Archive for January, 2005

Follow Up On Landsea/IPCC

January 24th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Several news stories have come out flowing Chris Landsea’s "">resignation
from the IPCC last week. These news stories provide some additional
information that allows for some insight into the scientific dispute
between Landsea and NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth, as well as into the broader
political context of the IPCC.

The Scientific Dispute

Landsea wrote in his letter that he resigned from the IPCC, in part,
because “It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push
an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to
global warming,” and one of those colleagues, Trenberth, was the Lead
Author for the IPCC responsible for writing the chapter on hurricanes to
which Landsea was to contribute. In an "">article
in yesterday’s Washington Post Trenberth again asserted that the very
active 2004 hurricane season was influenced by global warming:

“Trenberth, who in an interview Friday called Landsea’s charges
“ridiculous,” said he participated last fall in a media conference call
organized by Harvard University professors “to correct misleading
impressions that global warming had played no role at all in last year’s
hurricane season.” He added he would have welcomed opposing views in the
assessment, even though he believes “if global warming is happening, how
can hurricanes not be affected? It’s part of the overall system.”"

And Sunday’s Boulder Daily Camera contained a similar ",1713,BDC_2432_3491666,00.html">report:
“In a telephone interview with the Camera, Trenberth said the [Harvard]
press conference had been called to rebut statements by Landsea and others
who have said “global warming had nothing to do with hurricanes.”"


A Third Way on Climate?

January 21st, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Hans von Storch, Nico Stehr and Dennis Bray have written an interesting perspective on climate science and policy, suggestive of a third way beyond the Manichean global warming: yes or no debate. They write,

“The concern for the “good” and “just” case of avoiding further dangerous human interference with the climate system has created a peculiar self-censorship among many climate scientists. Judgments of solid scientific findings are often not made with respect to their immanent quality but on the basis of their alleged or real potential as a weapon by “skeptics” in a struggle for dominance in public and policy discourse.

When we recently established that the method behind the so-called “hockey-stick” curve of Northern Hemisphere temperature is flawed, this result was not so much attacked as scientifically flawed but was seen both in private conversations and public discourse as outright dangerous, because it could be instrumentalized and undermine the success of the IPCC process. Similarly, the suggestion that hitherto excluded research and policy discussions devoted to adaptive measures ought to be undertaken in order to pursue a much more balanced strategy of adaptation to and mitigation of climate change is seen as undermining the Kyoto process…


Landsea on Hurricanes

January 19th, 2005

Posted by: admin

Author: Chris Landsea

It may be worth pointing out that last October Chris Landsea prepared a primer on hurricanes and climate change for Prometheus. We thought that it might be worth re-posting his views.

Hurricanes and Global Warming
Chris Landsea (

There are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity. Whatever suggested changes in hurricane activity that might result from global warming in the future are quite small in comparison to the large natural variability of hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones. For example, the latest GFDL global warming study suggested about a 5% increase in the winds of hurricanes 80 years in the future. This contrasts with the more than doubling that occur now in numbers of major hurricanes between active and quiet decades in the Atlantic basin.

If global warming is influencing hurricane activity, then we should be seeing a global change in the number and strength of these storms. Yet there is no evidence of a global increase in the strength and frequency of hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones over the past several years.

Beginning in 1995, there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. However, this increase is very likely a manifestation of a natural multi-decadal cycle of Atlantic hurricane activity that has been occurring likely for the last few hundred years. For example, relatively few Atlantic major hurricanes were observed in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, but there was considerable activity during the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Also, the period from 1944 to 1950 was particularly infamous for Florida – with 11 hurricanes hitting the state during those years.

Total U.S. direct damages from Atlantic hurricanes this year will be on the order of $30 billion, making it about equal to the most damaging year on record – 1992 with the landfall of Hurricane Andrew. However, such increased destruction from hurricanes is to be expected because of the massive development and population increases along the U.S. coastline and in countries throughout the Caribbean and Central America. There is no need to invoke global warming to understand both the 10 years of active hurricane seasons and the destruction that occurred both in Florida and in Haiti this season. The former is due to natural cycles driven by the Atlantic Ocean and the latter is due to societal changes, not due to global warming.

