Archive for November, 2006

WMO Consensus Statement on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change

November 30th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has just released two updated statements on the state of science on tropical cyclones and climate change. The statements have been released today through the Instituto Meteorologico Nacional, San Jose, Costa Rica. Anyone referencing this post or the statements, please do acknowledge them as the source.

We are pleased that the WMO statements are 100% consistent with the views on this subject that we have been sharing over the past few years. In particular, it should now be completely unambiguous that those who are representing hurricane impacts as being related to greenhouse gas emissions, without acknowledging that this is not a widely shared perspective among scientists, are either cherry picking the relevant science or misrepresenting the community consensus. As a matter of policy, those interested in addressing the impacts of tropical cyclones on people and economies necessarily should be focued on adaptive responses. We have obviously made this case for a while, now there is no ambiguity.

Read on for details on the content of the statements.


Less than A Quarter Inch by 2100

November 30th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Following up on earlier discussions on the Mass. vs. EPA Supreme Court oral arguments and specifically on the issue of standing and redressibility, here are some numbers on the effects of the emissions reductions being discussed in the oral arguments and their effects on future sea level rise.

Assume the following:

A. Sea level will at an average of 3 mm/year

B. Of this 1 mm/year is already committed to (e.g., due to non-human causes, human caused due to past GHG emissions)

C. Emissions reductions have an instantaneous effect on sea level rise and that effect if proportional to the total emissions (of course this is not true, but makes this exercise easier, and makes my analysis conservative as emission reductions actually have less than this effect)

Under these assumptions what would the effects of EPA regulation as discussed yesterday be on future sea level rise?

Let’s go out to 2100 and assume that regulations are in place and successful by 2010 (not realistic, but again conservative).

90 years of Business as usual (BAU) * 3 mm/year = 270 mm = 10.63 inches

90 years of BAU minus 2.5% = 90 + 175.5 = 265.5 mm = 10.45 inches

Time delay until 270 mm is reached = 18 months

(If you would prefer to apply the effects of emissions reductions to the full 3 mm/year, then the numbers are 263.25 mm = 10.36 inches = 27 months)

What does this mean?

The maximum effect if reducing global emissions by 2.5% (i.e., as suggested in oral arguments yesterday) would be to reduce projected sea level rise by a less than a fifth of an inch in 2100. In other words, the sea level that would have occurred in January, 2100 would be put off until June, 2101. If you’d prefer to apply the effects of future emissions reductions of 2.5% to the total sea level rise (i.e., ignoring the existing commitment) then the numbers are a quarter inch and March, 2102.

Are these meaningful with respect to redressing damages? In my opinion, no they are not. In fact, I would argue that there is in fact no difference in damages that exists at a difference of less than a quarter inch of sea level.

Seems to me that these numbers might have been raised in the arguments at some point.

Quick Reactions to Arguments Today before the Supreme Court on Mass. vs. EPA

November 29th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The transcript of arguments before the Supreme Court is available here in PDF. A good overview of the hearing from an expert on the Supreme Court can be found here. In what follows I provide some excerpts from the oral arguments and my reactions to them. In my judgment neither side did a particularly effective job on the substantive issues associated with climate impacts, and the issue of redressibility in particular. I do not have any opinions worth considering on the legal aspects of the case, nor do I have any strong views on what will happen. Please read on for my comments on the oral arguments.


AAAS Report on Standards of Peer Review

November 29th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The AAAS has released a report motivated by several recent fraudulent papers that have been published in Science. The report suggests tightening the review process for certain types of papers. Here is an excerpt from the report (available here in PDF):


Mugging Little Old Ladies and Reasoning by Analogy

November 28th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

[Updated 21:52 28 Nov 06]

Stanford’s Ken Caldeira provides an interesting, and I think unhelpful, analogy for how we might think about climate policy in the 20 November 2006 issue of the New Yorker in an article by Elizabeth Kolbert on carbon dioxide uptake by the oceans:


The Benefits of Red Wine and the Politics of Science

November 27th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Saturday’s New York Times had an interesting article (registration required) about scientific stuides finding possible health benefits of red wine, and the political constraints on the wine industry to advertise those benefits. Here is an excerpt from the article:


Why don’t you write about __________?

November 27th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Over the past week I have received the following two juxtaposed comments about what we focus on here at Prometheus. They are pretty typical of the sort of comments that I have received in the past, hence this response.


Politicization of Intelligence

November 25th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

The role of military intelligence in policy making is not unlike the role of science in policy making, a point I make in my forthcoming book. In the Los Angeles Times last week Jennifer Glaudmans has an excellent op-ed about the politicization of intelligence under Robert Gates, former CIA director and current nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Her piece provides an interesting lens through which to think about the pathological politicization of science. Here are a few relevant excerpts (emphases added):

. . . we were asked, in 1985, to contribute to the National Intelligence Estimate on the subject of Iran.

Later, when we received the draft NIE, we were shocked to find that our contribution on Soviet relations with Iran had been completely reversed. Rather than stating that the prospects for improved Soviet-Iranian relations were negligible, the document indicated that Moscow assessed those prospects as quite good. What’s more, the national intelligence officer responsible for coordinating the estimate had already sent a personal memo to the White House stating that the race between the U.S. and USSR “for Tehran is on, and whoever gets there first wins all.”

