Archive for September, 2006

Interview and Podcast

September 25th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

“Are you a climate skeptic?”

This is how the Daily Camera, our local Boulder paper, opened an interview with me, parts of which appeared in today’s paper. You can hear my answer to this question, and many better questions (but maybe not better answers;-), in a 20 minute podcast of the entire interview, available here (mp3). The reporter, Todd Neff, did a nice job. He was quite familar with some of the recent discussions on Prometheus and his questions in the interview reflected that.

Prometheus Class Assignment

September 22nd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

A university class with about 90 students has been assigned Prometheus, and several other weblogs, as part of its reading assignments this semester. Welcome! The course instructor has emailed me to ask if I would write up a short note about what purpose our weblog serves and to offer some pointers to a few key posts on various topics. This seems like a worthwhile exercise, so here goes.


David Whitehouse on Royal Society Efforts to Censor

September 21st, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

David Whitehouse is a former online science editor for the BBC. He has sent a letter to Benny Peiser, a prominent climate provocateur from the University of Liverpool who oversees the CCNet mailing list. Benny included Dr. Whitehouse’s correspondence on the Royal Society’s letter to ExxonMobil (PDF) in his compilation yesterday (Guardian story here). There is also apparently a second letter from the Royal Society to journalists, asking them to ignore people with perspectives outside the IPCC consensus.

Let me say in no uncertain terms that in my opinion the actions by the Royal Society are inconsistent with the open and free exchange of ideas, as well as the democratic notion of free speech. Here in the U.S. we have recently won a battle to allow scientists employed by government to speak freely even if their views are inconvenient to the current Administration. Such lessons should work in all directions. The Royal Society is seeking to use the authority of science to limit open debate. This is not, to put it delicately, the most effective use of scientific authority in political debates. Climate scientists and advocates confident of their positions should welcome any and all challengers, and smack them down with the power of their arguments, not the weight of their influence or authority. A strategy based on stifling debate is sure to backfire, not just on the climate issue, but for the scientific enterprise as a whole.

Here is Dr. Whitehouse’s letter, which I endorse 100%:

Dear Benny,

I wonder if I am not alone in finding something rather ugly and unscientific about the letter the Royal Society has sent to EssoUK (part of Exxon). It is reproduced in today’s Guardian newspaper.

It demands EssoUK stop giving money to groups and organisations who do not believe that human activities are totally responsible for global warming. It also asks EssoUK to provide details of all the groups it funds so that the Royal Society can track them down and vet them, “so that I can work out which of these have been similarly providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public,” the letter says.

My disquiet about this is nothing to do with the status of the debate about anthropogenic global warming but about the nature of the debate and the role of the Royal Society in it and the sending of such a hectoring and bullying letter demanding adherence to the scientific consensus.

Theories come and go. Some become fact, others do not. As scientists our ultimate loyalty is not to theory but to reason and to open enquiry even when some think it ill judged. We should value that above all and I am surprised the Royal Society is acting this way. Einstein once said, “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

However the Royal Society sees its role in debates about science, is it appropriate that it should be using its authority to judge and censor in this way?

Yours sincerely,

Dr David Whitehouse

Al Gore on Climate Policy

September 19th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Al Gore gave a major speech on climate policy yesterday at NYU. Here are some excerpts and my reactions:


Carbon Dioxide Emissions at Stake in the EPA Lawsuit

September 18th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

I put this in the comments of an earlier thread, but I thought worth highlighting as well. What are potential effects of EPA regulation of carbon dioxide from automobiles?

Taking a look at data from the US EIA (here):

It projects out to 2030 that the accumulated global carbon dioxide emissions will be 235 GtC. It also projects that of this total about 15 GtC will come from the use of petroleum in the United States. Let’s assume all of this comes from cars. Lets further assume the EPA regulates carbon dioxide such that no emissions are allowed.

This would reduce the global total emissions of carbon dioxide from 235 to 220 GtC by 2030 (assuming regulations start January 1, 2007). (The ratio presumably gets smaller further into the future as global emissions are projected t increase faster than US auto emisssions.) I don’t think that current climate models are able to differentate bewteen a world with these two values of carbon dioxide emissions, much less predict how one might be different than another.

In short the effects of EPA regulation would likely be nil. So is the lawsuit about publicity? Compelling U.S. participation in an international agreement? Because it sure does not look like it is about reducing the impacts of carbon dioxide on anything perceptible in the United States.

What have I missed?

FEMA will remain within DHS but …

September 18th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

… with new authority and independence. Senators Collins and Lieberman, Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs negotiated with a few House committees and the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee to insert most of their S.3721 (the “Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006″) into the conference report of the Homeland Security appropriations bill.

(As far as I can tell none of this language got a committee markup or saw floor debate or markup in either chamber. It may be good language, but it is authorization language being inserted without debate into an appropriations bill.)

A press release out of the committee can be found here, and in part says:


Michael Griffin on Science in NASA

September 15th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here (in PDF) is a refreshingly blunt speech from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on recent issues of science in NASA. No bureaucratic mombo-jumbo here. Here are some choice excerpts:


Brief of Amicus Curiae by Climate Scientists

September 15th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

A group of climate scientists has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in support of the petitioners, the State of Massachussetts et al. against the EPA. The lawsuit has to do with the regulation of carbon dioxide by the EPA (details can be found here).

One of the participating climate scientists emailed me and asked that I post their brief and ask for comments here on Prometheus, which we are happy to do. The brief can be found here in PDF.

We’d welcome comments on either the substance of the brief or the advocacy of these scientists. I’ll start things off with some comments after the jump.


What to Make of This?

September 14th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

I’m not sure how to assess this news report:

The Bush administration plans to announce as early as next week a goal of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels in the global atmosphere at 450 parts per million by the year 2106, congressional and non-government sources told Platts Wednesday.

Such an announcement, if true, might lead to the establishment of new regulatory policies — either voluntary or mandatory — for the power sector and other sources of CO2 emissions.

But a high-ranking source at the White House Council on Environmental Quality rejected the suggestion, saying the administration has no plans to unveil any new climate-change policies.

Rumors that the White House plans to unveil a new global warming policy have been circulating since August 27, when Time magazine reporter Mike Allen, citing unnamed administration sources, wrote that President Bush’s views on the phenomenon “have evolved.”

In the news story there is a telling response from a representative of the Sierra Club who apparently has decided that anything the Bush Administration does necessarily is wrong, but in expressing his opposition fails to grasp the fact that the effects of stabilization at a particular level are time invariant — that is, as far as the effects of carbon dioxide on climate change, the precise path to stabilization is not important, the time-integrated emissions are what matters because of the long atmospheric residence time of carbon dioxide.

Dave Hamilton, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming and energy programs, said that while the 450 ppm number was fine, the timeline is not.

“We’ve got to make 450 [ppm] by mid-century, not next century,” he said, adding that the administration’s plan “would not stave off the worst impacts of global warming.”

I am doubtful that the Bush Administration will suggest dramatic new policies on climate change. But let’s see what happens. Meantime, the strategy of advancing incorrect policy arguments to support apparent predetermined opposition to policies not yet proposed might be rethought.

Abandoned mine language making its way through the Senate again

September 13th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

At the behest of corporate actors in the west, for the past few years Congress has been nipping at the edges of one of the thornier environmental policy issues in the west — abandoned mines. Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked up S.1848 — the “Cleanup of Inactive and Abandoned Mines Act” — sponsored by Colorado Senators Salazar and Allard (neither of whom sit on EPW — Allard did in the last Congress).

Abandoned mines are a contentious issue out west. You can get a sense of the issues here, here or here. (Or maybe since there’s no wikipedia page on it, it’s not such an important issue?)

Congress originally dealt with AM’s in the 1999 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill. Sec. 560 of S.507 allowed the federal government to “to address water quality problems caused by drainage and related activities from abandoned and inactive noncoal mines.” (Note the word “noncoal.”) It demanded a 50-50 federal/non-federal cost-share when the AM was not on Federal land. But in the end the provision was doomed to be ineffective from the start as it only authorized a total of $5M.