Ceres is Misrepresenting Our Work

August 23rd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

A while back we documented in some detail how a publication in Science by Evan Mills grossly misrepresented existing research to make the claim that human-caused climate change was observable in the economic record of disasters. In a just-released report by the group Ceres, an advocacy group focused on the insurance industry, Mr. Mills is again misrepresenting existing research, and this time it is mine.

In the report just out, co-authored by Mr. Mills (here in PDF), they write of the scientific debate over the role of climate change and disaster losses:

Thanks to a workshop held by Munich Re, a previous debate has evolved into a consensus that climate change is playing a role in the observed increase in the costs of weather-related damages.

Well, no. I co-organized the workshop with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re (to which Mr. Mills was invited to attend but turned down). Here is what the workshop report executive summary (PDF) actually says:

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 use of our work in the Ceres report represents either complete incompetence or a deliberate misrepresentation our work. In either case, if they are so cavalier with how they report my work, how can I trust that they are accurately reporting the work of others? Advocacy groups that base their arguments on flawed or erroneous representations of existing research have absolutely no credibility in my book. Science is diverse enough to be able to cherrypick and shade arguments in one’s preferred direction without misrepresentation. Ceres has in fact misrepresented my work. And that is unfortunate, because some of what Ceres has to say looks like it might make sense.

One Response to “Ceres is Misrepresenting Our Work”

  1. JimK Says:

    Roger wrote “In either case, if they are so cavalier with how they report my work, how can I trust that they are accurately reporting the work of others?”

    This question has a simple answer…you can’t. In fact, once you’ve found such an error in their representation of your work, it’s reasonable to assume they simply report everyone’s work as though it supported their position. This is something many advocacy groups fail to grasp which, in my opinion, is one of the major reasons little action is taken to either mitigate or avoid climate change.