Climate Change and Reinsurance, Part 2.5

January 19th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

My recent posts on climate change and reinsurance ( "
climate_change_and_r.html">Part 1
and "
climate_change_and_r.html">Part 2
) led to a wide-ranging and fruitful
discussion with a number of colleagues in the U.S. and Europe. (Thanks

To bring you up to date, Part 1 made the case for a clear conflict of
interest when reinsurers attribute or project increasing disasters because
of climate change. Part 2 sough to evaluate the merits of such claims,
which to be fair are made by many people well beyond just some in the
reinsurance industry. The central question is, when looking to the past, to
what degree is climate change responsible for the growth in disasters and
disaster costs up to the present? I asserted in Part 2 that the answer is
“not at all.”

In this post, Part 2.5, I’d like to expand on the information presented in
Part 2 drawing on additional information and analyses drawing from my recent
discussions with colleagues. Specifically, there seems to be a strong
consensus within the climate impacts community that the trends of increasing
damage related to storms (whether tropical, extra-tropical, thunder, hail or
other extreme weather) is completely the result of trends in societal
impacts. Questions were raised about trends in impacts related to floods,
heat waves and drought. Let’s consider each in turn.



Rhetoric of Science and Technology

January 18th, 2005

Posted by: admin

National Communication Association Conference
November 17-20, 2005 in Boston, MA USA

The American Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology invites submission of program proposals and papers. Submissions may cover any area of rhetoric of science and technology, including the rhetorical analysis of science policy debates, the analysis of scientific texts, the transfer of scientific rhetoric into literary or other contexts, and the rhetorical impact of popular representations of science. We encourage submissions concerning traditional fields (such as physics and biology) and also emerging topics in areas such as environmental science, computer science, information technology, genetics, neuroscience and medicine. In particular, we are especially interested in papers and panels that explore the nexus between science, politics, and public policy.


Balancing Water Law and Science

January 18th, 2005

Posted by: admin

Balancing Water Law and Science
– National Water Research Symposium –
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center
October 10-12, 2005
Virginia Tech Inn and Skelton Conference Center, Blacksburg, Virginia

Call for Papers

In 1899, the U.S. Congress passed the first statutory environmental law, The Refuse Act. Since then, several federal laws and regulations have been promulgated in the U.S. to manage the nation’s water quantity and water quality, to secure water supplies for an increasing population and enhance economic productivity, and to protect and preserve the nation’s diverse ecosystems. At the same time, significant advances in water science have improved our understanding of water resource issues. However, across the U.S., questions have been raised about the scientific validity of certain regulations and the socio-economic costs attributed to the implementation of some water resource regulations.


Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC

January 17th, 2005

Posted by: admin

This is an open letter to the community from Chris Landsea.

Dear colleagues,

After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.


A Response to RealClimate

January 15th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

In case you missed it Gavin Schmidt, one of the founders of the RealClimate blog, "">responded
to my post “ "">The
Uncertainty Trap
” where I suggest that their claim to focus on science
and not politics “is a noble but futile ambition.” He writes in response,

“Let me make one more thing clear: we are not taking a political stand on
this [climate debate]. That someone else decides to support their
political point by using bogus science is not our fault. If we correct
their errors it is because we don’t want to see bogus science used at all.
It does not necessarily imply that we are taking a stand against their
political premise.”

Readers of Prometheus will know how much we value the "">honest
. And to be sure "">climate
certainly needs more honest brokers. So RealClimate has great
potential to fill a much needed niche. But unless RealClimate carefully
considers policy and politics as they go about their business, they run
the risk of simply becoming viewed as yet another voice on the internet
pushing a political agenda through science, not unlike ""> but with a different slant.

There are a few simple things that RealClimate might do to enhance its
role as an honest broker. Here is some unsolicited advice.

