents. To the extent that these things don’t happen, international negotiations won’t help.

There is a big reason to expect excessive emissions by all countries (and the excess is much greater for the rich countries) because of the externality problem. Those making the emissions don’t bear more than a tiny fraction of the costs.

Finally, poor countries won’t have enough adaptation because they don’t have enough of anything. The best solution to this is to increase aid (and access to trade) across the board. Given sufficient resources, poor countries can their own decisions on how to allocate them.

Climate change negotiations provide a chance to put pressure on rich countries to compensate poor countries for the damage caused by climate change, or to pay them to participate in mitigation. In the former context, it may be possible to get finance for adaptation projects as part of the global negotiation process and if so, I welcome it.

Taking all of that together, this means the primary focus of international negotiations should be on emissions reductions and mitigation. But if aid for adaptation can be included in the package, that would be a good thing.

While I disagree with John, I can appreciate that his view is identical to that espoused in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and a logical consequence of its Article 2.

My own view is that Article 2 leads to a devaluing of sustainable development; specifically, it makes little sense in practice to try to separate "climate change adaptation" (where climate change is narrowly defined as those changes resulting from greenhouse gas emissions) from the more general challenge of sustainable development. I argue this point in the following paper:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2005. Misdefining "climate change": consequences for science and action, Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 8, pp. 548-561. (PDF)

I suspect that the tensions between rich world countries wanting to focus on emissions and developing countries focusing on development will be a central feature of the upcoming FCCC Bali negotiations.

Posted on November 26, 2007 06:09 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

November 25, 2007

Promises, Promises

Three interesting news stories shared by Benny Peiser:

First on adaptation from The Guardian:

A group of rich countries including Britain has broken a promise to pay more than a billion dollars to help the developing world cope with the effects of climate change. The group agreed in 2001 to pay $1.2bn (£600m) to help poor and vulnerable countries predict and plan for the effects of global warming, as well as fund flood defences, conservation and thousands of other projects. But new figures show less than £90m of the promised money has been delivered. Britain has so far paid just £10m. . .

The vast majority of the promised money was expected to be channelled through funds run by an organisation called the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington DC, which was to distribute it through programmes run by the World Bank and United Nations. But accounts presented to a GEF council meeting last week show that only $177m (£86m) had been paid into the funds by September 30 this year, much less than the $1.2bn due by the end of 2007 under the Bonn agreement. Another $106m (£51m) has been pledged to the GEF by specific countries, but not yet paid. Britain has pledged to pay another £10m over the next three years, which makes it among the largest donors, but still below its promised level of commitment.

Saleem Huq, head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said Britain should have paid between a fifth and a quarter of the £600m promised to date, based on past contributions to international aid. He said: "Most people in the climate change debate focus on how to cut emissions and how to bring the US, China and India into an agreement. The impact of climate change on poor countries, and the responsibilities of rich countries to help them, gets much less attention." The Department for International Development insisted Britain's share was closer to £30m a year, and that it had "fully met its commitments". It said Britain had given an extra £100m since 2005 to climate change work in the developing world through routes outside the GEF, such as bilateral aid given directly to poor countries.

Huq said this money cannot be counted towards the Bonn agreement because it was part of general overseas aid. "The Bonn agreement is clear that the money paid to help developing countries cope with climate change must be additional. Just counting overseas development aid as money for climate change adaptation cuts no ice and is double counting."

Next on emissions from EU autos:

European Union governments look set to reject calls for taxing cars based on their contribution to climate change.

At a Dec. 4 meeting, finance ministers from the EU’s 27 member states are scheduled to discuss a proposal for reshaping taxes imposed on cars so that they take account of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main climate-changing gas, they emit.

But Portugal, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, has conceded that a breakthrough on this plan is unlikely. This is despite a pledge made by the EU governments earlier this year that they would lead international efforts to fight climate change.

In an internal paper, seen by IPS, the Lisbon government says there is "opposition from a considerable number" of EU countries to "an obligation to introduce a CO2 element into national car taxes."

. . . Angela Merkel, now Germany’s chancellor, advocated in 1994 that a maximum legal limit of 120 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre should be established for cars. Merkel was her country’s environment minister at the time.

Although EU policy-makers have discussed that target ever since then, the Commission suggested earlier this year that a less stringent goal of 130g/km should be set. Ironically, it agreed to that measure after Merkel and the German car industry lobbied the Commission not to opt for the 120g/km limit.

And on that third runway at Heathrow:

Isn't politics wonderful? Within days of Gordon Brown's address to the conservation group WWF, in which he pledged eye-wateringly tough reductions in British emissions of Co2, the Government has announced its support for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. "This time he really gets it," Greenpeace's executive director had enthused after the Prime Minister's "Let's save the polar bear" speech. Yesterday, following the Transport Secretary's endorsement of BAA's expansion plans, Greenpeace was back to its default position, spitting ecological tacks.

You might think this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing (or possibly the left hand not knowing what the left hand is doing) especially given the Government's growing reputation for administrative chaos. In fact it is entirely deliberate. The Government both wants to claim "leadership in the fight against climate change" while at the same time it – quite understandably– does not want to do anything which might reduce this country's international competitiveness. It knows that these two objectives are incompatible – very well, then: it will contradict itself. . .

It has been written often enough that any likely reduction in Co2 emissions from our own generation of electricity is not just sub-microscopic in terms of any measurable effect on the climate: the People's Republic of China is now opening two new coal-fired power stations every week. Real "climate change leadership" would be developing "clean coal" technology and selling it to the Chinese – but for some reason that does not fascinate politicians in the way that targets do. It is insufficiently heroic.

We can see the same national self-obsession in the debate over the environmental consequences of opening a third runway at Heathrow: last year China announced plans to expand 73 of its airports and build 42 new ones. Yes, the British government could demonstrate "increased climate change leadership" by blocking BAA's plans to build another runway at Heathrow. Does anyone seriously imagine that the consequence of further congestion and delays will be something other than a transfer of traffic from that airport to others in the immediate vicinity, such as Charles de Gaulle, which already has much more capacity?

Posted on November 25, 2007 08:43 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

November 20, 2007

Energy? Climate change? Linked? Huh?

How does a high-level federal policymaker go on and on about energy policy, energy "balance," energy technology, clean coal, etc. without the slightest nod to climate change? I'm not sure how it can be done with a straight face, but Texas Senator John Cornyn tried it here Monday in a Dallas Morning News op-ed, and it really is a work of art.

I won't reproduce the 700-word screed here, but it is captivating reading. The word "energy" appears 33 times. Climate? Warming? Not once.

It's not that the Senator ignores the climate change link. It's not even that I think a discussion of energy policy must in all cases discuss climate. No, what's fascinating is the pains it took to dance around the issue in the article without once mentioning it, as if trying to pretend the issue doesn't exist. You can't read the article without knowing that its entire existence owes itself not to the debate over energy security (as Cornyn pretends in the article) but to the debate over climate change responses running through the Senate and House. Senator Cornyn's article is really about the current field of play on climate change politics and how it does and will affect energy policy for Texas, yet he manages to rant on the subject without ever mentioning the climate context. The pointed stand I'm sure is lost on nobody. To his Texas constituents it says, No matter what we do on carbon, I'm fighting for unrestricted, even expanded fossil energy extraction.

At this point, with RGGI, then the WCI and now the MGA, almost the entire country except for the south/southeast is throwing down the gauntlet. Even Kansas is making bold moves in the energy/climate policy area. A look at Pew's map of regional climate initiatives is pretty telling. Hell, Senator, even OPEC is talking about climate change now.

Senator Cornyn's op-ed does one thing: it paints very clearly the climate policy battle lines, and provides a strong reality check for the attitudes that are and are not changing. If you can't get a U.S. Senator to deign to mention climate in a 700-word piece on energy balance, you can see dirt flying from the trenches as they get dug deeper. Of course, not everybody in Texas sees things the same way. When the private equity market speaks that loudly, it makes me wonder who the Senator is getting his advice from.

Posted on November 20, 2007 02:38 PM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change

Optimal Adaptation?

Thomas Henry Huxley once described science as "organized common sense where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact." The same can be said of economics.

In a unpublished letter to Nature posted as a comment on the Nature Climate Feedback blog Australian economist John Quiggin responds to the recent Prins/Rayner piece in Nature. He explains how economics theory indicates that we really have no reason to worry about adaptation to climate change, because economics theory says so:

Prins and Rayner also assume that because adaptation is as important as mitigation, it should receive equal attention as a focus of public policy. But emissions of greenhouse gases represent a market failure. No individual or nation has a strong incentive to reduce their own emissions. Hence, mitigation requires a global policy response so that this externality is taken into account. By contrast, private parties, in deciding how to adapt to climate change, will, in the absence of policy intervention, bear the costs and receive the benefits of their decisions in most cases. There is no reason to expect too little adaptation.

I suppose one could argue that this thesis is supported by the obvious fact that the world today does indeed have an optimal level of climate adaptation.
bostonherald.jpg
But then again, one might also take a look at Bangladesh and the effects of Cyclone Sidr over the past week to see that such an argument is not only wrong but wrongheaded, and perhaps even morally bereft. The two "private parties" in the photo to the left (courtesy of The Boston Herald) are obviously practicing "optimal adaptation" in the "absence of policy intervention."

Yeah, right.

Posted on November 20, 2007 10:32 AM View this article | Comments (10)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

November 19, 2007

IPCC and Policy Options: To Open Up or Close Down?

With the release of the IPCC AR4 Synthesis report last week, the IPCC made a dramatic statement that has thus far escaped notice. The IPCC has endorsed the Kyoto Protocol process, at once discarding its fig leaf of being "policy neutral" and putting its scientific authority on the line by supporting a policy approach that many people think simply cannot work.

The IPCC Synthesis Report states:

There is high agreement and much evidence that notable achievements of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are the establishment of a global response to climate change, stimulation of an array of national policies, and the creation of an international carbon market and new institutional mechanisms that may provide the foundation for future mitigation efforts. Progress has also been made in addressing adaptation within the UNFCCC and additional international initiatives have been suggested.

The IPCC has never really been "policy neutral" despite its claims, so such openness in its political advocacy is a welcome change (an "emboldened" stance is also noted by the NYT's Elisabeth Rosenthal).

However, its claims that there is "high agreement" and "much evidence" of the success of the Kyoto Protocol approach are simply wrong, unless one restricts those claims to a fairly narrow group of experts. The ability of the Kyoto Protocol approach to effectively deal with the challenge of climate change is hotly debated (for instance, PDF). And there is considerable evidence that it has done little (or less) in practice. The claim by the IPCC that the UNFCCC has contributed to progress on adaptation is laughable (PDF).

In short, the IPCC appears to be using the language and concepts of a scientific consensus to suggest that there is also a consensus on the policy effectiveness and political worth of the Kyoto approach. This is a perfect example of how science becomes pathologically politicized. There are a wide range of approaches to climate change policy that are consistent with the work of the IPCC working groups. For an example of such an approach, see my congressional testimony from last May which synthesizes the 3 IPCC reports (here in PDF) in a way that suggests that it is future development paths that matter much more than Kyoto-like attempts to limit emissions.

Ultimately, it is fair to ask of the IPCC what its role in climate policy actually is -- is it to provide an assessment of the views of a wide range of experts on questions of relevance to decision makers? Or perhaps it is to survey a wide range of policy options to facilitate decision making by governments? Or is it to pick a "winner" in climate politics and advocate for its agenda above all others?

