Archive for December, 2005

David Keith on Air Capture

December 30th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

David Keith sends in this thoughtful response to my recent post on air capture.

Author: David Keith

While Roger raises some interesting points, I think the original post overstates the near-term importance of air capture. In speculating about the potential importance of air capture, I find myself caught between two very different possible futures.

In one future, which we might call the linear future, I assume that we live in a world in which carbon prices/constraints are (roughly) equal across economic sectors and in which they increase gradually, and in which they gradually apply to a larger and larger set of countries. This world is the subject of most economic models of the climate problem. In this world, it will be a very long time before air capture technologies become economically competitive, if indeed they ever do.


Responses to Emanuel in Nature

December 22nd, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Chris Landsea and I each have brief comments on Emanuel (2005) in this week’s Nature. Emanuel offers a response. We’ll have more to say on these soon, but for now, please have a look at the exchange here in PDF.

Sarewitz on Mooney

December 19th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Center affiliate and long-time collaborator Dan Sarewitz has posted an advance copy of his review of Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican War on Science,” forthcoming in Issues in Science and Technology. The review can be found here in PDF.

Sarewitz writes, “The Republican War on Science offers a catalog of Republican-led confrontations with mainstream science, ranging from attacks on evolution and denial of climate change tocthe stacking of government advisory committees with industry scientistscand the blocking of federal funds for stem cell research. As an unapologetic critic of the Bush administration, I was eager to read a penetrating political analysis of how the current regime has sought to wring partisan advantage from the complex and difficult relationship between politics and science. Alas, what I found was a tiresome polemic masquerading as a defense of scientific purity.”

For a contrasting viewpoint see this favorable review of Mooney’s book by John Horgan in the New York Times, which finds agreement with Mooney that Democracts seek truth, while Republicans seek God and money. Horgan writes that telling good science from bad, “can indeed be difficult, especially if all the scientists involved are trying in good faith to get at the truth, and Mooney does occasionally imply that demarcation consists simply of checking scientists’ party affiliations. But in many of the cases that he examines, demarcation is easy, because one side has an a priori commitment to something other than the truth – God or money, to put it bluntly.”


Get Ready for Air Capture

December 15th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

I have often joked that the solution to increasing greenhouse gases was simple: simply invent a tabletop device (solar powered of course) that turns the CO2 in ambient air into diamonds and releases oxygen. While I am still awaiting this invention, the issue of “air capture” of CO2 is becoming less and less far-fetched. Whether or not air capture proves technologically, economically, or politically feasible in the long run, the technology, or more precisely the idea of the technology, has the potential to fundamentally transform debate on climate change.

The idea of air capture of CO2 is simple in principle: ambient air is taken in, CO2 is taken out, and air is released. (Those interested in an introduction to the technical details should see this PDF by David Keith and Minh Ha-Duong. For a look at a a prototype system see this PDF.)

Currently air capture of CO2 is a political third rail of climate policy. Here is why:

For most of those people opposed to greenhouse gas regulation advocating air capture would require first admitting that greenhouse gases ought to be reduced in the first place, an admission that most on this side of the debate have avoided. When so-called climate skeptics start advocating air capture (which I have to believe can’t be too far off), then you will have a sign that the climate debate is really changing.


Inside the Policy Sciences

December 15th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

For those of you interested in the intra-community discussions among scholars who study policy, I have a paper just out (it has a 2004 date, but it is just released) in the journal Policy Sciences about the sustainability of the tradition of scholars who are self-described policy scientists, which is the community in which I received my graduate training in the early 1990s and a perspective that I continue to teach today. The paper is part of a special issue of the journal on the future of the Policy Sciences.

My view is that while the academic policy movement is perhaps as strong as ever, the tradition of the policy sciences proposed by the policy movement’s founder Harold Lasswell mid-twentieth century faces extinction. My essay motivated three lengthy responses and a chance for a rejoinder.

If you are interested in such stuff you can find the whole exchange here.

Matt Nisbet on Framing Science

December 13th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Matt Nisbet, a professor at Ohio State, has set up a very interesting blog on “framing science”. We look forward to reading, responding to, and engaging with Matt and his readers.

Hurricanes and Global Warming FAQ

December 13th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

We’ve set up a very basic “Hurricanes and Global Warming FAQ” here. It is designed to be updated as interests request and events warrant. So if you’d like to suggest a question or comment on an answer please do so and we’ll continue to update it as readers find it useful. We’d welcome suggestions for other topics for which a similar FAQ might be of interest.

Exchange in Today’s Science

December 9th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

I have a letter in Science this week reacting to an article by Evan Mills in the 12 August 2005 issue of Science, which I comprehensively critiqued here. My letter is accompanied by a lengthy response from Mills. You can find both my letter and the response here in PDF.

I wrote the letter is in response to claims made by Mills (2005) about the role of climate change in the increasing losses related do disasters. Mills stated in the August paper that “climate change has played a role in the rising costs of natural disasters,” and on the “relative weights of anthropogenic climate change and increased exposure” in the loss trend Mills concludes “quantification is premature.” My letter concludes, “Presently, there is simply no scientific basis for claims that the escalating cost of disasters is the result of anything other than increasing societal vulnerability.” Mills response does nothing to question this statement about the current state of the science.

Mills’ lengthy and rambling response to my letter essentially confirms this assertion by discussing many things, but avoids engaging the points that I raised in my letter. Here are a few reactions.

1. First, Science for some reason did not include my page proof changes to the letter. This is not a terribly big deal. But I did update the letter to reflect some more recent literature on hurricanes, and a citation that was “in press” but is now published. I’ve emailed to see where things broke down. You’d think they wouldn’t at Science.


Science Studies in Science Policy

December 8th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

My latest perspective in Bridges is now online here. It is titled, ” The Role of Science Studies in Science Policy.” It starts out like this:

“In recent decades, science has been increasingly called upon to forge closer connections with the broader society. The days of the basic researcher toiling away in a laboratory with little concern about or accountability to external influences seems to be growing more distant every day. The trend toward a more societally-responsive scientific enterprise has been well documented by scholars who study science in society. Concepts describing this trend such as “Mode 2 science,” “use-inspired basic research,” and “well-ordered science” will be quite familiar to anyone well-acquainted with the discipline of “science and technology studies.” But this trend is not just something that affects natural scientists. It also affects scholars like myself who study science in society. This leads me to ask: What is the relationship between science studies and science policies? And how should that relationship be shaped?”

The rest can be found here. Comments welcomed.

Preview of AGU Presentation — The $500 Billion Hurricane

December 6th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

On Wednesday at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, along with Kerry Emanuel I’ll be presiding over a special session on hurricane Katrina. As part of that session I will be presenting preliminary results of a comprehensive update of a 1998 paper that Chris Landsea and I collaborated on titled, “Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1925-95″ (available here as PDF). On the update I am collaborating again with Chris, and also Joel Gratz from here at the University of Colorado.

First, some of the features of the updated analysis.

1. We have extended the dataset forward to 2005 from 1995 and back to 1900 from 1925, representing 35 years of additional data. (Our analysis of the period 1900-1924 is still in process.) NOTE! This data has not been peer reviewed and is preliminary. But it does give a sense of where we are at in the analysis and some early numbers.

2. We used updated inflation for all factors used in the normalization: inflation data (source: 2005 Economic Report of the President), population data (source: 2000 U.S. Census), and wealth data (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis).