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!