Is it to open up debate on climate policy or close it down? Judging by the AR4 Synthesis Report the IPCC has chosen the latter path.

The risk is that the IPCC has chosen a losing policy option to advocate for -- "the wrong trousers" to borrow a metaphor -- and thus is more likely to work against the adoption of effective climate policies than it would by presenting policy makers with a wide range of options to chose from, including but not limited to Kyoto. Climate policy debates will be ongoing for years and probably decades. We will need honest brokers if we are to made good decisions about climate policy.

The more that the IPCC resembles an advocacy group with a narrow political agenda tied to the Kyoto Protocol, the more it risks its credibility, legitimacy, and ultimately, its sustainability.

Posted on November 19, 2007 10:21 AM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

Prins and Rayner - The Wrong Trousers

Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner have released the full version of their analysis of the failure of the Kyoto Protocol. It is available as a PDF here. They write:

The idea that the Kyoto Protocol approach to climate change mitigation is the only solution compounds the problem of finding viable responses for real problems. Another solution must be found—or rather other solutions.

It is a thoughtful, hard-hitting, and on target assessment of the current state of climate policy debate. It deserves to be read carefully and broadly discussed. Have a look.

Posted on November 19, 2007 10:15 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

November 15, 2007

The Technological Fix

On Monday we had Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus kindly give a lecture on their new book Break Through. It was great to have them stop by, and nice to have an opportunity to get answers to questions about their book. Turnout was in the 100 range, judging by the size of the room. If you haven't read the book yet, you can either buy it, camp out in Borders with a cup of joe, or check out a three minute overview given by Geoff McGhee and Andrew Revkin of the NY Times covering the "New Environmental Centrists."

I want to respond to at least one of their claims, as well as a claim that appears to be circulating in the blogo-ether as what Revkin is calling the "Centrist" position, regarding the thought that we should encourage technological fixes to our problems. The reason I want to respond to this claim is both because I think it's right; and because I think it's, well, not right.

So let's talk about technological fixes.

I'm something of a technology buff. I like gadgets. I like science. And I like what technology does for me and the world. I also like what came about as a result of the ramped up R&D funds during the nineties. Moreover, I've never been totally enthusiastic about some of the neo-luddite language that once passed as environmentalist, so I agree with Shellenberger and Nordhaus (S&N) that we should all be encouraging, funding, supporting, and promoting technologies that help our civilization and our country advance. In fact, I also agree that environmentalists should be considerably more aspirational than desperational.

S&N argue persuasively that the "politics of limits" -- which is, roughly, the idea that regulation can serve as a cure-all to the world's environmental problems -- ought to be replaced with a "politics of possibility" -- which is kind of hopeful thinking about new possible worlds. Their argument runs primarily along political strategy lines and is buttressed by many studies that show that Americans don't respond well to the pessimism and "scare tactics" of environmentalism. The book's central idea should be familiar to anyone who has read their earlier work, Death of Environmentalism. In the end, it hangs on this dichotomy of political orientations: limits versus possibility.

And in this dichotomy lies the problem. It's a false concretism, supported mainly by S&N's choices of what counts as an environmental issue. Much of their book is geared to address concerns that relate to climate change. That's fine and well, of course, because climate change is one of the major hurdles that has been motivating the environmental movement for the past ten years or so. But it is also true that environmentalists have been dealing with many more problems than climate change for quite some time now. To declare the death of environmentalism, or to suggest that the positive panacea to the chicken-little environmental frame of mind is through technological and economic fixes, and that these fixes run contrary to the politics of limits, is to undermine a critical ethical thread that runs through environmental thinking altogether.

The greatest real-world instance of this thread is the relatively wide range of environmental issues that don't fall under the category of climate change; that were, prior to Al Gore and the Prius, central environmental issues. Here I'm thinking of issues like deforestation, desertification, extinction, habitat encroachment, water depletion, and so on. Environmental issues span the gamut, and many of them deal with human activities in and around nature. These issues can never be handled by technological or economic fixes, precisely because they are not problems of technical or economic failure. Some issues, for instance, relate to the problem of urban sprawl or to overconsumption, which cannot possibly be solved by appeal to technological or economic fixes. The "over" in 'overconsumption' isn't determined by what other people don't have (though that, surely, is part of it); it's determined by how much a person is entitled to and how much a person can reasonably use. Even Locke recognizes prohibitions against spoilage. These are primarily ethical and philosophical notions.

A second problem is that many of the classic environmental issues, among which climate change is only one, are best characterized as conflicts of interest, not just between two actors, but also between one actor and the environment. I want a cherry dining set, you want a cherry dining set, and there ain't enough cherry growing fast enough to give us both what we want. Moreover, when I take that cherry for my cherry dining set, I deprive the world of that cherry tree. In this case, it's not just any cherry tree; it's that cherry tree; that cherry tree under which Harold kissed Maude, under which Abe told his truth, under which Erma held her bowl. So too for many environmental problems: I want a ski slope, so I take that mountain. I want a fountain, so I take that reservoir. I want a McMansion development, so I take that open space. Taking specific features of nature yields particularized conflicts of interest; but even more than this, particularized clashes over what is and what is not permissible. Again, permissibility is an ethical issue, only loosely and tangentially related to the so-called "politics of limits."

What I'm expressing here isn't at all pessimism about technology. Far from it. As I've said, I like and support technological innovation. I'd even root for a budget that included a lot of it. I'm hoping to point out that S&N's "politics of limits vs politics of possibility" dichotomy has many rough edges; inattention to which heralds a premature call for the death of environmentalism.

For more on this, my colleague Michael Zimmerman, Professor in the Philosophy Department and the Environmental Studies Program, as well as an outspoken advocate of an expansively multidisciplinary approach to environmental issues, Integral Ecology, has his own new blog and has further comments on S&N here: http://integralecology-michaelz.blogspot.com/

November 08, 2007

Waxman vs EPA; Hansen vs Carbon

Congressman Henry Waxman excoriated EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson yesterday for the agency's approval of a new coal-fired power plant in Utah, charging that the move "is the climate equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire."

In his opening statement at the beginning of a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Waxman said, "The approval of new power plants without carbon controls is irresponsible; it is indefensible; and it is illegal."

In charging illegal behavior by the EPA, Waxman must be referring to the Supreme Court Decision in April finding that the agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Never mind that the court did not exactly order the EPA to set mandatory limits. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the petitioners ask EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles under §202 of the Clean Air Act? Last I looked, coal power plants were not mobile.

In any case, Waxman has been miffed since the EPA granted a permit in August for the new Deseret coal plant in Utah. "EPA didn't require any pollution controls for greenhouse gases," the California congressman said yesterday. "And it didn't consider other alternatives, such as renewable energy sources . . . It's as if the Supreme Court never ruled, and EPA never heard of global warming."

While Stephen Johnson was being flayed in Congress, a new paper was arguing that coal-fired power plants not equipped with carbon sequestration technology must be phased out before mid-century if CO2 is to be kept below the magic 450 ppm. The paper, by Pushker Khareecha and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been submitted to Environmental Research Letters, and was posted as a pre-press article on the GISS Web site.

In their paper, "Implications of 'peak oil' for atmospheric CO2 and climate," Khareecha and Hansen state that if estimates of oil and gas reserves by the Energy Information Administration prove accurate, atmospheric CO2 can be kept below 450 ppm, "provided that carbon capture and sequestration is implemented for coal and unconventional fossil fuels." They argue that gains in efficiency are necessary to "stretch" conventional oil reserves, obviating the need to turn to liquid fuels from coal, tar sands, oil shale and other unconventional fossil fuels. And they suggest that "a rising price on carbon emissions is probably needed to keep CO2 beneath the 450 ppm ceiling."

Kharecha and Hansen point out that their estimates do not take into account a variety of factors that could lead to higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide than their peak oil scenarios suggest. For example, the ocean’s ability to take up CO2 decreases as the amount of dissolved carbon goes up. Forests dying, permafrost thawing, and seafloor methane hydrates melting could add yet more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. And deforestation could exacerbate the situation still further.

The authors write:

"This suggests that society adopt a low limit on atmospheric CO2, which in turn implies that the putatively vast coal and unconventional fossil fuel reservoirs (figure 1) cannot be exploited unless the resulting CO2 is captured and sequestered. This conclusion does not depend upon details of the scenarios for fossil fuel use or upon the likely errors due to our approximation of the carbon cycle. Instead it depends largely on the fact that a substantial fraction—approximately one-quarter—of anthropogenic CO2 emissions will remain in the air more than 500 years (Archer 2005), which for practical purposes is an eternity."

If you need any further convincing that leaving tar sands in the ground is on balance a good idea, check out Elizabeth Kolbert's article in this week's New Yorker. (Read an abstract here.)

Lastly, Thursday ended on a more light-hearted note with an apparent but unconfirmed and possibly contested winner in the Best Science Blog contest of the 2007 Weblog Awards. Early in the afternoon, I received an email forward from Andy Revkin about a supposed rush by supporters and foes of Climate Audit to essentially stuff the ballot boxes. In this wacky election, you could actually vote once every 24 hours. (Mayor Daley, Sr., would have been proud.) And allegedly, climate skeptics were rushing in to try to push Climate Audit over the top. But a last minute blitz from the other side apparently gave another blog, Bad Astronomy, a razor thin edge of 45 votes out of more than 54,995 cast. (In his Climate Audit blog today, however, Steve McIntyre claimed victory — perhaps before the final numbers were tallied.)

A recount is apparently in progress…

Posted on November 8, 2007 08:09 PM View this article | Comments (5)
Posted to Author: Yulsman, T. | Climate Change

November 07, 2007

Sokal Revisited - I Smell a Hoax

Benny Peiser sent around on his CCNet list a link to the following paper:

Carbon dioxide production by benthic bacteria: the death of manmade global warming theory? Journal of Geoclimatic Studies (2007) 13:3. 223-231.

It has the following statement within the text:

Moreover we note that there is no possible mechanism by which industrial emissions could have caused the recent temperature increase, as they are two orders of magnitude too small to have exerted an effect of this size. We have no choice but to conclude that the recent increase in global temperatures, which has caused so much disquiet among policy makers, bears no relation to industrial emissions, but is in fact a natural phenomenom.

These findings place us in a difficult position. We feel an obligation to publish, both in the cause of scientific objectivity and to prevent a terrible mistake - with extremely costly implications - from being made by the world's governments. But we recognise that in doing so, we lay our careers on the line. As we have found in seeking to broach this issue gently with colleagues, and in attempting to publish these findings in other peer-reviewed journals, the "consensus" on climate change is enforced not by fact but by fear. We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardise the funding of the departments for which we work.

We believe that academic intimidation of this kind contradicts the spirit of open enquiry in which scientific investigations should be conducted. We deplore the aggressive responses we encountered before our findings were published, and fear the reaction this paper might provoke. But dangerous as these findings are, we feel we have no choice but to publish.

Shocking, it seems. But call me a skeptic skeptic - I'm calling this a hoax.

Posted on November 7, 2007 12:32 PM View this article | Comments (11)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

November 05, 2007

An appreciation of Mr. Bloomberg

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now out in favor of a carbon tax (see also this post by Charlie Komanoff). This is significant because it makes him one of the very few nationally-prominent (or at least nationally-known) politicians to stake out for a C tax over cap-and-trade.

