May 01, 2006
Really, Really, Really Bad Reporting
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Disasters
Time magazine has named MIT’s Kerry Emanuel one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Congrats to him, I certainly think he is brilliant and the honor is well deserved. However, I can’t imagine that Kerry is too happy with the unfortunate blurb Time put together to describe him.
It's easy to argue about the hypothetical causes and effects of global warming. It's a lot harder for any serious disagreement to continue when extreme weather is demolishing a major American city. The U.S. experienced just such a moment of clarity last year when Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, awakening all of us to the true cost of climate change. It was Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who helped us make the connection.
Perhaps before writing that bit of nonsense Time might have visited Kerry’s homepage and considered this statement he has posted:
Q: I gather from this last discussion that it would be absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming?Posted on May 1, 2006 08:40 PM
As I said, charismatic megaweather. However one might wish it weren't so, enhanced tropical cyclones are going to get the attention that AGW effects like sea level rise and ocean acidification ought to be getting. I think it would be useful to consider why that's true and how one might fashion useful policy given it. Or one could continue to beat one's head against the wall.
Here's a smaller-scale example of the same kind of problem: In Oakland CA, there are now health studies in place showing that poor aor quality, much of it relating to diesel emissions associated with the Port of Oakland, is having a significant effect on the local population in terms of mortality and disease of various sorts. Statistically, this problem is rather worse than violent crime, yet people pay far more attention to the latter than the former. IMHO, an effective strategy for obtaining action on the air quality problem needs to incorporate an understanding of why this is true.
Posted by: Steve Bloom at May 2, 2006 08:44 AM
Roger, you should know better than to subject a straw man to hurricane-force winds. Would it be absurd to attribute a portion of Katrina's strength to AGW? A little less so, perhaps.
Posted by: Steve Bloom at May 2, 2006 08:49 AM
Thanks for your comments. I've reformulated your comment in a different context below:
"However one might wish it weren't so, THE THREAT OF WMDs IS going to get the attention that MORE IMPORTANT effects like DEMOCRATIZATION and OIL ought to be getting. I think it would be useful to consider why that's true and how one might fashion useful policy given it."
That the ends justify the means has a grip on most everyone these days. No wonder institutions of science and democracy are suffering!
Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 2, 2006 09:11 AM
Roger, why the surprise? Its all part of the great concensus.
Posted by: Paul at May 2, 2006 10:23 AM
I suspect the difference between the AGW-GHG connection and the WMD-Iraq question is that IF the debate had been framed and understood by the public in terms of spreading democracy and oil security, there would not have been an Iraq war, or CERTAINLY been much greater opposition to it. If people understood the real risks of, to use Steve's example, ocean acidification and sea level rise, there would still be a push for GHG emissions reductions.
Both of the points I raise above are speculative, educated guesses, but perhaps there is data to back them up? I dont have time to try to find out... I would be interested to know though...
This Time piece was so bad, I don't think we can really debate anything on it :)
Posted by: Sean D at May 2, 2006 11:43 AM
The Times piece would have been much better if it found William Gray to be one of the 100 most influential people. Forgive my cynicism.
Roger appears to be pushing the idea that people who disagree with him believe that the means justify the ends. In this, he appears to have signed off on the dotted line himself. In one sense, I agree with Sean, that the piece itself should be ignored in terms of what it says about climate. In another it is a marker of how, in a very short time, the issue of AGW intensification of cyclone intensity has pushed itself forward into the public arena. Given Roger's position he will use any means to oppose the thought.
Posted by: Rabett at May 2, 2006 08:43 PM
About Katrina while it may be very likely that a portion of Katrina's strength is attributable to AGW, the uncertainty around any estimate of just how much is very large. So large that claiming that the resulting AGW effects of Katrina on New Orleans can be estimated is inappropriate.
Posted by: Roger C at May 3, 2006 05:04 AM