No one in my office believed this Cold War hyperbole. There was simply no evidence to support the notion that Moscow was optimistic about its prospects for improved relations with Iran. All of our published analysis had consistently been pessimistic about Soviet-Iranian relations as long as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was alive.

We protested the conclusions of the NIE, citing evidence such as the Iranian government’s repression of the communist Tudeh Party, the expulsion of all Soviet economic advisors and a number of Soviet diplomats who were KGB officers, and a continuing public rhetoric that chastised the “godless” communist regime as the “Second Satan” after the United States.

Despite overwhelming evidence, our analysis was suppressed. At a coordinating meeting, we were told that Gates wanted the language to stay in as it was, presumably to help justify “improving” our strained relations with Tehran through the Iran-Contra weapons sales.

This is another example of ends-justify-the-means thinking that seem to be behind just about every pathological politicization of science. If your desired policy actions are virtuous, then it shouldn’t matter how you cause those actions to occur, right? In the end we will all be better off, right? Glaudmans indicates that this was the thinking on intelligence behind Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra effort, it was also the thinking behind the neo-conservatives push in Iraq, and it is behind those pushing for immediate and drastic action on curtailing emissions of greenhouse gases such as described in the Stern Review (which we have discussed at some length).

Glaudmans continues:

It’s possible that the Reagan administration would have gone ahead and made its overtures to Iran regardless of what was said in the NIE, but having the coordinated assessment of the intelligence community support its views certainly added legitimacy to its rationale. What’s more, if the policymakers had received better and more accurate intelligence, perhaps someone would at least have questioned the false sense of urgency. Instead, our intelligence was used as expensive intra-government propaganda. . .

During those years, the government was clearly dominated by people who had a strong ideological view of the Soviet Union. But their conflict was not with people who were “soft” on communism, it was with people who looked at all the available evidence, without much bias one way or another, and who had been to the USSR and witnessed its hollow political and social structure, seeing not an omnipotent superpower but a clumsy, oafish regime often stumbling over its own feet.

What is interesting about this passage is Glaudmans’ description of how those people seeking to provide good intelligence found themselves in conflict with the ideologues. This conflict occurs because those seeking to politicize intelligence beyond its limits are not necesarily threatened by their ideological opponents — indeed such stark contrasts actually make the ideological differences more apparent and thus serve more effectively as a political “wedge.” Instead the greatest threat to ideologues seeking to pathologuically politicize intelligence comes from those presenting solid analyses, which have a stubborn tendency to win out in the long run. On such conflicts, see for example a few of my own experiences described here.

Glaudmans concludes:

Is all this ancient history relevant today? It is if you believe that policymakers are poorly served when analysis is concocted to support their preexisting positions. It is relevant if you believe that the failure to learn the lessons from the 1991 Gates hearings harmed U.S. foreign policy when, a decade later, we went to war on false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is relevant if you believe that Congress should take its oversight responsibilities seriously.

It is certainly the case that the current Bush Administration has contributed to the pathological politicization of intelligence, economics, and science across a range of areas. Of this there is no doubt. Fortunately, these issues are suffering from no lack of attention. The concern that I have and discuss frequently on this blog, which I see almost every day, is the contributions by scientists (and other experts) to the pathological politicization of science. Once you lose the capability to provide solid policy analyses, pathologically politicized information is all that remains.

Tol on Nordhaus on Stern

November 24th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Whatever you might happen to think about Richard Tol’s views, he cannot be criticized for being indirect. The statement below I have elevated from our comments. It is one of seveal gems from Richard in the past few weeks, and provides a cogent summary of why it is that solid policy arguments matter in political discourse — whether the subject is climate change or WMDs or whatever.

I cannot speak for Nordhaus, but I have known him for many years and carefully read all his papers on climate change.

Nordhaus indeed favours climate policy, specifically greenhouse gas emission reduction. The House of Lords report also seems to favour climate policy — its main author, David Pearce, was a strong advocate for sure. Indeed, any economist I know who seriously studied climate change, has come out in favour of emission reduction.

That does not imply that there is agreement with Stern.

Nordhaus and others have berated Stern for a number of technical errors and wild exageration. Qualitatively, Stern may be correct — but quantitatively, Stern is very wrong.

There are several problems with that. Firstly, a supposedly eminent economist made a fool of himself in the public eye. This increases the general distrust of the public. Secondly, anyone who dislikes climate policy can quote Stern to demonstrate what fools climate policy advocates are.

Stern did not provide an argument for climate policy, but ammunition for the skeptics.

Besides, he has forced people like Nordhaus to waste precious time on refuting a silly argument. To the general public, the message of people like Nordhaus must be very confusing: Stern is wrong but right nonetheless.

Really, climate policy would have been in a better place without Nick Stern.

Class Copenhagen Consensus Exercise: Feedback Requested

November 24th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

This Post Will Stay at the Top through 24 Nov, New Posts Will Still Appear Below

This semester in my graduate seminar Policy, Science, and the Environment we have spent a good share of the semester replicating and critiquing the Copenhagen Consensus exercise. With this post we’d like to solicit some feedback on the class term projects reporting and justifying their results