Pielke on Climate #10

quote-the-white-house-is-a-bully-pulpit-theodore-roosevelt-67-54-41Welcome to issue #10 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.
  • Thanks to those of you who have already contributed!
  • These funds continue to help me defray the costs of several trips where I have had the chance to develop and present new talks. I am unfunded on this topic.
  • Contributions are much appreciated.
  • 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’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or send an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on these newsletters.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well. Anonymity guaranteed for those who want it.
  • 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.

With that . . .

Talk on “Extreme Weather and Extreme Politics”

  • Earlier this month I gave a talk at the University of Minnesota.
  • It was my first public talk on climate since being “investigated” by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) in 2015.
  • It is also the first and only invitation I’ve received to give a public talk on climate at a US university since 2015.
  • Before that I received about 2-3 invitations per month.
  • Delegitimization works.
  • You can see my slides from Minnesota at
  • Much of what I presented (and more) will appear in the 2nd edition of Disasters and Climate Change.
  • Below I document a key episode in my own experience that I have never looked back on in detail.
  • The timeline is of use to me, shared here for anyone else who might be interested.

A Look Back at the Holdren-Pielke Debate of 2014

  • One of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had in the climate debate was when President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, posted a weird, 6-page screed about me on the White House web site.
  • Here is a reconstruction of and look back at those events, and an evaluation how they look from vantage point of 2018.
  • This look back is mainly just for me, as when you are in the spin cycle it can be hard to see what has happened at the time.
  • The Holdren episode ultimately led to me being investigated by a member of Congress with a major impact on my life and career.
  • I’ve not taken a close look back at this episode, it’s time for me to document exactly what transpired. If you are not interested, this would be a good place to take the exit ramp.
  • In July 2013, I testified before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on extreme events.
  • You can see my 5 minute statement below and read my full written testimony here in PDF. That testimony was widely discussed.
  • I followed that testimony up with similar testimony before the US House a few months later, in October 2013.
  • I wrote a blog post explaining that the science on these issues was solid. Even so I argued that “zombie science” (to the contrary) would always be with us.
  • On February 14, 2014, Holdren was quoted as saying: “We really understand a number of the reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and the frequency and the life of drought in drought-prone regions. This is one of the better-understood dimensions of the relationship between global climate change and extreme weather in particular regions. . . There are other, more subtle, ways climate change may be affecting the prevalence of drought; scientists are still arguing about those. The three I just described are more than enough to understand why we are seeing droughts in drought-prone regions becoming more frequent, more severe and longer.”
  • Two weeks later Dr. Holdren was asked about these statements by Senator Jeff Sessions before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the same committee that I had testified before the previous July.
  • The full exchange between Sessions and Holdren can be found here, but below are the key excerpts.
  • After some sparring on what Dr. Holdren said or didn’t say a few week previous, Senator Sessions said:
    • “Well, let me tell you what Dr. Pilkey (sic) said, who sat in that chair you are sitting in today just a few  months ago, he is a climate impact expert, and he agrees that  warming is partly caused by human emissions. But he testified “It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that  disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or  droughts have increased on climate change time scales either in  the United States or globally.”
  • Holdren replied with a delegitmization effort, saying that I was
    • “not  representative of the mainstream scientific opinion on this  point. And again, I will be happy to submit for the record  recent articles from Nature, Nature GeoScience, Nature Climate  Change, Science and others showing that in drought-prone regions droughts are becoming more intense.”
  • Of course, Holdren was incorrect.
  • My views are 100% consistent with those of the IPCC, the very definition of “mainstream scientific opinion.”
  • Holdren promised to submit scientific evidence for the hearing record in support of his views, Sessions said he looked forward to it.
  • Three days later Holdren’s missive about me was posted on the White House website, titled Drought and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr ” (here in PDF).
  • Holdren singled out just 2 statements that I had made in my testimony:
    • “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally.”
    • Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less, frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century”. Globally, “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.”
  • The quotes in blue above are from the US National Climate Assessment (former) and a Nature paper (latter) on global drought trends.
  • Holdren explained his objections:
    • “I replied that the indicated comments by Dr. Pielke … were not representative of mainstream views on this topic in the climate-science community; and I promised to provide for the record a more complete response with relevant scientific references. “
  • The slide below shows the entirety of my discussion of drought in my 2013 Senate testimony, which consisted only of quotes from the IPCC, the US CCSP and an image from the CCSP report.PielkeUMN04182018
  • Holdren did not mention hurricanes, floods or tornadoes in his 6 pages of response.
  • Holdren’s response blew up the internet (or at least the tiny part of it involving issues related to climate).
  • When the White House posts 6 pages about you, it gets noticed.
  • For my part, in response wrote a blog response which you can read here.
  • In that post I noted:
    • “It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far.”
  • This was, as far as I am aware, the first time that a Science Advisor to the US President used his platform to seek to delegitimize an academic with whom he disagreed.
  • I am aware of no such comparable use of the authority and reach of the White House against a researcher.
  • The fact that I was singled out by the president’s science advisor was not reported on or commented on by the mainstream scientific media. Leading scientific organizations said nothing.
  • I found this pretty amazing, but c’est la vie.
  • If John Marburger, say, had gone after James Hansen, it’d have been a story.
  • I responded more forcefully in an article in The New Republic a few days later.
  • None of this mattered, I quickly learned that a lone academic is no match for the bully pulpit that is the White House and the powerful echo chamber of the online climate debate.
  • A few weeks later the campaign to have me removed as a writer for 538 was underway and 11 months later the investigation motivated by Rep. Raul Grijlava (D-AZ), which he indicated was the result of Holdren’s missive, was launched.
  • One of my close colleagues said to me at the time: “I’d love to come to your defense, but I don’t want them coming after me.”
  • Fair enough.
  • Let’s quickly take a look at the state of the science in 2018 on drought.
  • The 2017 US National Climate Assessment, prepared under the direction of John Holdren in the last months of the Obama Administration and released after Donald Trump became president concluded the following about drought:
    • “drought statistics over the entire CONUS have declined … no detectable change in meteorological drought at the global scale”
    • “Western North America was noted as a region where determining if observed recent droughts were unusual compared to natural variability was particularly difficult.”
  • Right.
  • It was an interesting experience.
  • I’m still here.

