National Post Op-Ed

December 22nd, 2004

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Yestreday’s National Post, a Canadian newspaper, carried an op-ed by Terence Corcoran that discussed my 20 December 2004 post on Misuse of Science by UNEP.

A few quick reactions to his discussion:

Mr. Corcoran overall does a nice job relating our perspective, though he is clearly opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, calling it a “giant dead albatross.”  From my perspective, while Kyoto or any extensions are not effective tools for modulating the future impacts of climate, there are good reasons why emissions reductions make sense (read this article) and why Kyoto may be politically attractive for the United States (read this post).

He gets my perspective slightly wrong when he says that I am talking about “weather assertions.”  My post was not about the frequency of extreme weather events per se, but about trends in the economic impacts associated with extreme weather events.  The distinction may seem subtle, but it is absolutely essential to understanding long-term trends.  Even so, as recently as the IPCC’s Second Assessment report the scientific community was unable to identify any global trends in the incidence of extreme weather events.  But even if there are trends and projections showing an increase (or even a decrease!) in such events, the impacts associated with them both historically and in the future are dominated by social and demographic trends and not climate per se.  In other words, expect the economic costs associated with weather extremes to increase dramatically in coming decades no matter what the climate does.

One point should be made clear.  Our work on the impacts of extreme events does not lend support to or opposition to Kyoto Protocol, or any other policy related to emissions reductions.  It only becomes relevant to this debate when those advocating for the Kyoto Protocol make allegations about past and future weather impacts that are completely contrary to our findings.  Our work then becomes a valuable resource to cite for those who are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol.  But thi would not occur if UNEP and others would properly justify their arguments in the first place.  Meantime, our job is to call ‘em as we see ‘em and hope that this can be a constructive contribution to better aligning arguments made on all sides in political advocacy with the robust finding from our research.

Comments are closed.