Bloomberg's support for a C tax is important both because he is seen as a technocrat's technocrat and because he presides over eight million carbon consumers. Unfortunately, as Redburn illustrates well in his article, carbon tax proponents have more than an uphill battle to get their way on climate mitigation legislation.

It's not that the carbon tax or cap-and-trade? debate is over already (which, really, would be before it even began), it's that there is a strong perception in the community that it is over. Wonky types (which in my usage are political realists, not optimists), especially those with some influence on the policy development process, have been telling me personally and conference crowds (like this one) that it's all over and cap-and-trade is a done deal. This perception might be more important than (the way I see) reality, which is that nobody wants to deal with this problem and because of this, all options are still on the table. It's not that I am full bore on the C-tax train either, but I would like to see an honest, complete national debate on the two approaches before the "elites" declare the policy problem solved. In particular, I would love to see this issue come out during primary debates for both parties, to at least introduce the average Joe to the issue. Of course, the vagaries of carbon economics will be viewed by party handlers as too nuanced and difficult to explain during debate, but I'll preemptively call bullshit on that line. Try us.

Speaking of Mr. Bloomberg, I was flying back from NYC on Halloween and, caught in the captive state of the miserable United economy passenger, had nothing better to do but read deep into the nether regions of the NY Times metro section. There I found this article about a public stumble between the mayyuh and a deceased NYPD officer, James Zadroga, who had worked long hours at the World Trade Center site. Zadroga passed away a few years later and his family wanted the cause of his death to be declared working at the WTC site.

Before going further, I should explain this: there is emotion involved in the environmental problem of the WTC site that goes beyond the attacks. I lived in NY during the WTC attacks and the smell of the burning pile was strong for at least two weeks and was noticeable even far uptown (north) when the prevailing winds are westerly. My recollection is that near the site the smell was strong even a month after the attacks. Everybody in that city knows the smell of the WTC site, and I think that experience triggers an immediate sympathy in citizens for the workers (many of whom stayed on the site for weeks without going home) and what they were exposed to. The EPA debacle with air quality testing and the public relations of it didn't help. So the fact that a family claims that one of their sons was killed by WTC air after working on the site is bound to garner immediate sympathy for the claim.

Bloomberg perhaps forgot this context when he addressed Zadroga's case. A pathologist had declared Zadroga's death a direct result of WTC air, but NYC's medical examiner recently rejected that finding. In a clear case of dueling experts, Bloomberg picked his. Despite this strong statement from the NYC employee:

"Our evaluation of your son’s lung abnormality is markedly different than that given you by others," Dr. Hirsch wrote in the letter, dated Tuesday and also signed by Dr. Michele S. Stone, another medical examiner. "It is our unequivocal opinion, with certainty beyond doubt, that the foreign material in your son’s lungs did not get there as the result of inhaling dust at the World Trade Center or elsewhere."
the excess of objectivity problem is clear. The family's response:
"We knew the city was going to say this," Mr. Zadroga said. "They’ve been lying since Jimmy got sick. They've been lying about all these W.T.C. people getting sick. They would never admit that Jimmy got sick. They treated him like a dog all those years."

Instead of recognizing the excess of objectivity problem, and forgetting all of the other political context to this case, Bloomberg simply said Zadroga was "not a hero." Oops.

All of this isn't really what caught my eye, though. It was the way Bloomberg handled the backlash:

The tone of Mr. Bloomberg's comments yesterday veered sharply from statements he made on Monday after receiving an award from the Harvard School of Public Health. Asked why science could be unpopular, he said that it sometimes provided answers that people did not want to hear, as in the case of Mr. Zadroga. Referring to Dr. Hirsch’s finding, he said, "Nobody wanted to hear that."

"We wanted to have a hero, and there are plenty of heroes," he said. "It's just in this case, science says this was not a hero."

Yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg described Detective Zadroga as "a dedicated police officer" with an impressive record who "volunteered to work downtown, and I think that the odds are that he clearly got sick because of breathing the air — but that's up to the doctors."

So he doesn't exactly grasp that the word "hero" is loaded and dripping with emotion, especially in this case, and especially in NY where the tabloids use the word as an interchangeable synonym for police officers and firefighters. But at least he gets why he's being attacked for his statements and what science and the popular perception and acceptance of science has to do with it.

November 02, 2007

Individual Behavior and Climate Policy

Michael Vandenbergh and Anne Steinemann have a paper forthcoming in the NYU Law Review called "The Carbon Neutral Individual." (a preprint is available on SSRN.)

In this paper, Vandenbergh and Steinemann assess the carbon dioxide output under the direct control of individuals and households, such as driving, space heating, household electricity use, and find that this accounts for 32% of US carbon dioxide emissions. The authors do not attempt a comprehensive footprint (something that would include indirect carbon emissions from manufacturing commodities, grow food, etc.) but focus on those things where the carbon dioxide emissions are most directly connected to the individual's action (getting in the car or adjusting the thermostat).

The paper notes that just the individual and household carbon emissions in the U.S. are greater than the total emissions of any other nation save China.

Vandenbergh and Steinemann conclude that any climate change mitigation policy must seriously consider measures to stimulate individual behavior change---perhaps by activating personal norms---in addition to more traditional regulatory actions that focus on large industrial actors.

On which topic, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the Precourt Institute, and the California Institute for Energy and Environment are holding a joint conference next week in Sacramento on Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change

Disclaimer: I work with Vandenbergh, so this is not an unbiased assessment.

Posted on November 2, 2007 08:35 PM View this article | Comments (2)
Posted to Author: Gilligan, J. | Climate Change

November 01, 2007

The Young and the Mindless

As virtually anybody who has flipped on the news in the past ten days knows, residents of Southern California have experienced something not unlike Dante’s fiery sixth circle of hell. Short story: Big fire, at least fourteen dead, 138 injured, a million displaced, and billions of dollars in property damage. Shorter story: pretty awful. As usual, speculations about causal origin immediately spread (like wildfire) throughout the modern mess media. Fox news reported several times, presumably non-speculatively, that the fires might have been deliberately set by Al Qaeda. Scary stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, Matt Drudge slung the mud that some high-level producer at CNN had circulated a memo that commentators should use the fires to “push” the Planet in Peril series, but that they shouldn’t do so “irresponsibly.” Here’s an illuminating series of comments from the ever-entertaining Free Republic. Today, as a matter of fact, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is holding a hearing on the intensity and frequency of forest fires as tied to global warming. Coincidence? Probably not.

Sigh. It would appear from the shenanigans that nothing is immune from politics.

It came to light yesterday that a young boy, age uncertain, in what can only be described either as a child’s act of pyro-curiosity or as a defiant act against an overly paternalistic Smokey the Bear, has claimed responsibility for -- wait for it -- playing with matches. Denying Smokey’s sage advice, the boy was being a boy; and playing with matches. As most kids with scout badges know, playing with matches can cause forest fires. So here we have our cause of the fire. Or at least we have one cause of one of the fires.

Smokey the Bear Now that we know that a careless young boy was the cause of so much heartache, we are left with the undesirable question of how to make sense of this news. There are plenty of ways to think about kids who play with matches. Discussion in many circles (probably not far from the sixth circle) has already shifted to arguments about whether the boy should get the gallows or the guillotine. That’s a point for a different but not unrelated discussion. For some reason, however, it appears that many are inclined to view this revelation as one that confirms the absurdity of whatever offensive political view was brought to bear on explanatory accounts of the event. Progressives are calling foul on terror-mongers and reactionaries are calling foul on chicken-littles.

Let’s talk about causes below the fold.

Start with a bit of cocktail party name-dropping: our homeboy Aristotle. As his Physics is one of the mainstay texts in your library -- it is in your library, isn’t it? -- you’ll probably recall that Aristotle identifies four causes: the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final cause. For those sad souls who’ve lost their copy of Aristotle in the fire, you can read philosopher Marc Cohen’s notes on the causes here. (They’re pretty good.) These causes are more or less each supposed to provide answers to the question: What causes X? You don’t really need to understand all four causes in order to get the point I’m going to make, just that they each provide plausible answers to the question “what causes X” and that they don’t necessarily run at odds with one another.

What caused the fire? Good question. Fire is kind of tricky, but let’s aim for a plausible answer. It has come to our attention that what caused the fire was a little boy who was playing with matches. That answers some questions, but it doesn’t answer all of our questions. For instance, we know that a boy caused the fire, so it appears that a human was behind the event. That’s our efficient cause. We also know that matches caused the fire, so somehow there was some material causal chain unrelated to humans. That’s our material cause. Along with this, we know that there was low-lying brush and some high branchy-trees, creating a nice little furnace for our fire. So there we have our formal cause as well. What we also know is that what caused the fire was a lot of dry branches and stuff, all of which ‘likes to burn’, which is a natural cycle of any forest. That sounds pretty reasonable too: our final cause. A quartet of causes leading to a cacophony of disaster.

If we stop at the beginning, with the efficient cause, we see that our questions quickly open up along the axis of responsibility. Was the boy really aware of what he was doing? Did he have intent? Could he have done otherwise? Was the boy trained by Al Qaeda? And so on, and so on. We could go on for quite a long time down this road. I say, spare him the gallows. It’s likely that he’s just a normal kid.

Those questions, I daresay, are a pretty divergent distraction from the much more central question that readers of this blog will likely seek an answer for. What readers here probably want to know is the underlying formal cause, the reason that Southern California went up like Bambi’s bedroom. Joseph Romm has a pretty informative essay suggesting that global warming may be partly responsible. I’m not qualified to judge Romm’s science, but I find his argument plausible. Just as with the axis of responsibility, we could go on for quite a long time down that road too. Formal causes are pretty hard to nail down.

What strikes me as important here is not which of the many different kinds of causes are responsible for the fire. We can come up with several explanations, none of which are contradictory. No, what’s important is that we recognize that we can’t just wipe other causal explanations off our list when we’ve identified a single causal explanation like, say, a child with a matchbook. Setting aside the thought that the fires could have been set by a single young boy or several young terrorists-in-training, there is the important question about what formal arrangement facilitated the event. These formal causal explanations run independently of efficient causal explanations (not to mention material causal explanations or, gads, final causal explanations). Formal causal explanations are what are at issue when people point the finger at climate change.

Though Aristotle’s taxonomy of causes is pretty outdated -- okay, very outdated -- what I like about it is that it clarifies the multidimensionality of causes, pulling us in a direction away from searching for the elusive “root cause.” All ye who embark on that search, as they say, might as well abandon hope.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program: http://www.smokeybear.com/

October 30, 2007

A Range of Views on Prins/Rayner

Here are a few reactions, and my comments in response, to the Prins/Rayner piece in Nature last week, which has generated a good deal of healthy discussion on climate policies.

At his new DotEarth blog Andy Revkin notes perceptively that debate over greenhouse gas reduction policies is emerging between those who think that setting a price for carbon is the most important action to be taken, versus others who think that setting a price for carbon can only have modest effects on efficiency, and by itself will not stimulate a transition to a post-fossil fuel world. Most everyone nowadays, including Prins/Rayner, would seem to agree that putting a price on carbon makes good sense. The debate is over the degree to which setting such a price will lead to a significant change in the trajectory of emissions paths. Prins/Rayner are not optimistic (and I agree), and others are more sanguine.