CAP Backs Down When Challenged


Judd Legum is an editor for the Center for American Progress, where he oversees their “Climate Progress” blog.  Over the years, in his role as editor he oversaw or wrote some 160+ articles about me on their pages, misrepresenting my research and political views. After I wrote an article for Natre Silver at 538 in 2014, he called up Silver (and Silver’s lead editor) to demand I be fired. In 2016, the Wikileaks releases revealed Legum was misrepresenting my work as part of a political campaign on behalf of billionaire Tom Steyer. But that embarrassment hasn’t kept Legum away, just yesterday he again took to Twitter to misrepresent my academic work. It’s always the same playbook.

I’ve had enough of CAP and their lies, misrepresentations and character assassination. So yesterday I challenged Legum to back up his Twitter and Wikileaks bravado in a public debate with me. If my work has been “comprehensively debunked” by CAP and is the work of “deniers” then he should be able to destroy me in a public forum, giving a powerful lesson to anyone foolish enough to challenge him.

Here is how Legum responded in declining the opportunity to debate the subject of my 538 article that has had him so worked up over these past four years:

I think on the topic, the idea of what’s driving the costs of disasters is a technical topic that would not create a compelling public debate. The arguments all hinge on data analysis that would be boring and no readily comprehensible for a general debate.

Say what? A “technical topic”? And “not readily comprehensible”? So much for the Wikileaks bravado about debunking my work and all that.

More generally Legum responded:

I’m not sure you actually stake out any such positions that I disagree with.

This is a remarkable admission from the guy at the Center for American Progress who has overseen a decade-long effort to destroy my academic career through social media bullying, behind the scenes politicking and the spreading of outright lies. It also shows what happens when bullies are challenged but can’t back it up. They back down and slink away.

Public Debate Challenge to Judd Legum


People are funny. Judd Legum is a die-hard partisan who works for the Center for American Progress. For some reason, four years ago he decided to use his position to (successfully) get me removed as a writer for 538. You all know the story.

