Archive for April, 2008

It Should Be Read by Everyone

April 21st, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

These are words that every author likes to see in a book review of their work ;-) In Bioscience this month Robert Lackey, a scientist at EPA, provides a strongly positive review of The Honest Broker. Here are a few of his comments:

The Honest Brokeris a must-read for any scientist with even a modest interest in environmental policy or politics, and I recommend it especially to scientists unfamiliar with the continuing controversy over how scientists misuse science in environmental policy and politics. . . . In summary, The Honest Broker is an important book, and it should be read by everyone.

Get your copy today!

Please Tell Me What in the World Joe Romm is Complaining About?

April 21st, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Joe Romm has continued his hysterical, content-free attacks on me and my colleagues for daring to suggest a view not 100% the same as his own. How dare we. After taking a close look at some of Joe’s writing, it turns out that he seems to agree with just about everything I’ve written on energy policy, and his continued (mis)characterizations of my views simply don’t square with what I’ve actually written.

Here are some examples:


Kristof on PWG

April 20th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Nicholas Kristof has a column in the Sunday NYT on the recent Nature paper by Tom Wigley, Chris Green, and me. Here is an excerpt:

Three respected climate experts made that troubling argument in an important essay in Nature this month, offering a sobering warning that the climate problem is much bigger than anticipated. That’s largely because of increased use of coal in booming Asian economies.

For example, imagine that we instituted a brutally high gas tax that reduced emissions from American vehicles by 25 percent. That would be a stunning achievement — and in just nine months, China’s increased emissions would have more than made up the difference.

China and the United States each produces more than one-fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. China’s emissions are much smaller per capita but are soaring: its annual increase in emissions is greater than Germany’s total annual emissions.

Please read the whole thing.

And if you are new to our site — Welcome! — and you can find our Nature paper here (in PDF), a short essay on adaptation here (in PDF), and my book The Honest Broker, here.

Memo to ScienceDebate Supporters – Don’t Fudge Facts

April 18th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Today was the scheduled date for the simultaneously quixotic and pragmatic ScienceDebate 2008. Since it won’t be happening, at least in Philadelphia (the organizers are going to try for another date in Portland, Oregon shortly before that state’s May 20th primary), there have been some pieces in the blogosphere (particulary bemoaning the absence of interest from the candidates in the debate.

While the non-event of ScienceDebate 2008 is worth analyzing (which I hope to do next week), I wish to take to task two authors of an Op-Ed in the April 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal advocating increased support of science and of ScienceDebate 2008.

Two Nobel Prize winners, David Baltimore (Biology 1975) and Ahmed Zewail (Chemistry 1999) manage the impressive feat of making Dr. John Marburger, the Presidential science adviser, disappear.


Climate Change Interview with John Holdren

April 17th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Regular readers may find it surprising to see me post on climate change, but you don’t see this every day.

Harvard’s John Holdren is currently on television (at least on the East Coast) discussing climate change for two segments with a national figure. The big deal, which includes the name of the interviewer, after the jump.


Geoengineering: Who Decides?

April 17th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

An April 16 interview on the BBC (mp3) on the topic of geoengineering by Sarah Montague with Ken Caldeira of Stanford and David Keith from the University of Calgary raises some interesting issues about how the climate science community seeks to influence political outcomes through its decisions about what research to conduct and discuss in public.

Dr. Keith was first asked if geoengineering offers a “realistic prospect for a solution to global warming”:


Bush CO2 Plan in Context

April 17th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

For those of you who might wish to place the plans announced by President Bush yesterday into context, according to data from the US EIA (xls):

US CO2 emissions from 2026-2030 are projected to increase by only 0.84% per year. So stabilizing at 2025 levels is not an ambitious goal, given the small rate of increase projected to be occurring for the US at that time. To put this another way, the average annual increase in US emissions from 2025 to 2030 will be equal to about 2.5 days of China’s projected 2030 emissions also using projections from the EIA (which in fact probably represents a dramatic underestimate of where China’s emissions are actually headed, as we suggested in Nature two weeks ago). For those wanting to spin things the other way, you might point out that the proposed five year effects on carbon dioxide of Bush’s plans 2026-2030 are about twice the magnitude of the proposed five year effects of the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mission Creep in the War on Science

April 16th, 2008

Posted by: admin

While reviewing the policy statements of the remaining presidential candidates with respect to science and technology, I noted what is to me an unfortunate use of the phrase “War on Science.”

Before I get into the details, a couple of necessary statements.

I am commenting strictly on the use of language. No endorsement, pro or con, is implied of the particular candidate.

While I welcome comments about what Chris Mooney and others mean for the phrase interpretations of what the “War on Science” is or should be are strictly my own. So are any misinterpretations.

A recent press release on aerospace and aviation funding from Sen. Clinton’s campaign appears to expand the meaning of the War on Science.


Peter Webster on Predicting Tropical Cyclones

April 16th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Some wise words from Georgia Tech’s Peter Webster on our ability to predict the future incidence of tropical cyclones (or TCs, which includes hurricanes):

Unless we can explain physically the history of the number and intensity of TCs in the recent past, then determining the number and intensity of TCs in the future will be either an extrapolation of very poor data sets or a belief in incomplete and inexact models.

Biofuels and Mitigation/Adaptation

April 15th, 2008

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

In Europe the debate over biofuels production targets has become the most recent example of the larger debate over mitigation versus adaptation. Biofuels have been held up by some as offering a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels, and thus contributing in some way to the mitigation of climate change. The European Union has gone so far as to adopt biofuel production targets.

At the same time the world has seen food prices increase dramatically in recent times with some people pointing a finger at biofuels as contributing to those price increases. The increased price of food means that those with the most tenuous access to nutrition could slip into malnutrition or worse. This is why one UN official called biofuels production policies a “crime against humanity.”

Deutsche Welle has a nice overview:

The European Union said it is sticking to its biofuel goals despite mounting criticism from top environmental agencies and poverty advocates.

“There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels,” Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said Monday, April 14.

But her boss struck a different tone, acknowledging that the EU had underestimated problems caused by biofuels and saying that the 27-nation block planned to “move very carefully.”

Yet the EU is wary of abandoning biofuels amid worries that doing so could derail its landmark climate change and energy package. In it, Europe pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Part of the package includes setting a target for biofuels to make up 10 percent of automobile fuel.

Biofuel a culprit in food crisis

Jean ZieglerBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Ziegler called biofuel a “crime against humanity”

In recent months food prices have increased sharply. Biofuels are seen as one of several culprits. Land that used to be planted with food crops has been converted to biofuel production, which has increased prices.

UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler told German radio Monday that the production of biofuels is “a crime against humanity” because of its impact on global food prices.

The UN’s Ziegler isn’t alone in his criticism of biofuel.

The debate over biofuels illustrates that the debate over mitigation and adaptation is not just academic, but reflected in real world outcomes. It also highlights that policies can have unintended consequences. If we factor in recent research that claims that the carbon-cutting potential of biofules has been overstated, then it appears that the high hopes for biofuels as a contributor to mitigation probably need to be scaled back dramatically.