Pielke on Climate #7

klotz20171klotz20172The above images on hurricanes come via hurricane researcher @philklotzbach. The top graph shows US hurricane landfalls from 1878 to 2017 (through today). Within that data the trend is down and if you’d like to consider the data as a sample from a larger population, there is no trend. Either way you slice it, US hurricanes have not increased.

The bottom table shows summary statistics for the entire Northern Hemisphere for 2017. Even with the massive damage in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, by the numbers 2017 is an average year. Lesson: Don’t confuse impact with climate. More on that below.

Welcome to issue #7 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right.
  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
  • And thanks to those of you who have tipped – very much appreciated
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on the first 6 issues.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well.
  • Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be muted or ignored.

The next edition of this newsletter will come in January.

With that,  some of what I found interesting over the past month . . .

Mertonian Norms and Climate Debates

  • Today I have an op-ed in the WSJ on the parallel lawsuits of Mark Jacobson (Stanford) and Michael Mann (Penn State) who are both trying to characterize statements made by people critical of their work as legally actionable.
  • The two lawsuits are virtually identical in claims, argument and even the venue where their lawsuits were filed. There can be little doubt that Jacobson modeled his lawsuit on Mann’s lawsuit.
  • Importantly, here is how my piece starts: “I’ve worked alongside climate researchers for decades. Almost all of them are ethical, dedicated to science and not particularly political. But some leading figures and organizations in this community are weakening the norms that make science robust.” (emphasis added)
  • Mertonian norms are much discussed in studies of science and were first presented by Merton in this 1942 article (in PDF).
  • I am not the first to apply these norms to the climate debate, see especially, Grundmann (2012) and Jasanoff (2010).
  • There are a number of very prominent examples of the flouting of scientific norms within the climate community. It is not the sort of discussion that gets you onto Christmas Card lists, but it is easy to list leaders in the community who’ve decided that expected norms of behavior  don’t apply to them: Jacobson, Mann, Gleick, Pachauri, Schmidt, Rahmstorf, Shukla, Jones, Trenberth … Just to start.
  • Climate insiders will be intimately familiar with these folks and their efforts to quash their enemies (the “deniers”!) by bringing the techniques of power politics into scientific debates. Just today Gavin Schmidt, a publicly-funded NASA scientist, decided that the best way to respond to my op-ed would be to go on Twitter to repeat lies about me first made-up by the Center for American Progress. Thank you Gavin for helping to make my point.
  • The erosion of norms among a few leading climate scientists has been endorsed — often tacitly but sometimes explicitly — by leading scientific organizations. Mann’s lawsuits have been celebrated by leading organizations, some of which have given him awards. The sense of a cause has gripped leaders of the climate community and the cause justifies eschewing norms.
  • Seeing this, why wouldn’t Jacobson follow Mann down the same legal path? Of course, Jacobson’s lawsuit creates all sorts of unresolvable dissonance. Perhaps this dissonance is why scientific organisations which should be stating loudly and unambiguously that lawsuits are not way to pursue scientific debates.
  • This behavior will continue until norms are upheld by the community. I have enjoyed hearing Mann’s friends defend his and Jacobson’s lawsuits. This is the normalization of deviance. Perhaps these scientists can now better understand the norm-flouting and defending of President Trump.
  • The good news is that my op-ed has received wide support from many scientists inside the field of climate and energy, and well beyond. Please have a read and I welcome your comments.

The US National Climate Assessment and Weather Extremes

  • The 4th US National Climate Assessment was published a few weeks ago, and it is worth reviewing what it says about trends in extreme weather events. In short, the NCA supports arguments I’ve been making for many years.
  • “Cold extremes have become less severe over the past century.”
  • “Changes in warm extremes are more nuanced than changes in cold extremes.” (Yes, you read that correctly.)
  • Here are trends in cold spells, warm spells and heat waves 1900 to present from the report:figure6_4
  • “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) concluded that it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed changes in frequency and intensity of temperature extremes on the global scale since the mid-20th century. . . In general, however, results for the contiguous United States are not as compelling as for global land areas . . .” (emphasis added, and yes, that means weak attribution).
  • Hurricanes: “there is still low confidence that any reported long-term (multidecadal to centennial) increases in TC activity are robust”
  • Tornadoes: “A particular challenge in quantifying the existence and intensity of these events arises from the data source”
  • Winter storms: “Analysis of storm tracks indicates that there has been an increase in winter storm frequency and intensity since 1950”
  • Drought: “drought statistics over the entire CONUS have declined … no detectable change in meteorological drought at the global scale” (One for John Holdren)
  • “Western North America…. where determining if observed recent droughts were unusual compared to natural variability was particularly difficult” (Another for Dr. Holdren)
  • “IPCC AR5 did not attribute changes in flooding to anthropogenic influence nor report detectable changes in flooding magnitude, duration, or frequency”
  • In the US “”increasing & decreasing flooding magnitude but does not provide robust evidence that these trends are attributable to human influences… no formal attribution of observed flooding changes to anthropogenic forcing has been claimed”
  • “a number of precipitation metrics over the continental United States has been examined; however trends identified for the U.S. regions have not been clearly attributed to anthropogenic forcing”
  • The data says what it says. There is precious little evidence that extremes have become worse in the US since at least 1900, with the exception of more winter storms since 1950 and overall fewer cold spells. Attribution is weak to nonexistent.
  • Despite the evidence there is a drumbeat of news stories and various claims that weather disasters are getting worse.
  • For instance, the New York Times article on the release of the report contained this statement: “In the United States, the report finds that every part of the country has been touched by warming, from droughts in the Southeast to flooding in the Midwest …”
  • Michael Mann, the same professor suing his critics for being wrong about scientific claims says this: “Whether we’re talking about unprecedented heat waves, increasingly destructive hurricanes, epic drought and inundation of our coastal cities, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle
  • Both the NYT characterization of the report and Mann’s claims are irrefutably incorrect according to the report. These are just a few of many similar examples of claims that are contrary to the NCA related to extreme weather.
  • Claiming that the weather has gotten worse is today an important cultural shibboleth related to climate science. It’s not supported by the evidence but it serves an important role in the political debate over climate. Another weakened norm, I suppose.

The Politics of Inconceivable Scenarios

  • Last for this month, but perhaps most important, is a hugely significant paper published by Justin Ritchie and Hadi Dowlatabdi of the University of British Columbia titled Why do climate scenarios return to coal?
  • The paper argues that the IPCC’s scenario for future emissions of carbon dioxide most often characterized as “business-as-usual” (technically called RCP 8.5) should be considered implausible.
  • They explain: “RCP8.5 no longer offers a trajectory of 21st-century climate change with physically relevant information for continued emphasis in scientific studies or policy assessments.”
  • Why does this matter? A “business as usual” scenario is frequently used as the basis for projections of how the future climate will evolve in the absence of climate policy that seeks to reduce emissions.
  • The difference between BAU and a climate policy scenario in terms of climate outcomes is thus characterized as the consequences (and sometimes the costs) of not mitigating.
  • Right away you can see that for those seeking to argue the case for mitigation action, there is every incentive for BAU to be as bad as possible. But what if BAU isn’t as bad as it used to be, under assumptions that may have made sense in the 1970s for a dramatic return-to-coal through the 21st century? Should today’s BAU baseline be made more realistic?
  • Larry Kummer has done a great job documenting how RCP 8.5 has been frequently invoked as a “business-as-usual” scenario.
  • In fact, once you start looking, you’ll see RCP 8.5 everywhere in the climate impacts literature. For instance, just yesterday, PNAS published a quick-turnaround study by Kerry Emanuel arguing that storms like Hurricane Harvey will become 6x more common by 2100 … under RCP 8.5. But if RCP 8.5 is implausible, then so too are Emanuel’s results (any other methodological issues aside).
  • Revisiting BAU has profound significance. As Ritchie and Dowlatabadi explained in an earlier paper: “For the past quarter-century, high emission baselines have been the focus of research, explicitly or implicitly shaping national policy benchmarks, such as estimates for the social cost of carbon.”  That innocuous sentence gets close to a third rail of the climate debate — the social cost of carbon (SCC).
  • The more extreme the BAU scenario, the higher the SCC and the higher the cost of what those using the SCC would claim to be acceptable regulatory action. See the incentives at play here?
  • The Ritchie and Dowlatabadi paper reveals a deeply problematic aspect of the climate issue: It depends almost entirely on competing visions of the future as codified in integrated assessment models. The costs of action and inaction are based on the assumptions used to build these models – not evidence, not data but assumptions.
  • Policy arguments based on assumptions in highly speculative models are tailor-made for pathological politicization, appeals to authority and gatekeeping to protect from critical views. Based on this, in the real world of politics they also have very little weight in near-term policy decisions.
  • A far better approach would be to focus on carbon-free energy as a proportion of global supply and to argue about what would actions would move that proportion from a current ~14% towards upwards of 90%.BP.2017.3
  • Richie says he has faced some difficulties getting his arguments published: “Despite getting over 30 peer reviews collected from all of these journals, no one has shot it down,” he said, adding that he still has detected a reluctance among some scholars to grapple with his observations. “Maybe I’m completely wrong about all of this, and here I’ve written all these papers and there’s some critical flaws in them. That’s great—tell me about it,” Ritchie said. “Please! Someone just read it!
  • Read it. It is important.
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Pielke on Climate #6

IronLaw.jpg

Welcome to issue #6 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. The above image comes from a recent public opinion survey on climate change from AP/NORC (here in PDF). The data shows that the Iron Law of Climate Change is alive and well. People are willing to pay some economic price for action on climate change, but that willingness is extremely limited. Only 12% of Americans say that they’d be willing to pay $75 per month, and only 52% say they be willing to pay $1 per month. The Iron Law provides a very useful boundary condition for thinking about policy design.

As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right.
  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
  • And thanks to those of you who have tipped – very much appreciated
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on the first 5 issues.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well.
  • Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be blocked or ignored.

The next edition of this newsletter will come in November.

With that,  some of what I found interesting over the past month . . .

Emissions intensity assumptions and projections

  • Pretis and Roser (2017) conclude that “global emission intensity (fossil fuel CO2 emissions per GDP) rose in the first part of the 21st century despite all major climate projections foreseeing a decline.”
  • This analysis further confirms the work we did in Pielke et al. (2008) (“Dangerous Assumptions” here in PDF) in which we argued that “IPCC assumptions for decarbonization in the short term (2000–2010) are already inconsistent with the recent evolution of the global economy.”
  • Our 2008 paper was the subject of a sustained effort of delegitimization by the Center for American Progress and members of the media. The image below is from 2008, near the start of CAP’s 170+ article effort to delegitimize my work over many years.CAPJoe
  • Despite this effort by CAP and fellow travelers, it looks like the IPCC has now adopted our recommended approach going forward, based on the Kaya Identity decomposition of emissions. See Riahi et al. (2017), from which the figure below right is taken (the panel on the left is from Pielke et al. 2008). Sometimes it takes a while, but good science stands the test of time.dc-blog
  • Watch out for loose talk of emissions and GDP having “decoupled” (no, they haven’t) and pay attention instead to quantified rates of decarbonization, decomposed into energy intensity (energy/GDP) and carbon intensity (carbon/energy). Ultimately progress towards stabilizing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is best measured by rates of decline in C/GDP.

Hurricanes

  •  In July, I warned in an essay at Risk Frontiers that bigger disasters we coming. I didn’t know that they’d be coming so soon.
  • Phil Klotzbach of CSU has the active 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season into historical perspective.dmn3m6mvwaafjk5
  • Klotzbach puts these numbers into a Norther Hemisphere persepctive, and the active season turns into a pretty ordinary one.dmrep7hvwaay3yt
  • It is very preliminary, but based on estimates from AIR Worldwide for losses from this year’s hurricane season, we can estimate (assuming total = 2x insured) that they will total about $300B (US and beyond).  If we add in another $100B for other events (earthquakes, floods, fires, etc.) that would take the world to about 0.4% of global GDP, making 2017 the costliest disaster year (as % GDP) since 2005.
  • Of course, 2017 could yet exceed 2005.
  • On the mainland US, hurricane damage could exceed $150B. However, it is important to understand that the US NWS keeps separate tabulations for flood damage and hurricane damage, so Harvey in particular will have its accounts in two categories. This doesn’t matter to those who suffered the impacts of Harvey, but it does have some implications for research that tries to compare impacts over time in apples-to-apples fashion.
  • Here is a sneak-peak at a table from a paper in progress in which we are updating our normalized hurricane loss dataset through 2017. At this point, it looks like both Harvey’s and Irma’s total costs will put them into the top 10 of normalized US losses, but not into the top 5. If flood losses are indeed determined not to be apples-to-apples with this dataset, then Harvey could fall out of the top 25. Our paper will be submitted in December, after hurricane season.diulileumaem0h8
  • The response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico continues to stand out as a remarkable failure of US governing and leadership. How can the US government be so incompetent and the president so callous? Remarkable on both counts.

Ocean Heat Content and Science Ethics

  • Last month a group of scientists published an article in EOS (newsletter of the AGU) with a fantastic idea: “we suggest that scientists and modelers who seek global warming signals should track how much heat the ocean is storing at any given time, termed global ocean heat content (OHC)” (Cheng et al. 2017). Brilliant.
  • In a companion piece in The Guardian one of the article’s co-authors, John Abraham, explained, “This finding should help change the way we talk about global warming.” Damn straight.
  • But . . . As anyone familiar with climate science should well know, the idea to monitor ocean heat content as a metric of human-caused global warming that is far better than surface temperatures was first presented by my father in 2003 in BAMS.
  • Perhaps Cheng et al. simply discovered this new “finding” on their own. Yeah, no.
  • Pielke Sr. engaged in many years of advocacy for the use of ocean heat content  as a metric of global warming on his blog, most notably with Cheng et al. co-author Kevin Trenberth. See: here, here, here, here, here and here — just for a few. So Trenberth was fully aware of the intellectual history of this idea. Trenberth was among a number of scientists to criticize the idea. And yet Pielke Sr. persisted.
  • In August of 2016, Pielke Sr. corresponded with Cheng, and observed cordially that several of Cheng and colleagues’ papers had failed to cite properly his early work on OHC.
  • Cheng responded just as cordially: “I’m so sorry we fail to cite your papers, I will read those paper and do cite in our future studies” (sic). So Cheng was also aware of the intellectual history of the idea and had expressed an intent to properly cite that history in the future.
  • OK, mistakes happen, references are sometimes overlooked. Yeah. no.
  • On September 27, 2017, Pielke Sr. emailed Barbara Richman, EOS Editor in Chief, to inquire about the citation oversight. Richman responded with this (emphasis added): “Earlier today I talked to several of the authors of [Cheng et al. 2017] and asked if they would consider updating their Opinion with additional references. They have expressly stated that they do not wish to do so.
  • No shit, Sherlock — That is the problem here.
  • In parallel, as a test of the system I emailed the AGU Ethics Committee,  noting my concern about the “wholesale appropriation of ideas first presented in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 2003 by Roger Pielke Sr.” The AGU Ethics Committee helpfully explains to its members that “An ethical writer ALWAYS acknowledges the contributions of others to his/her work.”
  • ALWAYS (got that?)
  • The AGU Ethics Committee sent my note to Barbara Richman (I kid you not) to adjudicate and to respond. She of course summarily dismissed the concern, explaining: “Eos is not a research journal, and therefore, it is not necessary to document meticulously all sources.” So NOT ALWAYS? I have a hard time squaring this with the AGU Ethics guidelines, but whatevs.
  • In 1868 Dr. J. Marion Sims explained what is going on here:  “For it is ever so with any great truth. It must first be opposed, then ridiculed, after a while accepted, and then comes the time to prove that it is not new, and that the credit of it belongs to some one else.”
  • Pielke Sr.’s academic record speaks for itself. Unfortunately, in the vicious world of climate science, it has to. Climate science ain’t beanbag.

Until next time …

Pielke on Climate #5

ObamaTrumpParis

Welcome to issue #5 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. The above image comes from an essay I have in press titled “Climate Change as Symbolic politics in the United States,” which I’ll share in due course. The image shows a “word cloud” for President Obama’s Rose Garden comments on the Paris Agreement and those of President Trump in the Rose Garden. They were speaking in the exact same location about the exact same policy, but they clearly live in different symbolic realities.

As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right.
  • And thanks to those of you who have tipped – very much appreciated
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on the first 4 issues.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well.
  • Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be blocked or ignored.

The next edition of this newsletter will come in October.

With that,  some of what I found interesting over the past month . . .

Hurricanes

    • There has obviously been a lot of interest in hurricanes, with several Caribbean islands devastated by Irma and the US hit by 2 Category 4 storms in quick succession, Harvey and Irma. And the Atlantic remains active.
    • I had an op-ed in the WSJ on policy actions needed going forward to improve preparation for and responses to disasters. This was not an op-ed about climate policy. I recommended:
      • Disaster review boards, to evaluate what went wrong (and right)
      • Resilient growth, drawing on appropriate experts to develop smarter
      • Enhance federal capacity, focused on NWS, FEMA etc.
    • The issue of hurricanes and climate change has morphed almost entirely to one of symbolism and signaling, even among many scientists, especially those who ware more vocal and political. There is not a lot of room for meaningful discussion on this subject. But nonetheless, here are a few thoughts:
      • Let’s simply postulate that (a) climate change makes all hurricanes worse than they otherwise would have been. Full stop. (Of course, “climate change” doesn’t do anything, the phrase has now become shorthand for “the emissions of carbon dioxide.”)
      • This leads us to a bit of a logic problem: (b) Neither tropical cyclones globally, Atlantic hurricanes overall, US landfalls nor US normalized damage has gotten worse (that is more frequent or intense) over climate time scales. (Don’t take it from me, this is straight out of the IPCC and US government’s National Climate Assessment)
      • So a logic test: Explain (a) in the context of (b). Though I am pretty sure that the answer is “Denier.”)djn5vb7u8aakdeg
      • Often missed issue in climate science discussions: If you predict something bad will occur in 2080-2100 (worse hurricanes!) and you then claim see it in 2017 (Harvey, irma! Told you so!), that does not prove you “right” — it actually says your prediction is wildly off base.
      • Where I stand: accelerating the decarbonization of the global economy was important before the hurricanes struck. It is still important. Efforts to convince the public or policy makers to drastically change energy policy based on hurricanes is a fool’s errand. But good luck with it. When that doesn’t work, we will still be here with better ways forward. Good ideas will eventually win out, it may just take a while.
    • Here is an excellent overview of Harvey’s economic impact. The storms caused massive destruction. However, they are unlikely to alter the dynamics of the global reinsurance market which has had a deficit of costly disasters over the past decade.
    • We’ve got work in progress on this issue, as below.

 

 

Other misc climate stuff

  • Paris. With its latest comments and reported comments on the Paris Agreement he Trump Administration is doing what the Trump Administration does: signaling confusion and incompetence.
    • The White House stated yesterday: “the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country.”
    • This statement doesn’t even make sense in English.
    • This doesn’t make policy sense as the US is already free to set its own “terms” under Paris as is every other country.
    • I Trump Admin actions on other issues are considered indicative, its just a matter of time before Trump signals that the US has rejoined because the international community responded to his forceful demands. In reality nothing will have changed.
  • Do you want to know the origins of the 2 degree temperature target that underpins much of climate policy discussions and action?
    • As is often the case, it is an arbitrary round number that was politically convenient. So it became a sort of scientific truth. However, it has little scientific basis but is a hard political reality.
    • Jaeger and Jaeger (2011) explain that it came from “a marginal remark in an early paper about climate policy”
    • That “marginal paper” was a 1975 working paper by economist William Nordhaus (here in PDF and a second version is from 1977, with the figure shown below). At p. 23, “If there were global temperatures of more than 2 or 3 C. above the current average temperature, this would take the climate outside of the range of observations which have been made over the last several hundred thousand years.”nord-1977
    • Nordhaus’ claim was sourced to climatologist Hubert Lamb (1972) who in turn calculated long-term variations in temperature based on record kept in Central England.
    • So: The 2 degree temperature target that sits at the center of current climate policy discussions originated in a local, long-term record of temperature variation in England, which was adapted by an economist in a “what if?” exercise.
    • The 2 degree target is today far more politically “real” than its grounding in science or policy. That won’t change, but it is nonetheless a fascinating look at the arbitrariness of policy and how it is that issues are framed shapes what options are deemed relevant and appropriate.
    • As an example, check out this paper just out today in Nature — it argues that we can emit more than we thought and still hit a 1.5 degree temperature target. People will argue about the results, many because of its perceived political implications. But this argument is only tenuously related to actual energy policies, instead it is related to how we should think about arguments that might be used to motivate people to think about energy policies and thus demand action and so on. Tenuous, like I said.
  • Glen Peters explains why carbon capture and sequestration is a necessary part of any climate policy focused on deep decarbonization. It is neither a popular nor widely discussed issue outside a few specialists.
  • Finally for now, new polling indicates that climate change is not a high public concern in many parts of Europe:

Hurricane Harvey and Disaster Policy

104678795-gettyimages-840239148-600x400

I’ve got an op-ed in the WSJ today on actions needed in the aftermath of Harvey, as we are just at the beginning of what is assuredly a return to more frequent disasters. In the article I suggest the following as obvious bi-partisan places to seek agreement and secure quick actions:

  1. Disaster review boards
  2. Local planning for resilient growth
  3. Enhance federal agency capacity

In July, I explained at Risk Frontiers why more frequent disasters were on their way. It didn’t take long for that expectation to be fulfilled.

Here are two very good pieces on the political pitfalls of using Harvey as a political bludgeon in the climate debate:

  1. From the left at Grist
  2. From the right at The Spectator

I’m happy to hear comments here or on Twitter.

Pielke on Climate #4

Welcome to issue #4 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right.
  • And thanks to those of you who have tipped – very much appreciated! (Know that your contributions helped to underwrite my recent talk in London.)
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, a Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on the first 3 issues.
  • If you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be blocked or ignored.

The next edition of this newsletter will come in September.

With that,  some of what I found interesting over the past month . . .

Disasters are still remarkably low

  • Every 6 months Munich Re publishes data on the most costs of disasters over the most recent 6 months. Here is the first half 2017 release.
  • That data allow me to update my graph showing global weather disasters as a proportion of global GDP (data from the UN).
  • Here is the graph:DFCwsFmVwAEH9HR
  • The data shows that since 2005 the world has had a remarkable streak of good luck when it comes to big weather disasters, specifically:
    • From 2006 to present there have been 7/11 years with weather disasters costing less than 0.20% of global GDP.
    • The previous 11 years saw 6 with more than 0.20% of global GDP.
    • From 2006 to present there has be zero years with losses greater tham 0.30% of global GDP.
    • The previous 11 years had 2, as did the 6 years before that, or about once every 4 years.
    • If a linear trend is your thing, then you’ll be interested to note that global disasters are 50% what they were 27 years ago, as a proportion of GDP. That is something. (Again, caveat lector!)
  • Why has this happened? Is it good luck? Climate change? Voodoo? Good questions. I discuss data, research, the IPCC and other issues in this short book: Disasters and Climate Change.
  • I am used to it, but it is freaking incredible that no one is really talking about this remarkable recent trend out in public (though it is widely discussed within the insurance/reinsurance communities). I get it (lost a job for discussing it), but still.
  • Regression to the mean is going to cause a freak out. Guaranteed.
  • Big disasters will again happen, its just a matter of time.

Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia

  • I gave a talk in London last week at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, you can watch the whole thing above (1 hour talk + 1 hour discussion/debate).
  • I also published it as a Twitter talk – here.
  • Here is a link to a PDF of the slides.
  • The audience was diverse and the discussion following the talk (1 hour!) focused mainly on experts and democracy, not the climate issue per se. I was really happy with the discussion and the diversity present in the audience.
  • This is a talk I don’t think I would have given before I moved on to (mainly) focus on other areas of science and policy.
  • It may be turned into a paper on our political debates, with climate as a notable example of a broader situation.
  • Of course … comments welcomed.

Random Bits on Climate Research, Policy, Politics and Advocacy

  • A group of academics published a paper today with an analysis that jibes well with my talk above – Beyond Counting Climate Consensus.  They have already been tarred as “deniers” and the media has been instructed by the climate police not to discuss it.
  • Some interesting new climate papers that crossed by desk:
    • Exploring the circumstances surrounding flood fatalities in Australia — 1900-2015 and the implications for policy and practice (link)
    • Analysis of Variance of Flood Events on the U.S. East Coast: The Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Flood Event Severity and Frequency (link)
    • North Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Prediction: Underlying Science and an Evaluation of Statistical Models (link)
    • Direct and Insured Flood Damage in the United States (link)
  • Some interesting non-climate-but-related papers that crossed my desk:
    • Kill the myth of the miracle machine (Sarewitz, link)
    • Redefine statistical significance (link)
    • On the measuring and mis-measuring of Chinese growth (link)
    • Six Decades of Top Economics Publishing: Who and How? (link)
  • Discussions of a climate “red team” have hotted up. You can see my views on this in the talk above, but I am not a fan. My view is that diversity of views within science should be address within an assessment process, not through politicized teams. I gave some detailed thoughts on the importance of assessments in testimony before the House Science Committee last spring, here in PDF.
  • On the Red Team issue, consider these two statements:
    • “Such calls for special teams of investigators are not about honest scientific debate. They are dangerous attempts to elevate the status of minority opinions, and to undercut the legitimacy, objectivity and transparency of existing climate science.” (WP)
    • “You need multiple groups looking at the same bits and bites … I would not want to live in a world where one group was entrusted to do this work.” (Also in WP)
    • Interestingly, these comments were made the the same scientist. Such overt hypocrisy and scientific gatekeeping are likely one reason calls for a red team are finding supporters in the Trump Administration.
  • The climate wars opened fronts on (a) whether the US might be able to go to 100% renewables sometime in the next few decades and (b) whether “worst case” scenarios are appropriate to be discussing.
  • Snoozeville on both. The answers are of course (a) No it can’t, and (b) Yes, of course. Lawsuits were apparently threatened against researchers and reporters if they discussed the 100% renewables debate — says something about the state of the climate debate. But if you are reading this far, you already know that.
  • The House Science Committee has asked the US Department of Treasury to open an investigation into alleged Russian support for US anti-fracking campaigns (PDF). Here is some background.
  • If the allegations are correct, then it means that interest groups such as the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress were paid by a foreign government to conduct political advocacy against US energy policies.
  • A delicious side note: This also would mean that the campaign of personal destruction waged by CAP against me (161 articles, 7 authors, 8 years) was paid for by Russia. Рад тебя видеть Comrade Romm.

See you again in September!

Pielke on Climate #3

screen-shot-2017-06-08-at-19-49-47-714x444Welcome to issue #3 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right. And thanks to those of you who have tipped – very much appreciated!
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, a Tweet to me (@rogerpielkejr) or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on the first 2 issues.
  • If you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be blocked or ignored.

With that,  some of what I found interesting over the past month . . .

BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Every June, BP publishes one of the world’s best resources on global energy consumption. BP data was at the heart of the analyses I did in The Climate Fix, and are essential for understanding climate and energy policy issues. Here are some analyses based on the just released 2017 data following a methodology described here (in PDF) and here (in much more depth).

  1. If a goal of climate policy is to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at a low level (e.g., 450 ppm) then emissions have to be reduced to near zero. That means that global carbon-free energy consumption has to be increased to near 100%. This math is as simple as it is relentless. To get a better sense of the effects of climate policy, don’t focus on emissions, instead focus on the proportion of global energy consumption from carbon-free sources — nuclear, hydro and various renewable technologies. Here is that value 1966-2016:BP2017.1
  2. In 2016, 14.5% of global energy consumption came from carbon-free technologies. That is the highest level since 1966. That is good news.
  3. However, to put that number into context, the figure below shows what would be needed in the 21st century, if carbon dioxide concentrations are going to be stabilized:BP.2017.3
  4. In round numbers, the world needs a linear rate of increase of ~1% per year, every year, through the end of the century to get above 90% carbon-free energy consumption. By linear increase I simply mean that 14% in 2015 needs to be 15% in 2016, 16% in 2017, 17% in 2018 and so on. If you want to hit that 90% proportion sooner, then the rate of linear increase must be correspondingly higher.
  5. From 2015 to 2016, carbon-free energy consumption increased from 14% to 14.5%. Notable, but half the needed 1%. That means that the world is actually falling behind. That is the bad news.
  6. Which countries contributed most and least to the 0.5% increase from 2015 to 2016? Here there are some surprises. I was surprised to learn that China, US and India together were responsible for 100% of the increase in carbon-free energy consumption, while the rest of the world netted out to zero change. Another surprise: The EU actually saw its carbon-free energy supply decrease by a small amount. China is far and away the global leader here.BP.2017.2
  7. What technologies were most responsible for the increase in carbon-free energy from 2015 to 2016? Renewables led the way, but hydro and nukes played a large share as well.  For those who envision a world powered only by renewable energy, these numbers are sobering, as renewable deployment is only 1/3 the pace needed.BP.2017.4
  8. Bottom line? The world is decarbonizing its energy systems, slowly. All of the focus on “reducing emissions” tends to obscure what really matters here – the rapid expansion of carbon-free energy consumption. The emphasis on the politics of limits (reducing emissions) rather than the politics of possibility (expanding consumption) deserves some attention as well.

President Trump and the Paris Agreement

As promised during his campaign, President Trump made good on his commitment to declare that the US is leaving the Paris Agreement. It remains unclear what practical significance this has, but it does have considerable symbolic importance – far beyond just climate policy.

Polling data from the Washington Post suggests that Trump’s move played well with his base, and Republicans overall, while strongly opposed by Democrats and Independents:PublicParis

I have often argued that the intense polarization of the climate issue works very well as a wedge issue in electoral politics (see Ted Nordhaus and Alex Trembath on this issue). At the same time, it is probably fatal to climate policy in the United States. This sets up a difficult dynamic for those actually interested in climate policy – playing the wedge politics game is appealing, and may even confer some short-term electoral benefits. But in the long-run, it all but guarantees that climate policy is going no where fast. Add into that mix the fact that many leading climate scientists are leading the wedge politics charge, and you have a recipe for failure.

Donald Trump and the Republicans could not be more happy with this state of affairs.

Some Science

A few this crossed my screen that are worth sharing:

    1. US drought has decreased over more than a century: “For most of the [continental United States], drought frequency appears to have decreased during the 1901 through 2014 period.”
    2. Tropical cyclones in the South China Sea making landfall in China and Vietnam declined over 65 years.11069_2017_2905_Fig3_HTML
    3. The US National Academy of Sciences just published a review of a forthcoming “Climate Science Special Report. Here are some quotes from that review on extreme weather:
      1. “analysis of global and continental-scale trends indicates that drought severity and other statistics have actually declined”
      2. “Within the existing literature, few locations show statistically significant changes in flooding nor have they [changes in flooding] been clearly linked to precipitation or temperature”
      3. “There is some evidence of upward trends in precipitation extremes, but essentially none in floods”
      4. “flooding is (contrary to popular view) changing in complicated ways with no clear national trend”
      5. “There is, at best, scant evidence that tornadoes are exhibiting changes linked to climate change”
      6. Note: NAS says little on hurricanes in the review other than there has been an increase in the NATL since 1970s, consistent with IPCC AR5
      7. Bottom line: Just like I’ve been telling you
    4. US hurricane season has started (with no permanent NHC or FEMA directors in place, but I digress). As of today it has been 4,252 days since the last time a Category 3+ hurricane made a US landfall. That is long enough to get lazy and to forget. The streak will not last.us.cat345
    5. Cliff Mass at the University of Washington explains what it is like to discuss the science of extreme weather: “Every time I correct misinformation in the media like this, I get savaged by some “environmentalists” and media. I am accused of being a denier, a skeptic, an instrument of the oil companies … My efforts do not go unnoticed at the UW, with my department chairman and leadership in the UW Climate Impacts Group telling me of “concerns” with my complaints about hyped stories on oyster deaths and snowpack. One UW professor told me that although what I was saying was true, I needed to keep quiet because I was helping “the skeptics.” Probably not good for my UW career.”
    6. Is sea level rise accelerating? No detectable acceleration since 1993 (the altimeter era), but if climate models are accurate, then a signal should be detectable in the next decade.
    7. Interesting paper comparing energy transitions in Germany and Japan.

Coming Attractions

If you’ve read this far you deserve a preview of a few things to come.

  1. A new short book is just out in the ASU/CSPO “Rightful Place of Science” series, titled Climate Pragmatism. Could not be more timely:ClimPrag
  2. Finally, I am giving a public talk in London next month on the politics of the climate debate. My title is “Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia.” It’ll be a good one. (And funded in part by this blog’s tip jar — thanks!). More details to come.

Pielke on Climate #2

2015-11-19-1447968585-1661590-6672156239_89c77d53d8_oWelcome to the second edition of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention. So caveat lector!

A few things to say up front:

  • If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, just a professor with a blog.
  • If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right. And thanks to those of you who visited it last month – much appreciated!
  • If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, a Tweet or an email. I am happy to discuss or debate.
  • If you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh so common in discussing climate, then you will be blocked or ignored.
  • With that, let’s see what I found interesting over the past month . . .

Climate and Energy Policies

  • Will he or won’t he? There has been much discussion of whether President Trump keeps the US in the Paris Agreement. If we are having this debate then Trump has already won.
  • Much of climate debate (at least in the US) is about symbols, and Trump has roundly routed his opponents on this turf (in fact, this may be the only turf that Trump cares about, but I digress).
  • Consider Adam Sieminski, President Obama’s appointee to head the US Energy Information Agency, who now says that opposing the Keystone XL was a mistake. Amy Harder at Axois writes: “symbolic climate politics won out over pragmatic energy policy.”
  • Trump made Keystone XL a feature of his campaign, upon taking office issued an Executive Order approving the project with no opposition from Congress or really anyone else (outside social media echo chambers).
  • Trump also held an event and signed some sort of symbolic document recognizing coal miners. As I wrote at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, this wasn’t about coal or energy policy, it was about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  • So think of the Paris Agreement not as a policy framework, but rather as a potent political symbol.
  • As a symbol, here is how the politics works: Trump pulls out of Paris, Trump wins. Trump stays in, Trump wins. Fun game, huh?
  •  In a perceptive piece @jmcurtin writes: “The only White House climate debate is between those who want to use the Paris climate agreement as a branding and lobbying opportunity, and those who favour leaving it altogether.”
  • The rest of the world should preempt Trump and just kick the US out.
  • Similarly, President Trump has made a big deal of reversing Obama’s Clean Power Plan. This too is a symbolic action. According to EIA, the impact of the CPP is pretty marginal:main
  • In fact, its projected impact of the CPP is far less than market prices for fossil fuels, again according to EIA:chart4
  • Consider that the CPP would likely have been tied up in the courts during a Hilary Clinton administration and you get … symbolism.
  • Advocates for more aggressive climate action should use the opportunity afforded by the Trump presidency to fundamentally rethink climate policy in a way that would be politically robust.
  • I read and hear lots of smart people wondering, “How can we elect people who will support Paris and the CPP?”  This is backwards. The more pressing challenge is to come up with energy and climate policies that survive regardless of who is elected.
  • After all, if the world is going to decarbonize at a rate 2-3x historical averages, then it will need public support for policy action over many decades.  You don’t have to be a card-carrying political scientist to understand that political party control of government will change — a lot — over such a long time period.
  •  Bottom line: The Trump presidency reveals the utter failure of US climate policy — it crashed and burned on the first presidential transition. In fact, it may have contributed in some ways to the election of that president (again, I digress). Climate advocates have an opportunity to rethink what a “big tent” approach to climate policy might look like. But will they?

Climate Wars

  • Maybe I’m just an eternal optimist, but it does seem that the tide may finally be starting turning against the extremist views of leading climate scientists and their acolytes.
  • Sure, there were smart pieces by smart thinkers at CSPO and the Breakthrough Institute: @JasonGLloyd (great piece here) and @TedNordhaus (more awesomeness here).
  • But what really was encouraging was Nature magazine writing: “But name-calling and portraying the current political climate as a war between facts and ignorance simply sows division.”
  • Perhaps Nature’s editors noticed that in the US, public support for science funding, once a shared, bipartisan priority, has split on partisan lines:ft_17-04-28_sciencefunding_divides
  • Did the recent Science March help to bring people together? Early evidence says: probably not.
  • After failing to get Bret Stephens fired from the New York Times, the nation’s leading climate scientist, Michael Mann (@MichaelEMann) has focused his vitriol on cartoonist Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame (@ScottAdamsSays).
  • I can’t believe I just wrote that. (Seriously, if you are not yet blocked by Mann, go over and read his Twitter feed for a glimpse into the world view of the nation’s most important climate scientist.)
  • Pro tip: If you don’t want to be viewed as analogous to a religious fundamentalist, don’t go after cartoonists.

Some science

Lots of stuff on the cutting room floor, I’ll get to it next time. All for now!