Well Judd is back to harass. Apparently more than 160 articles about me at CAP were not enough.

Well, I’ve long had enough abuse and bullying from these guys. So Judd, rather than you sniping at me on Twitter with lies and innuendo, let’s do this in person and for real. Let’s debate the issues that you profess to care so deeply about, and that I am so wrong about, in a public forum. Should be an easy win for you.

I have no doubt we can use the event to raise money for important charities. Mine will be Doctors Without Borders.

Judd, whenever convenient, I’ll come to you. You can come here. Whatever.

What do you say? You got some substance behind the Wikileaks and Twitter bravado?

It’s guaranteed he will decline the offer. And that will tell you all you need to know.

Why Look at Global Disaster Losses as a Proportion of Global GDP?

Newsletter-17_2_Pielke_graph1The graph above shows global weather disasters as a proportion of global GDP. It does not include earthquakes, tsunamis or other non-weather/climate related events. I am sometimes asked: why focus on a metric of global disaster losses as a proportion of global GDP?

The short answer is that this metric says something about the relative impacts of disasters in the broad context of the global economy. Economists and policy analysts routinely use  GDP as a denominator to understand the economy-wide significance of variables such as government spending, health care costs, R&D spending, etc.

If disaster losses are growing as a proportion of GDP it would mean that the world is losses are increasing as a proportion of global economic activity, surely a bad sign. Alternatively, if disaster losses are shrinking as a proportion of GDP, it would indicate that disaster losses are less significant in context of global economic activity, surely a positive sign.

It is this logic which underpins the inclusion of disaster losses as a proportion of GDP as an indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Disasters as proportion of GDP appear under:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

The overarching goal is to “substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters.” This is why we look at global disasters as a proportion of global GDP. It is not the only important indicator, but it is one.

Of course, if you want to understand how changes in climate may be reflected in the trends in the intensity or frequency of extreme weather, don’t look at economic data. Look at weather and climate data directly.

Statement on a False Claim of Contribution by The Heartland Institute


UPDATE: I received the email above from the president of the Heartland Institute. I appreciate his speedy and positive response to my request. Michael E. Mann has not corrected the record and leaves his Tweets on this up.

It has been called to my attention that I am listed in a report by the Heartland Institute as a member of a task force of theirs  and contributor to a new report. This is false in both instances.

I have never had a relationship with The Heartland Institute and never will. Heartland has once before falsely listed me on their website as a collaborator. They took it down when requested.

I have emailed Heartland Institute to demand that they remove my name from the report and also apologize for the false claim.

In parallel, climate scientist Michael E. Mann is using his platform to spread the misinformation. I have emailed Prof. Mann to ask that he stop spreading the false information. Fifteen minutes after receiving my email Mann again Tweeted the false information, and as of this writing has repeated the false information in four seven nine fourteen subsequent Tweets.

This is incredibly unethical behavior by Heartland and Mann. I am requesting that both stop and act positively to correct the factual record. Twitter spreads misinformation quickly. Do the right thing.

Pielke on Climate #9


There was collusion. The image above of course comes from my infamous article that led the Center for American Progress to orchestrate a well-organized campaign to have me fired as a writer for FiveThirtyEight. Bizarrely, that campaign against me came to light via John Podesta’s hacked emails, released by Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Below, I’ll share some new research on floods and tropical cyclones which further buttress the findings of that 2014 article that caused so much of a stir. It’s still as scientifically accurate today as it was then. Facts first.

Welcome to issue #9 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.
  • Thanks to those of you who have already contributed!
  • These funds have helped me defray the costs of several trips where I have had the chance to develop and present new talks related to climate.
  • 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’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or send an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on these newsletters.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well. Anonymity guaranteed for those who want it.
  • Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me (looking at you Michael E. Mann, Justin Gillis), oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be muted or ignored.

With that . . .

