Archive for December, 2006

2007 Office Pool

December 30th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Happy New Year everyone! A 2007 office pool for your enjoyment:

1. In 2007 the space shuttle will fly (a) once, (b) twice, (c) 3 or more times, (d) its last mission.

2. Academic earmarks on non-defense discretionary spending for FY2007 will (a) be held to near zero as Democrats hold steadfast to their year-long continuing resolution, (b) will quietly creep up to their FY2006 levels as supplemental spending bills are laden with pork, (c) will not formally appear in appropriations or reports but will somehow appear out of existing agency appropriations as agency officials seek to keep congressional appropriators happy.

3. The number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic will be (a) less than 10, (b) between 10 and 15, (c) 16 to 20, (d) more than 20.

4. The IPCC will be released in three installments in the first half of 2007. The big news story from the IPCC will be (a) actually nothing, as nothing new will be reported, (b) a change in the IPCC and its leaders to an explicit advocacy role, (c) that it spells the end of the climate convention as it presents “dangerous interference” as inevitable, (d) provides much fodder for those wanting to “go slow” on climate policy by presenting an image of climate change far more conservative than found in the media, (e) will totally botch the issue of economic losses from extreme events, and especially hurricanes.

5. Al Gore will enter the 2008 presidential race (a) in the spring with his speech accepting the Oscar for best documentary, (b) in the late summer or early fall following the devastation of southern Florida by Hurricane Jerry, (c) not at all and Roger will owe Lisa lunch, (d) in 2008.

6. The U.S. budget for R&D in FY2007 will (a) represent the first cut in decades as Democrats hold fast to their year-long continuing resolution, (b) increase from FY2006 level through several targeted supplemental appropriations bills, most notable passage of some version of the ACI/PACE legislation, (c) so frustrate some scientists that they will begin speaking of a “Democratic war on science”.

7. The most notable S&T legislation to be passed by Congress in 2007 and vetoed by President Bush will be focused on (a) federal funding for stem cell research, (b) mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, (c) prohibition of the transfer of nuclear technologies to India, (d) repeal of certain aspects of the Patriot Act focused on surveillance

8. The Supreme Court will rule in EPA vs. Massachusetts that (a) Massachusetts in fact has no standing to file the lawsuit, (b) that EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and leave to EPA’s discretion whether regulation is required, (c) EPA must regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, (d) that some call greenhouse gases a “pollutant” while others simply call it “life”

9. Internationally, the biggest news of 2007 will be (a) the introduction and then termination of carbon rationing cards in the U.K., (b) Germany’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, (c) the announcement by Hugo Chavez that Venezuela will conduct a nuclear test, (d) China’s devaluation of its currency sending the dollar into a tailspin

10. In 2007, here at Prometheus we will see (a) an angel bequeathing a massive endowment to our Center, (b) the blog reinvented at another university far, far away, (c) new authors and new contributors, and an ever-expanding readership (d) enough on climate change already, .and a shift to The Honest Broker.

My guesses below.


Draft Paper for Comment: Decreased Proportion of Tropical Cyclone Landfalls in the United States

December 28th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Below you will find a short, draft paper on the decreasing proportion of U.S. hurricane landfalls to total North Atlantic hurricanes from 1851-2006 that I will soon submit for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. I am not worried about pre-publication on the web and the policies of the big journals as Nature has already declined to send it out for review, suggesting that the specialty journals are a more appropriate venue. I have shared earlier versions of the paper with a range of different scientists inside (and outside of) the tropical cyclone research community, and I thank those who have so far responded for their helpful suggestions. I welcome any comments readers here may have as well.


Calling Carbon Cycle Experts

December 24th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

We’d welcome an explanation of the possible (or non) significance of this new paper in Science for understandings of the global carbon cycle. A news story contained the following interesting paragraph (italics added):

Scientists say the discovery could bear on estimates of the pervasiveness of exotic microbial life, which some experts suspect forms a hidden biosphere extending miles underground whose total mass may exceed that of all surface life.

Happy Holidays Prometheus Readers!

December 22nd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

All of us here at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado/CIRES would like to send our readers best wishes for the holiday season and a happy new year!

We greatly value the excellent feedback, comments, suggestions, and contributions from the readers/commentors on our blog, who we believe are the best you will find on any blog on any subject. We look forward to 2007 and a chance to continue to learn from our many substantive interactions with our knowledgeable readers. For our part you can expect that we’ll continue to provide analysis and commentary in the new year, and you can expect that some things you’ll agree with, some you won’t, and sometimes we’ll make really excellent arguments and sometimes we won’t!

Over the holidays we’ll be paying attention, and maybe blogging if the occasion is right. So during the next 10 days or so, if your comment gets held up, just drop us an email and we’ll get it online as soon as we can.

Happy Holidays!!

Swiss Re on 2006 Disaster Losses

December 22nd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

It was a good year to be in the insurance and reinsurance industries. Swiss Re has released their preliminary assessment of 2006 catastrophe losses which are spectacularly low.

