Archive for November, 2006

William Nordhaus on The Stern Report

November 22nd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here is a link to Willian Norhaus’ review of the The Stern Report (PDF). It is worth reading in full. Prof. Nordhaus provides the following “summary verdict.”

How much and how fast should the globe reduce greenhouse-gas emissions? How should nations balance the costs of the reductions against the damages and dangers of climate change? The Stern Review answers these questions clearly and unambiguously: we need urgent, sharp, and immediate reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

I am reminded here of President Harry Truman’s complaint that his economists would always say, on the one hand this and on the other hand that. He wanted a one-handed economist. The Stern Review is a Prime Minister’s dream come true. It provides decisive and compelling answers instead of the dreaded conjectures, contingencies, and qualifications.

However, a closer look reveals that there is indeed another hand to these answers. The radical revision of the economics of climate change proposed by the Review does not arise from any new economics, science, or modeling. Rather, it depends decisively on the assumption of a near-zero social discount rate. The Review’s unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not survive the substitution of discounting assumptions that are consistent with today’s market place. So the central questions about global-warming policy – how much, how fast, and how costly – remain open. The Review informs but does not answer these fundamental questions.

Collins and Lieberman fire another missile at DHS/FEMA

November 21st, 2006

Posted by: admin

Yesterday Sen. Lieberman’s office, on behalf of him and Susan Collins, chair of the Senate committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, released a letter to DHS head Mike Chertoff. The title of the Lieberman press release says it all:


Little Progress Seen Since Hurricane Katrina

The letter is long. In essence, Lieberman and Collins are accusing DHS of making little to no progress toward having a solid, functioning, and competent center of operations for the next disaster. They use the term “situational awareness” over and again throughout their letter. What they mean is that DHS has not built sufficient capacity to be able to gather on-the-scene reports from the myriad and scattered agencies and first responders on a disaster. This letter is the latest in body of work from HSGAC trying to light a fire under DHS’s heels (written about here).


Walter Lippmann (1955) on Misrepresentation and Balance

November 21st, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Some things don’t grow stale with age. The writings of Walter Lippmann are among them. Here are a few excerpts from Lippmann’s 1955 book The Public Philosophy that remind us that the politicization of information is far from a new concern and the importance of open debate in response.


Al Gore at His Best, and Worst

November 20th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

In yesterday’s Telegraph (UK) Al Gore has a lengthy article on climate change science and policy. In the piece Mr. Gore includes an egregious and unquestionable misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change. This is unfortunate, because it detracts from a compelling argument for action in the same piece.


What is Wrong with Politically-Motivated Research?

November 16th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

This quote from Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen provides a clear example of seeking political ends through science:

Prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate, said a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere could act as a “shade” from the sun’s rays and help cool the planet.

Reaction to the proposal here at the annual U.N. conference on climate change is a mix of caution, curiosity and some resignation to such “massive and drastic” operations, as the chief U.N. climatologist describes them.

The Nobel Prize-winning scientist who first made the proposal is himself “not enthusiastic about it.”

It was meant to startle the policymakers,” said Paul J. Crutzen, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. “If they don’t take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this.” [Emphasis added. RP]

In 2004 I characterized (in PDF) the “politicization of science by scientists” as “the use of science by scientists as a means of negotiating for desired political outcomes.” Dr. Crutzen’s description of his work clearly fits this definition.

I characterized the problem with such a strategy as follws, “many scientists encourage the mapping of established interests from across the political spectrum onto science and then use science as a proxy for political battle over these interests.”

Why does this matter? “when politics is played out through science with the acquiescence and even facilitation of scientists, the results can serve to foster political gridlock to the detriment of science and policy alike because science alone is incapable of forcing a political consensus.”

Starting with a desired political outcome and then generating the science to support that outcome is not the most effective way for science to support policy, even coming from a Nobel laureate.

Looking Away from Misrepresentations of Science in Policy Debate Related to Disasters and Climate Change

November 15th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

For me the most amazing aspect of the repeated misrepresentation of science related to disasters and climate change is not that political advocates look to cherry pick science or go beyond the state of the science. What is most amazing is that in the face of incontrovertible and repeated misrepresentation that the overwhelming majority of scientists, the media, and responsible advocacy groups have remained mute (with a few notable exceptions such as Hans von Storch).

More than anything else, even the misrepresentations themselves, the collective willingness to overlook bad policy arguments unsupported (or even contradicted) by the current state of science while at the same time trumpeting the importance of scientific consensus is evidence of the comprehensive and pathological politicization of science in the policy debate over global warming. If climate scientists ever wonder why they are looked upon with suspicion among some people in society, they need look no further in their willingness to compromise their own intellectual standards in policy debate on the issue of disasters and climate change.

Here are just some of the misrepresentations of science in policy discussions related to disasters and climate change from the Prometheus archives:

Misrepresentation by ABI of UK Foresight flood assessment

Misrepresentation by UNEP of disaster loss trends

Misrepresentation by former head of IPCC of disaster loss trends

Misrepresentation by New York Times of trends in disaster losses

Misrepresentation by editor of Science of detection and attribution of trends in extreme events

Misrepresentation by editor of Science of attribution of Katrina to greenhouse gas emissions

Misrepresentation of literature of disaster trends and climate in article in Science

Misrepresentation by lead IPCC author responsible for hurricane chapter of attribution of Katrina to greenhouse gas emissions

Misrepresentation of ABI report on future tropical cyclone losses

Misrepresentation by Al Gore of state of hurricane science and attribution of Katrina

Misrepresentation by Time of science of hurricanes and attribution of Katrina

Misrepresentation by IPCC WG II of storm surge impacts research

Misrepresentation by AGU of science of seasonal hurricane forecast skill

Misrepresentation by Environmental Defense of attribution of Katrina to greenhouse gases and prospects for avoiding future hurricanes

Misrepresentation in the Washington Post of the science of disaster trends and future impacts

Misrepresentation in Stern report of trends in disaster losses and projections of future costs

Misrepresentation by UNEP of trends and projections in disaster losses

More Climate and Disaster Nonsense

November 14th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Debunking nonsense related to disaster losses and climate change is getting to be a full time job. The latest misleading information is uncritically reported by Reuters and comes from a report commissioned by UNEP. Reuters reports:


Naomi Oreskes on Consensus

November 14th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California-San Diego and a leading scholar of the history of science, wrote an excellent article on scientific consensus a few years ago as part of a special issue of Environmental Science & Policy which critiqued the debate over Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist. This is of course the same Naomi Oreskes famous for her short essay reviewing abstracts on “global climate change” in Science (a subject I do not wish to discuss in this thread, thanks!). Below I have reproduced a few lengthy excerpts from Naomi’s paper relevant to recent discussions here, though I encourage you to read the whole paper, especially the three cases that she describes. You can find the entire set of papers in the special issue here.


Tom Yulsman: Beyond Balance?

November 13th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

[This entry is by Tom Yulsman, professor of journalism, University of Colorado. -Ed.]

Last Tuesday, the New York Times published a fascinating story by William Broad about paleoclimate reconstructions stretching back as far as half a billion years. (See: Broad stroy) The article noted that some evidence from the very deep past cast doubt on carbon dioxide’s role in global warming.


Interview with Richard Tol

November 11th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The German magazine WirtschaftsWoche has posted online (auf Deutsch) an interview with economist Richard Tol discussing the economics of climate change. Benny Peiser has provided an English translation which we are happy to re-post here in full.