At Nature’s Climate Feedback, a number of informed commenters respond to Prins/Rayner by raising questions about the effectiveness of Kyoto mechanisms. Prins/Rayner emphasize the symbolic importance of Kyoto, but criticize its practical results. They suggest that more of the same – feel-good symbolism over actual, large emissions reductions – is not what the world needs at this point. On this point reasonable people will disagree, but ultimately atmospheric concentrations will arbitrate the debate.

The Wall Street Journal Energy Blog does a nice job identifying where Prins/Rayner agree with and disagree with the policies of the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, the role of technology in the climate debate has been caught up in partisan bickering. Some argue that all of the technologies that are needed to stabilize emissions (or at least make a big forward step in that direction) are already available. I find this argument unconvincing at best, and more likely just plain wrongheaded. Others, such as Nordhaus/Shellenberger suggest that a massive investment in new technologies are needed, a point on which I, and Prins/Rayner, agree. Many environmentalists do their arguments (and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) no favors by taking an anti-technological investment stance, which seems more like a reflexive reaction to be against anything that the Bush Administration might be for -- Note however that while the Bush Administration often uses the word "technology" in the context of climate change policy, they have never advocated the sort of investment advocated by Prins/Rayner/Nordhaus/Shellenberger.

There will be more to discuss when Prins/Rayner release the long version of their analysis, hopefully soon. We’ll link to it here when available.

Posted on October 30, 2007 07:05 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

October 24, 2007

Prins and Rayner in Nature

Gwyn Prins, of the London School of Economics, and Steve Rayner, of Oxford University have a brave and challenging piece in the current issue of Nature on why we need to rethink climate policy. Here is how it begins:

The Kyoto Protocol is a symbolically important expression of governments' concern about climate change. But as an instrument for achieving emissions reductions, it has failed. It has produced no demonstrable reductions in emissions or even in anticipated emissions growth. And it pays no more than token attention to the needs of societies to adapt to existing climate change. The impending United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Bali in December — to decide international policy after 2012 — needs to radically rethink climate policy.

Kyoto's supporters often blame non-signatory governments, especially the United States and Australia, for its woes. But the Kyoto Protocol was always the wrong tool for the nature of the job. Kyoto was constructed by quickly borrowing from past treaty regimes dealing with stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain from sulphur emissions and nuclear weapons. Drawing on these plausible but partial analogies, Kyoto's architects assumed that climate change would be best attacked directly through global emissions controls, treating tonnes of carbon dioxide like stockpiles of nuclear weapons to be reduced via mutually verifiable targets and timetables. Unfortunately, this borrowing simply failed to accommodate the complexity of the climate-change issue.

Kyoto has failed in several ways, not just in its lack of success in slowing global warming, but also because it has stifled discussion of alternative policy approaches that could both combat climate change and adapt to its unavoidable consequences. As Kyoto became a litmus test of political correctness, those who were concerned about climate change, but sceptical of the top-down approach adopted by the protocol were sternly admonished that "Kyoto is the only game in town". We are anxious that the same mistake is not repeated in the current round of negotiations.

The Kyoto Protocol was always the wrong tool for the nature of the job.

Already, in the post-Kyoto discussions, we are witnessing that well-documented human response to failure, especially where political or emotional capital is involved, which is to insist on more of what is not working: in this case more stringent targets and timetables, involving more countries. The next round of negotiations needs to open up new approaches, not to close them down as Kyoto did.

Read the whole thing free on the Nature site.

Posted on October 24, 2007 02:13 PM View this article | Comments (2)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

October 19, 2007

Citing carbon emissions, Kansas rejects coal plants

Hard to say what John Marburger would say about this (more on him in a minute), but yesterday Kansas' Secretary of Health and Environment cited carbon emissions in rejecting the application to install two 700MW coal plants in western Kansas.

The move may be more about politics than about climate, but whatever the reasons, the decision was sold on climate and that's as important as it is surprising. It's also another loud declaration that the states aren't going to wait around for a national-level policy to move on climate mitigation. Here's hoping that the losers on this decision give more thought to developing a profitable wind project on the plains than to giving lawyers millions to argue the coal case. (The quote from the coal plant developer's spokesman, "We are extremely upset over this arbitrary and capricious decision" invokes the legal key phrase that spells l-a-w-s-u-i-t.)

News on the Kansas move comes on the heels of some bizarre statements on climate change from Mr. Marburger. I'm not sure what his agenda is, exactly, but the Washington Post today has him saying

...the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, "is going to be a very difficult one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people's lives."

and

Marburger said that while there is general agreement that human activity is producing too much carbon dioxide and "you could have emerging disasters long before you get to two degrees. . . . There is no scientific criterion for establishing numbers like that."

I'm wondering what the point of saying this is. Is he trying to pave the way for the Bush White House to say, "We're not going to target 2 degrees, we're going to target 3."? Certainly his "not linked to regional events" statement is an absurd misdirection, completely ignoring risk while seeming to make a case for inaction due to incomplete information. His second statement essentially does the same, this time acknowledging risk but implying that it is not well-enough characterized to make policy choices. Are Mr. Marburger's statements part of a White House communication strategy or is this really how he is approaching and advising the problem?

Posted on October 19, 2007 03:07 PM View this article | Comments (3)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change

October 17, 2007

The Misdirection of Gore

--> UPDATE: Team Gore responds to the allegations discussed below.<--

:::::::::::

Over the past few weeks, Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" has gotten attention not only because he has been awarded a Nobel, but also from the British judiciary. In response to a court case brought against the school system after it made the film available to its teachers, a judge in Britain found that the film is permitted to be shown in schools, but that it must also be accompanied by scientific guides that go into further depth on the claims in the film. Here's an article describing the case: BBC News.

What's interesting is the extent to which this response is being spun by many journalists as a blow against the scientific accuracy of Gore's film (and, consequently, a win for those who view global climate change as primarily a political issue). See here: The Times, ABC News, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, and many others, as well as the BBC article I cite above. For intelligent and must-read commentary on sloppy and irresponsible journalism, read this, from Deltoid.

But first, let's pick this lede apart.

According to reports, many of which have been trumpeted on the DrudgeReport, a lorry driver reportedly has won his case against Al Gore's film because a judge decided (determined, declared) that some of the statements in Al Gore's film are scientifically inaccurate. Not 'misleading', mind you, but scientifically inaccurate. The above commentary at Deltoid demonstrates this report about the judge's verdict to be patently false: the judge only cited the alleged nine errors as 'errors'. He did not rule on their content at all.

I think there are other worrisome outcomes of such reporting, and that's what I wanted to gripe about here. At worst, some, but not all, of Gore's comments are misleading. But if Gore's comments are only misleading, they just need clarification, which is presumably provided in the guide (link below). The nine claims of misleadingness (reported in some papers as scientific inaccuracies) are, as it turns out, largely related to implications resulting from images superimposed over dialogue, as when one uses the word 'like' to issue an example. For instance, there is a moment in the film where images of Katrina are shown over dialogue suggesting that hurricane intensity may increase due to warming. Such implications apparently aggravate people-who-play-meteorologists-on-TV, like CNN's Rob Marciano.

So let's ask these questions: was Katrina a hurricane? Was it intense? And did it have dire implications for human beings? I think the answer to all of those questions is 'yes', though some may beg to differ. Seems to me that the choice of Katrina images was clearly aimed to illustrate a point, not to fallaciously imply or declare causality. Would any other images serve to illustrate that point? Perhaps. Would a cartoon of a hurricane? Not likely. Or perhaps the word 'hurricane'? Unlikely as well. Or what about a different hurricane, like Dean or Humberto or Ingrid? Possibly, but probably not as poignantly. The depiction of images from Katrina seems like a pretty reasonable illustration to me, though it has been spun by many people into an implied causal relationship.

In a way, using Katrina to illustrate this point is like offering up the claim that cigarettes result in millions of lung cancer deaths while superimposing a picture of an expansive cemetery. It's preposterous for folks like Marciano to claim that somehow the speaker is misleading the audience into believing that all people buried in that cemetery had died of lung cancer. Just so, it's preposterous to claim that this moment in the film is somehow scientifically inaccurate. (Just so, it'd be preposterous of a reader to claim that I had accused Rob Marciano of saying something about smoking deaths.) A causal relationship was never implied in the first place (disregarding, for the time being, questions about causality and observation).

Further, if the charge is as reported -- that the claims are scientifically inaccurate -- then the charge is itself misleading. It suggests (or implies) either that the whole documentary is false (or scientifically inaccurate) or that some portions of the documentary are false (or scientifically inaccurate), just as when a finger is pointed at an accused and that accused is presumed guilty from the wag of the finger.

Finally, if the charge is only that Gore's comments are misleading, the charge stands as a charge of misleadingness, not a correction or clarification of what's misleading about the statements. This is an old trick of the sophists: to sully the speaker by indicting his expertise without actually working constructively or charitably to strengthen the argument. In short, it's a fallacy.

Luckily, the guide offered (and now mandated by a judge) to teachers in the UK school system spells this all out. Check it out here.

Personally, I think the guide, and even the court decision, is a victory. It clarifies important concerns that the film glosses over (presumably for editorial as well as illustrative purposes) and it certainly makes the film more engaging for students. It is, in this respect, a useful pedagogical aid. Far from being a corrective for inaccuracies and misleading claims, it's an attempt to help students think critically about their role in the climate. Just read it. I think it's pretty clear that students who engage in this discussion before, during, and after the film will come away with a richer sense of the climate concerns than before. Much thanks to Gore and the British Government for that.

Posted on October 17, 2007 11:37 AM View this article | Comments (6)
Posted to Author: Hale, B. | Climate Change

October 12, 2007

Al Gore and the Nobel

Former Vice-President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) share this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so, they join the ranks of previous winners such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, and many other internationally recognized figures working on human rights and global security issues.

I was personally surprised by this decision by the Nobel Committee on many levels.

In my recollection, the Nobel Peace Prize is traditionally awarded to individuals and organizations working to end human conflict or improve the lives and dignity of oppressed or poverty-stricken people. In awarding the prize to Gore and the IPCC for the climate change issue, the Nobel Committee are extending the boundaries of what we recognize as a human conflict issue to include the global environmental issue of climate change. Certainly climate change has the potential to inflame conflicts and initiate new ones, and many have pointed this out in their evaluation of the impacts of climate change on societies. But in my opinion the Nobel should be reserved for those on the front lines combating the human tragedies of our day such as the atrocities of Darfur, ongoing military occupation in Burma, and plunging life expectancy in many African nations. That the Nobel Committee has no environmental prize is a reflection on the inadequacy of the Nobel categories, and should not be an excuse to make the Peace prize into the political issue “catch-all” category of the day.

But I have a few specific beefs with the Nobel Committee’s selection of Mr. Gore. The citation reads: “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change" and for Gore specifically, “He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.” Certainly the IPCC has done this in spades, for many years and involving many, many scientists. The IPCC and the thousands of individuals who generally volunteer their time deserve a great recognition. But Mr. Gore has had a mixed record in his efforts on climate change. Certainly, he recognized the importance of the issue early on, writing a book on the subject, “Earth in the Balance,” in 1992. But Gore has also had an opportunity to influence US policy from the second highest platform available—the Vice-Presidency. In his 8 year term as Vice-President, the US became a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol (largely attributed to Mr. Gore’s efforts) but never ratified it. The blame for this has been laid on President Bush, but Mr. Gore did not make this a platform of his Presidential campaign, nor did he attempt to spend political capital to get the Protocol ratified before he left office. In addition, no reputable scientist believes that the measures of the Kyoto Protocol, even if fully adopted by all signatories, would put much of a dent in the global warming problem. The Kyoto Protocol may be a “good start” as some have said, but it may just as easily be seen as a detrimental distraction to the reality of seriously solving the problem. We need reductions of 80-90% in the long term, some say in the next few decades. How are we going to get there?