1. No free passes.

RealClimate’s focus thus far is very much framed in one political
direction, e.g., on attacking George Will, Senator James Inhofe, Michael
Crichton, McIntyre and McKitrick, Fox News, and Myron Ebell. These
criticisms are perfectly justified, but RealClimate shouldn’t give a free
pass to anyone, especially those whose political agenda they may find more
compelling. Here are a few items from the past week that RealClimate might
have focused on:

*Worldwatch released its "">2005 State of the
report and linked the 2004 Florida hurricane season and typhoons
to signs of an “accelerated global warming.” There is no scientific basis
for making this linkage.

*An AP "">story
linked a spell of warm winter weather in Russia to global warming.
Perhaps such a linkage exists, but I’d be surprised if there was a
scientific basis for making such a claim.

Excesses abound in the climate debate on all sides. Don’t ignore this

2. Be transparent.


The Uncertainty Trap

January 14th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Scientists are being played expertly in the ongoing political debate about
climate change. Here is how the game works. Those opposed to acting
on the options currently on the table, like Kyoto or McCain/Lieberman,
invoke “scientific uncertainty” about climate change as the basis for
their opposition. Of course, the basis for opposition for most of these
folks has nothing to do with scientific uncertainty and everything to do
with their valuation of the costs and benefits of taking action. As
George W. Bush "">said
in 2001, “For America, complying with those [Kyoto] mandates would have a
negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and price increases for
consumers.” The projected economic impacts of Kyoto are of course
uncertain because they are the product of complex computer models based on
numerous assumptions and parameterizations. But this uncertainty is not
an obstacle to the Bush Administration taking decisive action.

Even though the basis for President Bush’s opposition is grounded in how
he values expected outcomes, he nonetheless "">raises
scientific uncertainty
about climate itself as a basis for his
decision, “we do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate
may have had on warming. We do not know how much our climate could, or
will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or
even how some of our actions could impact it. For example, our useful
efforts to reduce sulfur emissions may have actually increased warming,
because sulfate particles reflect sunlight, bouncing it back into space.
And, finally, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes a
dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided.”
But his invocation of such uncertainties is just a distraction. Consider
that Senator John Kerry who also opposed the Kyoto Protocol, but never
invoked scientific uncertainty as the basis for his opposition (he =

that the fact that developing countries did not participate was the basis
for his opposition). Because Bush and Kerry shared opposition to Kyoto
but had different views on the science of climate change, this suggests
that ones views on climate science are not deterministic of one’s
political perspectives.


NRC Perchlorate Report and NRDC Reaction

January 12th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

This week the National Research Council released a report on the “ = "">Health Implications of
Perchlorate Ingestion
.”  The study is significant because, as the New York
Times "">reported
yesterday, “Depending on how federal and state regulators interpret the
academy’s recommendation, the Defense Department, its contractors and
other federal agencies responsible for contamination from perchlorate, a
component of solid rocket fuel, could avoid cleanup costs of hundreds of
millions of dollars.”  The political stakes are very high.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) responded to the report by
claiming that, “the NAS panel’s recommendation was likely shaped by a
covert campaign by the White House, Pentagon and defense contractors to
twist the science and strong-arm the academy.”  In other words, the NRC
report reflects the results of political pressure and maneuvering by Bush
Administration officials.

My first reaction to this is, "">of
course it does
.  Given the political stakes we should only be
surprised if the NRC was not pressured by people in the executive branch.
It is important to remember that the federal agencies request, pay for,
and shape the charge for NRC studies.  All heads of federal agencies are
political appointees and some of these heads (e.g., DOD) are among the
most influential in the Bush Administration.  I have participated in and
reviewed a number of NRC studies and, while none had the political stakes
that the perchlorate study has, in every one agency officials paying for
the study had a clear sense of what they’d like to see in the final the
report and we not shy in their efforts to influence the panel.

But just because politics is ever present in the NRC process does not mean
that we turn a blind eye.  Clearly, if policy makers or the public begin
to view NRC reports as just another battleground for partisan politics,
much of what science has to offer policy making will be lost (for more
read this "">essay).