According to one industry official, “will see further rate increases even though 2006 has been a remarkably catastrophe-free year. 2005 was so bad that catastrophe rates must rise further.”

According to our analysis, 2006 ranks 18th in terms of normalized hurricane damage years since 1987. According to Swiss Re, “Among the last 20 years, 2006 has produced the third-lowest insured losses, after 1997 and 1988. This is attributable mainly to the quiet hurricane season in the US and surrounding countries.” But there were remarkably few other disasters as well.

And I’m focused on adaptation?

December 22nd, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

An excellent and eye-opening story from Keith Bradsher in yesterday’s NYT provides a new angle on the economics of the Kyoto Protocol:

Foreign businesses have embraced an obscure United Nations-backed program as a favored approach to limiting global warming. But the early efforts have revealed some hidden problems.

Under the program, businesses in wealthier nations of Europe and in Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer ones as a way of staying within government limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles.

Cleaning up this factory will require an incinerator that costs $5 million — far less than the cost of cleaning up so many cars, or other sources of pollution in Europe and Japan.

Yet the foreign companies will pay roughly $500 million for the incinerator — 100 times what it cost. The high price is set in a European-based market in carbon dioxide emissions. Because the waste gas has a far more powerful effect on global warming than carbon dioxide emissions, the foreign businesses must pay a premium far beyond the cost of the actual cleanup.

The huge profits from that will be divided by the chemical factory’s owners, a Chinese government energy fund, and the consultants and bankers who put together the deal from a mansion in the wealthy Mayfair district of London.

It seems that mitigation pays.

So what happened at AGU last week?

December 20th, 2006

Posted by: admin

[this is a cross-post from this original]

With thirteen thousand people at a confab of geophysicists and geophysicists-in-training, a few thousand of whom work on something related to the climate system, you expect to hear about climate change. In perhaps a short decade, climate change has rapidly surpassed seismology as the primary membrane between the public and the geophysics research world. Climate is now what most makes the American Geophysical Union relevant to non-members; climate is now what essentially drives the meeting despite the presence of dozens of other specialties represented.

As a physical oceanographer (which by definition also means “climatologist”)- become-enviro policy guy, though, I wasn’t so much interested in the details of climate science at this year’s AGU. What I was (and am) interested in is seeing the conference as a whole. My interest in AGU has strayed from the hardrock science, moving into something more to do with feelings and hunches. That’s right, feelings. Hunches. Intuition. The squishy, soft underbelly of the human mind; the part we want to ignore in pursuing geophysical data analysis. What I want to know is attitude. More than the state of the science, I now want to know about the state of the scientists.

I will grant that talking to the people I did at AGU represents a small fraction of all the attendees. I will grant that there is no way to know whether my averaging of attitudes in the climsci world, as sensed by talking with a few people over a few days, scales up to represent the true feelings of the collective. But I will tell you what I found, and what I felt, and whether you think it might represent the current attitude of climsci world is up to you.

To sum the state of climsci world in one word, as I see it right now, it is this: tension.


Ryan Meyer in Ogmius

December 19th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Ryan Meyer, whose letter to Science we highlighted a few days ago, also has the cover story in our Center’s latest newsletter which has just been put online. Ryan’s article is titled, “Arbitrary Impacts and Unknown Futures: The shortcomings of climate impact models” and be found here.

The newsletter, called Ogmius, can be found here in html and here in PDF. Have a look!

Misrepresenting Literature on Hurricanes and Climate Change

December 18th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Greg Holland and Peter Webster have a new paper accepted on the statistics of Atlantic hurricanes. While there are many interesting questions that might be raised about the data and statistics in the paper, here I comment on the paper’s treatment of the existing literature, some of which involves work I have contributed to. In this instance I find their characterization of the literature to grossly misrepresent what the existing research actually says. I have shared my comments with Drs. Holland and Webster, to which I received the following reaction from Greg Holland: “We shall not be modifying the paper as a result of your comments.”

Below I present their original text and my comments. We think that readers can judge for themselves whether a mischaracterization of the literature has occurred. I promised Peter Webster that I wouldn’t speculate on their motivations, and so I’ll stick to the facts in what I present below. I do know that when scientists misrepresent each others work, it is likely to stymie the advancement of knowledge in the community, and thus should be of general concern. When such misrepresentations are missed in the peer review process this also should raise some concerns. In this case I find the misrepresentations obvious to see and egregious, occurring in just about every sentence in the relevant paragraph.

Do note that the comments below do not get into their statistical analysis, which is worth considering separately on its own merits, but which goes beyond the focus of this post. Both Drs. Holland and Webster are widely published and respected scientists with admirable track records. They are welcome to respond here if they’d like. And I do note that different people can interpret the literature in different ways, so the below is my reading only.


Climate Change Hearings and Policy Issues

December 16th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Ryan Meyer, a PhD student at ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and collaborator in our SPARC project, has a letter in the current issue of Science.