As far as “measures needed to counteract such change,” Mr. Gore’s communication efforts thus far leave much to be desired. As his documentary illustrates well, he is a consummate scientific communicator, and he has done a great job of communicating the science of climate change to a wider audience. As far as promoting adequate solutions, however, Mr. Gore falls short. In his film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, he only begins to discuss solutions two thirds of the way into the movie, and then only in a cursory manner. Mr. Gore does not even mention the energy part of the climate change problem until more than half way through the movie. There is a reason he was unable to urge the Congress to ratify the Protocol. There was a reason he did not make climate change a central platform of his Presidential campaign. The fact is, the solutions that are needed to get to 80 or 90% reduction in CO2 emissions are politically and infrastructurally difficult. Mr. Gore cites that “political will is a renewable resource”, and certainly political will is a necessary feature. But even more necessary are real, committed strategies to begin to make stringent reductions in emissions. And in that department Mr. Gore is still where many advocates are on the climate issue. Raising awareness is a good thing, but what we really need is action.

Perhaps the Nobel Prize Committee shares this sense of urgency, and with their selection is intending to do their part to elevate the issue. Certainly others are interpreting their actions this way-- for example Rep. Al Markey (D-MA) on CBS-- “Now that Mr. Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize, it is up to Congress to act.”

Hmm. An Oscar and a Peace Prize. Maybe now people will sit up and take notice. I just wonder what they will take notice of. Most of the press coverage of Mr. Gore’s selection has included speculation on whether or not he will run for president again . But the climate change issue is not about a single person or finding the magic button to get people’s attention. We need to get past symbolic gestures and dramatic theater. My hope is that someone will soon win a Nobel Prize for discovering a way for humans to live peaceably and in good health without exhausting our non-renewable resources or polluting the planet for future generations and the rest of the world’s species.

Posted on October 12, 2007 03:29 PM View this article | Comments (13)
Posted to Author: Dilling, L. | Climate Change

September 29, 2007

Late Action by Lame Ducks

I have a new column out in Bridges on a scenario for the climate policy end game by the Bush Administration -- read it here.

Posted on September 29, 2007 07:23 AM View this article | Comments (4)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Energy Policy

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

August 29, 2007

Twenty years of public opinion about global warming

Matt Nisbet has a good paper out now about polling results on global warming. The pdf is here and general paper link here.

The polling supports what we've been saying for a while: the public is there. They believe (even if they think the scientific consensus isn't as strong as it really is).

The science community has been freaking out for years about trying to answer the "we're screaming at them about this problem, why aren't they doing anything about it???" question. The stock answer from climate scientists is either about skeptics sowing doubt, or the problem is too complicated, or something like that, but it usually comes down to, "the public just isn't convinced that it's a problem." Matt's paper shows that clearly the public is aware of global warming and does think it is a problem.

So why are we (through our electeds) still not doing anything about it then? Because even the public realizes that the solutions are very, very difficult and will probably mean considerable pain. (And no politician wants to inflict pain on his/her constituents.) Perhaps the collective is making its own collective calculation: a world without potentially disruptive-to-catastrophic global warming or a world without coal-fired electricity and 20mpg family sedans?

This is really my insidious way of making a strong plea to the climate science policy (funding) community: stop spending money on GCMs. Start spending those billions we spend on basic climate research on climate solutions. We do not need 21 models feeding the IPCC process to see the risks. In a resource-limited science funding world, we know enough already about how climate works to see the risks.

What we don't see is how we're going to shovel ourselves out of this mess. We would do quite well to quit crying about science budgets, climate skeptics and inaccurate media representations and finally turn our energies to usable, useful science for a very uncertain future. Our politicians and policymakers will listen if we give them useful solutions, especially if we work with them to figure out what kind of information is useful to them. They will continue to NOT listen if we decide to pad our status quo by indefinitely giving them journals filled with GCM studies and 500-page IPCC reports that are all science and no ways out.

Posted on August 29, 2007 01:09 PM View this article | Comments (5)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change

August 20, 2007

New Changnon paper on winter storm losses

Keeping in line with similar research being done here on hurricanes (Roger and colleagues) and earthquakes (me), Stanley Changnon has a new paper out on winter storm losses. The abstract:

Winter storms are a major weather problem in the USA and their losses have been rapidly increasing. A total of 202 catastrophic winter storms, each causing more than $1 million in damages, occurred during 1949–2003, and their losses totaled $35.2 billion (2003 dollars). Catastrophic winter storms occurred in most parts of the contiguous USA, but were concentrated in the eastern half of the nation where 88% of all storm losses occurred. ... The time distribution of the nation’s 202 storms during 1949–2003 had a sizable downward trend, whereas the nation’s storm losses had a major upward trend for the 55-year period. This increase over time in losses, given the decrease in storm incidences, was a result of significant temporal increases in storm sizes and storm intensities. Increases in storm intensities were small in the northern sections of the nation, but doubled across the southern two-thirds of the nation, reflecting a climatic shift in conditions producing intense winter storms.

The interesting zeroth- or first-order conclusion is that when using damage trends as a proxy for climatic trends, no climatic trends can be seen in hurricanes while a strong one can be seen in winter storms. From the latest Pielke et al. hurricane paper:

...it should be clear from the normalized estimates that while 2004 and 2005 were exceptional from the standpoint of the number of very damaging storms, there is no long-term trend of increasing damage over the time period covered by this analysis.

Whereas from the Changnon paper on winter storms:

Significant temporal increases in storm losses, storm sizes, and storm intensity have occurred in the United States. The national increase over time in losses, given the decrease in storm incidences, was a result of the increases over time in storm sizes and intensities. The marked temporal increases in storm sizes and storm intensities were greatest across the southern two-thirds of the nation.
Posted on August 20, 2007 02:38 PM View this article | Comments (6)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change | Disasters

August 17, 2007

New Publication

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, in press, corrected proof.

Full text here in PDF.

May 30, 2007

Here comes the rain, kids. NASA administrator says global warming ain't no stinking problem.

Hat tip (and bow and all praise thee) to Mr. Fleck who passed it along. NPR just sent out a press release previewing a Steve Inskeep interview airing on tomorrow's Morning Edition with NASA Administration Michael Griffin. The title of the press release? How about

NASA ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL GRIFFIN NOT SURE THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS A PROBLEM

Ok. The rest of the press release goes on to say [my bolds]

May 30, 2007; Washington, DC – NASA Administrator Michael Griffin tells NPR News that while he has no doubt “a trend of global warming exists, I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

In an interview with Steve Inskeep airing tomorrow on NPR News’ Morning Edition, Administrator Griffin says “I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”



Oh my. Here is the transcript that NPR released:

STEVE INSKEEP: One thing that’s been mentioned that NASA is perhaps not spending as much money as it could on is studying climate change, global warming, from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: I am aware that global warming -- I’m aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I’m also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down -- pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a long term concern or not, I can’t say.

MR. INSKEEP : And I just wanted to make sure that I’m clear. Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

MR. GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

MR. INSKEEP : Is that thinking that informs you as you put together the budget? That something is happening, that it’s worth studying, but you’re not sure that you want to be battling it as an army might battle an enemy.

MR. GRIFFIN: Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to quote “battle climate change.”

Ok, let's start with the last -- and least important -- point. Griffin is right: nobody is asking NASA to battle climate change, only study it. (Somebody should be asking the DoE to battle it and we shouldn't need the Supreme Court to direct that EPA try to address it, but that's another issue.) Inskeep lets the issue blend into NASA "battling it" as a funding issue when he should have kept up on the more salient point that Griffin led him directly to: does your personal opinion that global warming isn't a problem translate into deemphasizing the study of global warming and climate change across NASA's budget? Inskeep let Griffin get away without answering that question directly.

The next question could have been: 'were you picked for this job because of this opinion? Before offering you the post did Bush Administration officials give you a litmus test that included your views on climate change?'

The next question might be: 'On your statement, "I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent." Are you trying to downplay scientific certainty by saying this (the "within an accuracy of 20 percent" part); or do you really not have a solid grasp of the science basics; or did you just slip up?'

There are a lot of avenues Griffin could have gone down in this interview, but the one he chose seems to me be only slightly better than the worst tack he could have taken (denying outright that there is a problem). Although I don't agree, even with this statement I don't have a huge problem: "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with." But what comes next,

To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

indicates to me that Griffin has absolutely no appreciation for the risk that anthropogenic climate change poses. Risk implies both knowledge and uncertainty and if Griffin simply wanted to make a point about uncertainty I'd concede it. But instead he seems to simply cast out the severe risks that do exist in favor of some sort of fig leaf that says "we may have altered the climate but we're too arrogant if we think we should stop altering it because our alterations might be good for other people." Unbelievable.

Posted on May 30, 2007 04:30 PM View this article | Comments (28)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change

May 29, 2007

The messy and messier politics of AGW solutions

Back on May 2nd I wrote about the looming coal vs. global warming fight in Congress. Today the NY Times put the issue up as its lead article (at least in the national edition). Edmund Andrews covers the issue well, bringing out various issues of price, competing priorities and constituent politics. (To recap my post: despite Senate ENR staffers trying to paint a rosy picture about a four-bill markup of some easy and no-brainer energy packages, coal state Senators still made a big stink about mandating coal synfuels.)

This is an issue setting itself up well (and early) to be one of the major boondoggles in crafting policy that effectively brings down GHG emissions. It essentially pits energy independence goals against GHG reduction goals when they should be addressed simultaneously in the same direction. Smart policy will reduce exposure to global warming risk and energy provenance issues together; bad policy will allow the two issues to battle each other.

The elephant in this room, only hinted at in Andrews' article and only briefly mentioned in my post, is setting government targets for specific fuels. Coal state Members want to write into any energy/climate legislation either mandated volume purchase targets for liquefied coal fuels or heavy subsidies for the industry. But the coal-to-liquid conversion process releases a lot of carbon dioxide, and when confronted with this, coal supporters point out that carbon dioxide can be captured during the process and sequestered (known as carbon capture and storage, or CCS).

The key here is "can be" as in can be captured. It should be appended with "but won't" unless any legislation mandating or heavily subsidizing liquefied coal also provides a mandate that any fuel derived from coal captures CO2, and also provides the subsidies to make that CCS possible. Will legislators go that far? Listening to Congress, especially the language coming out of Jeff Bingaman's committee, I've heard a lot of discussion of subsidies to build synfuel plants and a lot of discussion about mandating fuel quotas or providing generous per-gallon tax credits, but nothing about also footing the bill for CCS. Keeping in mind that some lawmakers already want to give coal synfuels a $0.50/gal subsidy before even considering the carbon capture issues, requiring carbon CCS on the coal synfuel process means pricing coal synfuels well out of economic competitiveness.

The coal issue illustrates again the problems with government picking winners and losers instead of setting generalized targets to be met across a wide swath of economic players. Doing this with ethanol has already led to a international socioeconomic backlash, rightly or wrongly drawing in Mexican citizens decrying the rising price of the corn they depend upon for food. Anything close to a mandate for coal synfuels will mean a new avenue for climate change politicization. Have we learned yet from past lessons? Edmund Andrews hints that we probably haven't:

But some energy experts, as well as some lawmakers, worry that the scale of the coal-to-liquid incentives could lead to a repeat of a disastrous effort 30 years ago to underwrite a synthetic fuels industry from scratch.

When oil prices plunged in the 1980s, the government-owned Synthetic Fuels Corporation became a giant government albatross that lost billions and remains a symbol of misguided industrial policy more than 25 years later.

May 16, 2007

The Importance of the Development Pathway in the Climate Debate

Today I am testifying before the House Committee on Science and Technology of the U.S. Congress. In my testimony I argue that we should pay attention to development paths in addition to the mitigation of greenhouse gases. You can see my testimony in full here in PDF.

A full reference:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2007. Statement to the House Committee on Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives, The State of Climate Change Science 2007: The Findings of the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change, 16 May.

May 15, 2007

Upcoming Congressional Testimony

I will be testifying before the House Committee on Science and Technology on Wednesday of this week. I'll post my written testimony here beforehand.

Posted on May 15, 2007 12:42 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

May 10, 2007

Reorienting U.S. Climate Science Policies

Last week the House Committee on Science and Technology held an important hearing on the future direction of climate research in he United States (PDF).

The major scientific debate is settled. Climate change is occurring. It is impacting our nation and the rest of the world and will continue to impact us into the future. The USGCRP should move beyond an emphasis on addressing uncertainties and refining climate science. In addition the Program needs to provide information that supports action to reduce vulnerability to climate and other global changes and facilitates the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies that can be applied here in the U.S. and in other vulnerable locations throughout the world.

This refocusing of climate research is timely and worthwhile. Kudos to the S&T Committee.

For a number of years, Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) has led efforts to make the nation's climate research enterprise more responsive to the needs of decision makers (joined by Bob Inglis (R-SC)). Mr. Udall explained the reasons for rethinking climate science as follows:

The evolution of global science and the global change issue sparked the need to make changes to the 1978 National Climate Program Act, and gave us the Global Change Research Act of 1990. It is now time for another adjustment to alter the focus of the program governed by this law.

The debate, about whether climate change is occurring and about whether human activity has contributed to it, is over. As our population, economy, and infrastructure have grown, we have put more pressure on the natural resources we all depend upon. Each year, fires, droughts, hurricanes, and other natural events remind us of our vulnerability to extreme weather and climate changes. The human and economic cost of these events is very high. With better planning and implementation of adaptation strategies these costs can be reduced.

For all of these reasons, we need the USGCRP to produce more information that is readily useable by decision makers and resource managers in government and in the private sector. People throughout this country and in the rest of the world need information they can use to develop response, adaptation, and mitigation strategies to make our communities, our businesses, and our nation more resilient and less vulnerable to the changes that are inevitable.

We must also move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid future increases in surface temperature that will trigger severe impacts that we cannot overcome with adaptation strategies. We need economic and technical information as well as information about system responses and climate responses to different concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The USGCRP should be the vehicle for providing this information.

The hearing charter (PDF) is worth reading in full.

May 03, 2007

New Landsea Paper in EOS

Chris Landsea has shared his just-out paper from EOS (PDF) and send the following capsule summary:

The link between the frequency of tropical cyclones [hurricanes and tropical storms] and anthropogenic global warming has become an emerging focus. However, an analysis of the data shows that improved monitoring in recent years is responsible for most, if not all, of the observed trend in increasing frequency of tropical cyclones.

Comments, criticisms, alternative perspectives welcomed!

May 02, 2007

A preview of things to come

In case you were one of those optimists thinking that the change in Congressional control meant a coming slew of passed legislation dealing with GHGs, or that January 2009 means welcome to the new era of GHG regulations or even clear sailing for logical no regrets policies that address oil dependence and carbon mitigation, you got a nice preview today of battles to come.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources, now chaired by Senator Bingaman of New Mexico, tried to hold an easy combined markup on four bills that deal with biofuels (S.987), energy efficiency (S.1115) and carbon CCS (S.962 and S.731). There was apparently a "divisive" roadblock in that the coal-state Senators wanted a new mandate on coal-derived transportation fuels (apparently they think we should be adding more CO2 to the atmosphere per VMT rather than less). There was a tentative deal to allay that issue until the bill package went to the floor, where it could be debated by the full Senate, but the deal broke down in a rather nasty way and forced a party-line vote, with some Dems voting against the coal fuels amendment that they otherwise supported. Ah, the era of bipartisan cooperation to solve our nation's most pressing problems.... (CQ story here) (And if you think the politicking on this was constrained to the ENR hearing room, see the players deployed to lobby in this story.)

That this package could not pass easily, with the contentious issues worked out before markup, is certainly a sign that meaningful climate mitigation legislation is going to be bloody and a long time in coming. It also illustrates some of the messy compromises that will come with climate legislation, some of which may actually increase carbon emissions. Sure, CO2 could be captured at the coal-to-synfuel plant, thus preventing the extra CO2 that coal synfuel production emits from hitting the atmosphere and leaving a zero-sum between burning synfuel or gasoline. But with a liquefied coal mandate sitting alongside a biofuels mandate who actually thinks that in the end a requirement for capturing CO2 at the coal synfuels production site is going to happen? With all the people who want to make it and want to use it (i.e. the military), the economic pressures on not driving up the price by requiring carbon CCS are already clear.

April 30, 2007

What's a poor science type to do?

I saw in Point Carbon's daily update today the following headline:

"ENVIRONMENTALISTS CALL FOR IPCC TO PROVIDE STRONG MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE"

So you already know what this is about. The subline on Point Carbon's article is

Environmental groups today called on the world’s scientists not to water down a long-awaited report on mitigating climate change when it is published this Friday

But I wonder if the advocacy groups pushing this kind of message have really thought through the consequences of such advocacy. The message is unequivocal: make the science report say what we want it to say. Oh, and do it by Friday. Thanks! But what if the IPCC WGIII authors were to respond to Greenpeace et al.'s pressure?

Changing the report at the last minute in either direction as a result of interest group pressure would mean an instant loss of credibility for what should be the single most credible document on climate change. Advocacy groups must realize that they rely on the IPCC's credibility when they talk about climate change. Without a credible third-party document to point to, advocacy groups are left to preach to the choir. With an international consensus document behind them they can stand on its results to push their message to a larger audience.

Although it doesn't exactly happen this way in practice, scientists have cachet because they have the reputation of responding to scientific results, not political pressure. Respond to Greenpeace et al.'s pressure now would mean tanking their credibility (the news would most definitely get out), taking Greenpeace's with it. So why are the let's do something about climate change now! advocates trying to undercut the credibility of their strongest pillar?

My guess is that advocacy groups know this already. They don't expect the IPCC to change anything based on their advocacy, but are simply looking for a quick route to broad media coverage (which hasn't happened yet ... Point Carbon is the only site I found the news on). But I suspect there are smarter ways to garner media attention than by publicly asking a group of ostensibly independent scientists to change a major report to their liking.

Posted on April 30, 2007 01:23 PM View this article | Comments (11)
Posted to Author: Vranes, K. | Climate Change

April 26, 2007

The Battle for U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change is Over

We've argued here that it has been over for a while, but this survey from the New York Times should make it obvious:

Americans in large bipartisan numbers say the heating of the earth’s atmosphere is having serious effects on the environment now or will soon and think that it is necessary to take immediate steps to reduce its effects, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate. Nineteen percent said it was not necessary to act now, and 1 percent said no steps were needed.

Recent international reports have said with near certainty that human activities are the main cause of global warming since 1950. The poll found that 84 percent of Americans see human activity as at least contributing to warming.

The poll also found that Americans want the United States to support conservation and to be a global leader in addressing environmental problems and developing alternative energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

For those still looking to play the skeptic game there is also good news as there are still a few left: 4% said recent strange weather was caused by "God/end of world/bible" and 2% said "space junk." ;-) In all seriousness, I don't expect the skeptic game to end any time soon, despite the overwhelming consensus of public opinion.

The Politics of Air Capture

A while back we prepped our readers to get ready for air capture. This article from a New Jersey newspaper, the Star-Ledger, describes how one air capture technology is progressing and how different interests are already taking political positions on its merits:

Klaus Lackner's invention has been called many things -- a wind scrubber, a synthetic tree, a carbon vacuum, even a giant fly swatter.

The energy guru, inventor and professor at Columbia University prefers to call it an "air extractor." By any name, however, Lackner predicts that the giant machines he is building will one day stop global warming in its tracks.

After three years of intensive experiments, Lackner and scientists at Global Research Technologies LLC, in Arizona, have produced a working model of the device, which can sop up carbon dioxide, the dreaded greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.

"Look, it's one arrow in the quiver," said Lackner, reached by telephone. "This begins to offer a solution to an overwhelming problem."

Others were more expansive.

"This significant achievement holds incredible promise in the fight against climate change," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia. "The world may, sooner rather than later, have an important tool in this fight."

Here is one reaction to the technology:

"There's no magic bullet to save us from the problem of global warming," said Kert Davies, an energy expert for Greenpeace USA in Washington, D.C. Removing greenhouse gases so readily will not encourage people to develop alternate, renewable technologies, he said, and strive for energy efficiency.

Such techno-fixes also miss the point of the environmental degradation brought on by the use of fossil fuels, he said.

Carbon scrubbers won't stop oil spills, habitat-destroying strip mining and ozone, he said. "It's like having cancer and putting a Band-Aid on it," he added.

Besides, Davies said, the devices, which will in principle be larger than the prototype, will be eyesores. "Can you imagine thousands of acres of giant fly swatters across the land?"

If reducing fossil fuels is not really about carbon dioxde, as the Greenpeace spokesman suggests but also about many other benefits, then why shouldn't these benefits play a more central role in energy policy debates? And being so quick to abandon the carbon dioxide argument is not an effective strategy for compelling action on carbon dioxide. Greenpeace has come out in favor of wind power and the required acres of windmills across the land. This is hard to square with CO2-removal technologies as eyesores, unless one recognizes that the aesthetics of a technology appear to be a function of its political role.

I have no idea if Professor Lackner's ideas will prove to have technical merit or not. However, I do believe that all options should be on the table, and we should resist efforts to limit choice prematurely.

April 23, 2007

What does Consensus Mean for IPCC WGIII?

The IPCC assessment process is widely referred to as reflecting a consensus of the scientific community. An AP news story reports on a leaked copy of the forthcoming Working Group III report on mitigation.

"Governments, businesses and individuals all need to be pulling in the same direction," said British researcher Rachel Warren, one of the report's authors.

For one thing, the governments of such major emitters as the United States, China and India will have to join the Kyoto Protocol countries of Europe and Japan in imposing cutbacks in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted by industry, power plants and other sources.

The Bush administration rejected the protocol's mandatory cuts, contending they would slow U.S. economic growth too much. China and other poorer developing countries were exempted from the 1997 pact, but most expected growth in greenhouse emissions will come from the developing world.

The draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose final version is to be issued in Bangkok on May 4, says emissions can be cut below current levels if the world shifts away from carbon-heavy fuels like coal, embraces energy efficiency and significantly reduces deforestation.

"The opportunities, the technology are there and now it's a case of encouraging the increased use of these technologies," said International Energy Agency analyst Ralph Sims, another of the 33 scientists who drafted the report.

As we've often discussed here, human-caused climate change is a serious problem requiring attention to both mitigation and adaptation. While I can make sense of a consensus among Working Group I scientists on causes and consequences of climate change, and even a consensus among Working Group II on impacts, how should we interpret a "consensus" among 33 authors recommending specific political actions? All of the movement toward the "democratization of science" and "stakeholder involvement" and "public participation" that characterizes science and technology issues ranging from GMOs to nanotechnology to nuclear waste disposal seems oddly absent in the climate issue in favor of a far more technocratic model of decision making. Is climate change somehow different?

April 20, 2007

New GAO Report on Climate Change and Insurance

At the request of Congressman Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a research arm of Congress, has just released a report on climate change and insurance (PDF). The report is excellent and well worth reading for anyone with interest in the subject. Now whether or not an excellent report makes a positive difference in policy making is another matter . . . Here are a few excerpts and my commentary:

On trends in losses:

Taken together, private and federal insurers paid more than $320 billion in claims on weather-related losses from 1980 through 2005. In constant dollars, private insurers paid the largest part of the claims during this period, $243.5 billion (about 76 percent); followed by federal crop insurance, $43.6 billion (about 14 percent); and federal flood insurance, $34.1 billion (about 11 percent). Claims varied significantly from year to year—largely due to the incidence and effects of catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes and droughts—but generally increased during this period. In particular, the years with the largest insured losses were generally associated with major hurricanes, which comprised well over one-third of all weather-related losses since 1980. The growth in population in hazard-prone areas, and resulting real estate development and increasing real estate values, have increased federal and private insurers’ exposure, and have helped to explain the increase in losses. In particular, heavily-populated areas along the Northeast, Southeast, and Texas coasts have among the highest value of insured properties in the United States and face the highest likelihood of major hurricanes. Due to these and other factors, federal insurers’ exposures have grown substantially. Since 1980, NFIP’s exposure has quadrupled, nearing $1 trillion, and program expansion has increased FCIC’s exposure nearly 26-fold to $44 billion. These escalating exposures to catastrophic weather events are leaving the federal government at increased financial risk. FCIC officials told us, for example, that if the widespread Midwest floods of 1993 were to occur today, losses would be five times greater. [p. 4]

How much would that be? The 1993 Midwest floods resulted in $1.3 billion in federal flood insurance costs (Source: PDF). Five times this amount is $6.5 billion, in 1993 dollars. Adjusting for inflation to 2005 dollars gives a total of $8.5 billion, which is about half the costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and more than four times the premiums taken in by the program annually (Source: PDF).

The conclusion? Regardless of climate change federal flood insurance is of questionable financial sustainability without an expectation of major and frequent subsidies. So perhaps greater attention to adaptation might be needed:

Federal insurance programs, on the other hand, have done little to develop the kind of information needed to understand the programs’ long-term exposure to climate change for a variety of reasons. The federal insurance programs are not oriented toward earning profits like private insurers but rather toward increasing participation among eligible parties. Consequently, neither program has had reason to develop information on their long-term exposure to the fiscal risks associated with climate change.

We acknowledge the different mandate and operating environment in which the major federal insurance programs operate, but we believe that better information about the federal government’s exposure to potential changes in weather-related risk would help the Congress identify and manage this emerging high-risk area—one which may not constitute an immediate crisis, but which does have significant implications for the nation’s growing fiscal imbalance. Accordingly, GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness to analyze the potential long-term fiscal implications of climate change for the FCIC and the NFIP, respectively, and report their findings to the Congress.

Another factor not mentioned here is the bias against adaptation in climate policy. For example, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (by subscription), Senator Lieberman (mis)used the report to justify changes in energy policies, saying that it:

presents another strong argument -- this one fiscal -- for adopting an economywide, cap and trade, anti-global-warming law.

But the report offers absolutely no information on how changes in energy policies will affect disaster losses. The report certainly offers no recommendations on energy policies. In fact, to the contrary, it cites our Hohenkammer workshop which clearly explained that the most effective responses over coming decades will be adaptive in nature. And as we've discussed on occasion here, there is good reason for concern not just in the public sector about adaptive capacity -- the so-called "catastrophe models" used by private insurers may not leave them as prepared to manage risk as they might think.

Finally, there is this very interesting nugget found in the response by the USDA (Appendix 5, p. 59), which runs the federal crop insurance progam:

The increase in crop insurance indemnities over time reflects the rapid growth of the crop insurance program, not an increase in either the frequency and/or severity of catastrophic weather events. In fact, the severity of loss for the crop insurance program, as measured by the loss ratio, has been generally lower in the 1990's and 2000's than in the 1980's. Thus, if anything, the frequency and severity of catastrophic loss events for the crop insurance program appears to be decreasing.

Interesting, huh?

Posted on April 20, 2007 07:42 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

April 19, 2007

Media Reporting of Climate Change: Too Balanced or Biased?

Cherries ripe for the picking:

Too balanced

Biased

Put me in neither camp. I actually think that the media -- in toto -- has done a good job of covering a challenging and protean issue.

Posted on April 19, 2007 08:59 PM View this article | Comments (19)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

A Little Testy at RealClimate

Based on my most recent interaction, the folks at RealClimate seem less interested than ever on an open exchange of views on scientific topics. But I guess that is what might be expected when one points out that the they are spreading misinformation.

A commenter on a thread on ocean temperatures asked an innocuous question about the new paper by Vecchi and Soden which was discussed here by Chris Landsea . The always cordial Michael Mann replied:

I have no knowledge of (or frankly, interest in) what Chris Landsea may be saying about the paper . . . In short, the Emanuel (2005) study continues to stand on its merit, and I don't see where this paper puts even a dent in it.

I don't much read RealClimate anymore, but when a commenter on the Landsea thread pointed to this exchange in the comments here, I surfed over to find this blatantly false assertion by Michael Mann in response to a follow up comment:

Emanuel (2005) shows that the warming SSTs are behind the increased TC intensity in the Atlantic. No impartial reading of that paper could come to any other conclusion.

Being a science site and all, I assumed that the RealClimate folks would be happy to engage in a discussion of, you know, science. Boy was I was mistaken. Here is my submitted response:

Mike-

You are simply incorrect when you assert: "Emanuel (2005) shows that the warming SSTs are behind the increased TC intensity in the Atlantic. No impartial reading of that paper could come to any other conclusion."

Here is what Emanuel actually says:

"Tropical cyclones do not respond directly to SST, however, and the appropriate measure of their thermodynamic environment is the potential intensity, which depends not only on surface temperature but on the whole temperature profile of the troposphere. . . The above discussion suggests that only part of the observed increase in tropical cyclone power dissipation is directly due to increased SSTs; the rest can only be explained by changes in other factors known to influence hurricane intensity, such as vertical wind shear."

Misrepresenting Emanuel is bad enough, but for a site that often underscores the importance of consensus, your favoring of one single study (on a thread about not favoring one single study) when consensus perspectives exist (WMO, IPCC) does a disservice to your readers.

Here is what RealClimate allowed:

Mike-

You are simply incorrect when you assert: "Emanuel (2005) shows that the warming SSTs are behind the increased TC intensity in the Atlantic. No impartial reading of that paper could come to any other conclusion."

What are they so worried about that they have to protect their audience from the comments of a political scientist?

Here is Michael Mann's (always cordial) response:

Response: Roger, we're not about cherry-picking sentences and out of context quotations here at RC, so you should take that somewhere else. Anybody who has studied the scientific issues involved well knows that SSTs in this context are a proxy for a more complex set of interconnected atmospheric environmental variables which tend to covary with it. We hardly need you to quote Emanuel for us. Figure 1 in Emanuel (2005) comparing SST and TC Power Dissipation in the tropical Atlantic speaks for itself, you might want to take another look. If we do an article on Hurricanes in the near future, you're free to engage in the discussion. But that's not the topic of this post, so we're going to close it out with this. -mike

Heaven forbid a discussion of actual substance over there. If we did we might have to discuss Kossin et al. and how SSTs don't covary with intensity in all basins, and the fact that Emanuel signed on to the WMO consensus, and well, a whole bunch of stuff that is fair game to discuss in scientific circles, but not apparently at RealClimate. In my view the issue of hurricanes and climate remains uncertain and contested and is well worth discussing.

Posted on April 19, 2007 07:48 PM View this article | Comments (34)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

April 18, 2007

Some Views of IPCC WGII Contributors That You Won't Read About in the News

I was surprised to read in E&E News today a news story on yesterday's hearing held by the House Science Committee suggesting that the take-home message was that adaptation would be difficult, hence mitigation should be preferred (for subscribers here is the full story). My reading of the written testimony suggested a very different message, and not one I've seen in the media. Below are some relevant excerpts from IPCC WG II authors who testified yesterday (emphasis added). I know both and respect their views.

Roger Pulwarty (PDF)

Climate is one factor among many that produce changes in our environment. Demographic, socio-economic and technological changes may play a more important role in most time horizons and regions. In the 2050s, differences in the population projections of the four scenarios contained in the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios show that population size could have a greater impact on people living in water-stressed river basins (defined as basins with per-capita water resources of less than 1000 m3/year) than differences in emissions scenarios. As the number of people and attendant demands in already stressed river basins increase, even small changes in natural or anthropogenic climate can trigger large impacts on water resources.

Adaptation is unavoidable because climate is always varying even if changes in variability are amplified or dampened by anthropogenic warming. In the near term, adaptation will be necessary to meet the challenge of impacts to which we are already committed. There are significant barriers to implementing adaptation in complex settings. These barriers include both the inability of natural systems to adapt at the rate and magnitude of climate change, as well as technological, financial, cognitive and behavioral, social and cultural constraints. There are also significant knowledge gaps for adaptation, as well as impediments to flows of knowledge and information relevant for decision makers. In addition, the scale at which reliable information is produced (i.e. global) does not always match with what is needed for adaptation decisions (i.e. watershed and local). New planning processes are attempting to overcome these barriers at local, regional and national levels in both developing and developed countries.

Shardul Agrawala (PDF)

The costs of both mitigation and adaptation are predominantly local and near term. Meanwhile, the climate related benefits of mitigation are predominantly global and long-term, but not immediate. Owing to lag times in the climate system, the benefits of current mitigation efforts will hardly be noticeable for several decades. The benefits of adaptation are more immediate, but primarily local, and over the short to medium term.

Given these differences between mitigation and adaptation, climate policy is not about making a choice between adapting to and mitigating climate change. Even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid further impacts of climate change in the next few decades, which makes adaptation essential, particularly in addressing near term impacts. On the other hand, unmitigated climate change would, in the long term exceed the capacity of natural, managed, and human systems to adapt.

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

April 17, 2007

Laurens Bouwer on IPCC WG II on Disasters

In the comments, Laurens Bouwer, of the Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, who served as an expert reviewer for the IPCC WGII report, provides the following perspective (Thanks Laurens!):

Thanks Roger, for this discussion. It clearly points the fact that IPCC has not done enough to make an unambiguous statement on the attribution of disaster losses in their Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers (SPM). This now leaves room for speculation based on the individual statements and graphs from underlying chapters in the report, in particular Figure TS-15, Chapters 1, 3 and 7, that all have substantial paragraphs on the topic.

As reviewer for WG2 I have repeatedly (3 times) asked to put a clear statement in the SPM that is in line with the general literature, and underlying WG2 chapters. In my view, WG2 has not succeeded in adequately quoting and discussing all relevant recent papers that have come out on this topic -- see above-mentioned chapters.

Initial drafts of the SPM had relatively nuanced statements such as:

Global economic losses from weather-related disasters have risen substantially since the 1970s. During the same period, global temperatures have risen and the magnitude of some extremes, such as the intensity of tropical cyclones, has increased. However, because of increases in exposed values ..., the contribution of these weather-related trends to increased losses is at present not known.

For unknown reasons, this statement (which seems to implicitly acknowledge Roger's and the May 2006 workshop conclusion that societal factors dominate) was dropped from the final SPM. Now the SPM has no statement on the attribution of disaster losses, and we do not know what is the 'consensus' here.

April 16, 2007

Frank Laird on Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Policy Choice

Frank Laird, from the University of Denver and also a Center affiliate, has the lead article in our latest newsletter. His topic is peak oil, climate change, and policy choice. Here is an excerpt:

A recent spate of books and articles proclaim the end of oil and an imminent crisis for the world. Likewise, global warming alarms sound from almost every corner of the press. What are policy makers to do? How should policy analysts help decision makers frame the debate and assess the alternatives? Many advocates are trying to do exactly the wrong thing: narrow policy makers’ options through a rhetoric proclaiming that policy makers will have no choice but to adopt their favored technology, so the sooner they get to it, the better. This approach both misunderstands how policy making works and does a disservice to policy makers. . .

Ironically, both renewable and nuclear energy advocates see themselves as possessing the key to an energy-abundant and climate-safe future. Both advocacy communities have been around for decades, have a history of mutual hostility, and think their time is nigh. Yet both groups are using a language of inevitability that suggests a naïveté about public policy, short-changes the policy process, and makes it all the harder to have intelligent, nuanced discussions of the difficult policy choices that lie ahead.

Their central point is that society or governments will have “no choice” but to adopt their preferred solution. They believe that the problems of peak oil and climate change present such severe problems to our society that policy makers will realize that they must adopt nuclear or renewable energy, that the lack of choice will be plain.

This language distorts the reality of policy making and short-changes society by trying to close off debate over the many and possibly creative solutions that policy could bring to bear on these problems. The central fact of policy making is that governments always have a choice. No circumstance, no matter how dire, leaves them with only one choice. To be sure, not all choices are equally good, and anyone familiar with history will know that sometimes governments make bad, even disastrous, choices. But they always have choices to make. Pretending otherwise just misunderstands all we know about public policy.

Read the whole thing.

April 12, 2007

New Peer-Reviewed Publication on the Benefits of Emissions Reductions for Future Tropical Cyclone (Hurricane) Losses Around the World

I have a paper accepted for publication that projects into the future a range of possible scenarios for increasing losses related to tropical cyclones around the world.

Pielke, Jr., R. A. (accepted, 2007). Future Economic Damage from Tropical Cyclones: Sensitivities to Societal and Climate Changes, Proceedings of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. (PDF)

The factors that comprise the different scenarios include changes in population, per capita wealth, tropical cyclone intensity, and also damage functions as a function of intensity. [Note: Tropical cyclone frequency is not included as scientists presently do not expect frequencies to increase. However, even if frequencies do increase it is possible in the scenarios to equate the effects of frequency in terms of intensity, as discussed in the paper.] The goal of the paper is to delineate a scenarios space as a function of permutations in these variables in order to assess the robustness of mitigation and adaptation responses to future losses. Here is the abstract:

This paper examines future economic damages from tropical cyclones under a range of assumptions about societal change, climate change, and the relationship of climate change to damage in 2050. It finds in all cases that efforts to reduce vulnerability to losses, often called climate adaptation, have far greater potential effectiveness to reduce damage related to tropical cyclones than efforts to modulate the behavior of storms through greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies, typically called climate mitigation and achieved through energy policies. The paper urges caution in using economic losses of tropical cyclones as justification for action on energy policies when far more potentially effective options are available.

Nothing new here for regular Prometheus readers, but now this analysis has been formalized and has gone through peer review. Here are the paper’s conclusions:

This paper finds that under a wide range of assumptions about future growth in wealth and population, and about the effects of human-caused climate change, in every case there is far greater potential to affect future losses by focusing attention on the societal conditions that generate vulnerability to losses. Efforts to modulate tropical cyclone intensities through climate stabilization policies have extremely limited potential to reduce future losses. This conclusion is robust across assumptions, even unrealistic assumptions about the timing and magnitude of emissions reductions policies on tropical cyclone behavior. The importance of the societal factors increases with the time horizon.

This does not mean that climate stabilization policies do not make sense or that policy makers should ignore influences of human-caused climate change on tropical cyclone behavior. It does mean that efforts to justify emissions reductions based on future tropical cyclone damages are misleading at best, given that available alternatives have far greater potential to achieve reductions in damage. The most effective policies in the face of tropical cyclones have been and will continue to be adaptive in nature, and thus should play a prominent role in any comprehensive approach to climate policy.


April 11, 2007

This is Just Embarassing

The Figure below is found in the IPCC WG II report, Chapter 7, supplementary material (p. 3 here in PDF). I am shocked to see such a figure in the IPCC of all places, purporting to show something meaningful and scientifically vetted. Sorry to be harsh, but this figure is neither. [Note: The reference (Miller et al. 2006) is not listed in the report (pointers from readers would be welcomed).]

ipccwgiism-1-1.png

I am amazed that this figure made it past review of any sort, but especially given what the broader literature on this subject actually says. I have generally been a supporter of the IPCC, but I do have to admit that if it is this sloppy and irresponsible in an area of climate change where I have expertise, why should I have confidence in the areas where I am not an expert?

Addendum, a few of the many problems with this figure:

1. Global average temperatures do not cause disaster losses, extreme events cause disasters, mostly floods and tropical cyclones.

2. if you can't attribute disaster losses regionally to changes in extremes, then you can't do it globally with a metric only loosely (at best) related to extremes.

2. A 9-year smoothing in a 35 year record?

3. The IPCC has said that 30 years is not sufficient for such an attribution analysis, a 35 year record with 4 degrees of freedom probably isn't either.

4. The Muir-Wood global dataset (if that is what is used) has huge error bars not noted here. Any global analysis should be matched with a regional summation.

5. The Muir-Wood dataset, without error bars, leads to opposite conclusions using a longer record to 1950. Why didn't they show that? I wonder . . .

6. Studies of floods and hurricanes at the regional level, around the world, do not support a relationship of average global atmospheric temperature and disaster losses.

7. A consensus conference with experts around the world came to very different conclusions. What happened to the importance of consensus?

A more comprehensive synthesis can be found here:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2006. Seventh Annual Roger Revelle Commemorative Lecture: Disasters, Death, and Destruction: Making Sense of Recent Calamities, Oceanography, Special Issue: The Oceans and Human Health, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 138-147. (PDF)

Posted on April 11, 2007 11:48 AM View this article | Comments (17)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters

Here We Go Again: Cherry Picking in the IPCC WGII Full Report on Disaster Losses

The IPCC WGII full report is available (hat tip: ClimateScienceWatch). I have had a look at what they say about disaster losses, and unfortunately, the IPCC WG II commits the exact same cherry picking error as did the Stern report.

Here is what IPCC says about catastrophe losses (Chapter 1, pp. 50-51):

Global losses reveal rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather-related events since the 1970s. One study has found that while the dominant signal remains that of the significant increases in the values of exposure at risk, once losses are normalised for exposure, there still remains an underlying rising trend.

The one study? Muir-Wood et al. 2006 that was prepared as the basis for our workshop last year with Munich re on Disaster Losses and Climate Change. Here is what we said when the Stern Report cherry picked this same information:

The source is a paper prepared by Robert Muir-Wood and colleagues as input to our workshop last May on disasters and climate change. Muir-Wood et al. do report the 2% trend since 1970. What Stern Report does not say is that Muir-Wood et al. find no trend 1950-2005 and Muir-Wood et al. acknowledge that their work shows a very strong influence of 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons in the United States. Muir-Wood et al. are therefore very cautious and responsible about their analysis. Presumably this is one reason why at the workshop Robert Muir-Wood signed on to our consensus statements, which said the following:
Because of issues related to data quality, the stochastic nature of extreme event impacts, length of time series, and various societal factors present in the disaster loss record, it is still not possible to determine the portion of the increase in damages that might be attributed to climate change due to GHG emissions . . . In the near future the quantitative link (attribution) of trends in storm and flood losses to climate changes related to GHG emissions is unlikely to be answered unequivocally.

The Stern Report’s selective fishing out of a convenient statement from one of the background papers prepared for our workshop is a classic example of cherry picking a result from a diversity of perspectives, rather than focusing on the consensus of the entire spectrum of experts that participated in our meeting. The Stern Report even cherry picks from within the Muir-Wood et al. paper.

The full discussion by the IPCC WG II has a bit more nuance, but it is clear that they are reaching for whatever they can to support a conclusion that simply is not backed up in the broader literature. Can anyone point to any other area in the IPCC where one non-peer-reviewed study is used to overturn the robust conclusions of an entire literature? Here is the full discussion:

Economic losses attributed to natural disasters have increased from US$75.5 billion in the 1960s to US$659.9 billion in the 1990s (a compound annual growth rate of 8%) (United Nations Development Programme 2004). Private sector data on insurance costs also shows rising insured losses over a similar period (Munich Re Group 2005; Swiss Reinsurance Company 2005). The dominant signal is of significant increase in the values of exposure (Pielke and Hoppe 2006).

However, as has been widely acknowledged, failing to adjust for time-variant economic factors yields loss amounts that are not directly comparable and a pronounced upward trend through time for purely economic reasons. A previous normalization of losses, undertaken for United States hurricanes by Pielke and Landsea (1998) and US floods (Pielke et al., 2002) included normalizing the economic losses for changes in wealth and population to express losses in constant dollars. These previous national US assessments, as well as those for normalized Cuban hurricane losses (Pielke et al., 2003), did not show any significant upward trend in losses over time, but this was before the remarkable hurricane losses of 2004 and 2005.

A ‘global’ catalogue of catastrophe losses was constructed (Muir Wood et al., 2006) normalized to account for changes that have resulted from variations in wealth and the numbers and values of properties located in the path of the catastrophes, using the method of Pielke and Landsea (1999). The global survey was considered largely comprehensive from 1970–2005 for countries and regions (Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, US, Caribbean, Central America, China, India and the Philippines) that had centralized catastrophe loss information and included a broad range of peril types: tropical cyclone, extratropical cyclone, thunderstorm, hailstorm, wildfire and flood, and that spanned high and low latitude areas.

Once the data were normalized a small statistically significant trend was found for an increase in annual catastrophe loss since 1970 of 2% per year (see Fig. SM1.1). However, for a number of regions, such as Australia and India, normalized losses show a statistically significant reduction since 1970. The significance of the upward trend is influenced by the losses in the US and Caribbean in 2004 and 2005 and arguably biased by the relative wealth of the US,