Upcoming Talk at the University of Minnesota

  • On April 18th at 7pm I’m giving a talk at the University of Minnesota
  • The title is “Extreme Weather and Extreme Politics” and here is a short abstract:
    • In 2017, three major hurricanes struck the United States, causing as much as $200 billion in damage and considerable loss of life. Whenever extreme weather events occur, assertions are made about possible connections to human-caused climate change. We need not rely on assertions as there is a robust body of research and evidence available. I’ve studied extreme weather the damage that it causes for the past 25 years. I’ve also had a front row seat to the so-called “climate wars” — the highly politicized, often nasty and always passionate debate over human-caused climate change. This talk will present consensus science and data on the role of human-caused climate change in trends in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, in the United States and around the world. I’ll also describe the significant challenges I faced in simply trying to present this science to policy makers and the public. The bottom line? Scientific integrity matters, regardless of your politics. All sides in the climate debate should do better. I’ll suggest how.
  • I’ll post up more details as they are available, and slides and video after.
  • Follow me on Twitter for updates

Are We Finally Moving Past the Delegitimization of Climate Realism?


  • Last month I posted up some slides illustrating the actual scale of the challenge of decarbonizing the global economy to a level consistent with low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 450 ppm or lower. See above also.
  • The 450 ppm level is consistent with the oft-discussed, little understood 2 degree Celsius temperature target.
  • I’m not alone in pointing out the “Emperor’s new clothes” tenor to much of climate discussions.
  • For instance, last week Technology Review wrote an article about a 2003 paper by Ken Caldeira, Atul Jain and Marty Hoffert which explained that the world would need more than 1 megawatt of carbon-free energy (measured as consumption, not capacity) installed every day for many decades to achieve low stabilization targets.
  • The Technology Review article explained that we are not on that pace. Shocking I know. In fact, the challenge has actually become more daunting over the past 15 years (see my figure above), due to the dramatic expansion of fossil fuel energy over that time.
  • So why is it that a 2003 paper is newsworthy in 2018? Why doesn’t every one know the real magnitude of the challenge?
  • One important reason is that the work of Mary Hoffert (in particular) became the focus of a highly political campaign of delegitimization during the decade of the 2000s. Leading this campaign at that time, surprising I’m sure, was the Center for American Progress and Joe Romm — the very same organization that worked so hard to squelch my research on disasters.
  • The campaign to distort understandings of the actual magnitude of the decarbonization challenge focused on the so-called “stabilization wedges” of Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, published in 2004 in response to Caldeira et al. 2003.
  • The goal of the misinformation campaign was to make decarbonization look easier and cheaper than it actually was, presumably to dupe the public and policy makers into taking quick action.
  • In 2008, Pacala explained openly the political motivation behind their “wedges” analysis: “The purpose of the stabilization wedges paper was narrow and simple – we wanted to stop the Bush administration from what we saw as a strategy to stall action on global warming by claiming that we lacked the technology to tackle it.”
  • At the time, the administration of George W. Bush was calling for more research into energy technologies as a centerpiece of their approach to climate. While no one would mistake the Bush administration for climate activists, their focus on energy R&D was not wrong.
  • Pacala and Socolow, and their fellow travelers, did not like this policy approach: “I saw it as an unhealthy collusion between the scientific community who believed that there was a serious problem and a political movement that didn’t. I wanted that to stop and the paper for me was surprisingly effective at doing that. I’m really happy with how it came out.” (This episode is documented in greater depth in The Climate Fix.)
  • The “stabilization wedges” were used as the putative basis for the labeling of anyone who called for investments in energy technology as a climate denier or Bush supporter. There was one true truth and no deviation was allowed.  I know because I was a focus of the delegitimization campaign.
  • Misinformation campaigns are not sustainable.
  • Today, (mostly) everyone agrees that we need significant advances in energy technology to begin making progress towards decarbonization goals. This point is so much agreed that people find it hard to believe that climate activists ever thought anything differently, much less enforced a now-discredited view on energy technology.
  • So fifteen years after Caldeira et al. published their 2003 paper on the magnitude of the decarbonization challenge (and Marty Hoffert’s and colleagues published research before that), it is finally OK to discuss the fact that we simply don’t have all the technology we would need to achieve low stabilization targets without the climate capos looking to end your career. It seems pretty dramatic as I write that. Well, it was.
  • Bottom line: whatever successes climate deniers may have had in limiting action on carbon-free energy technology development and deployment, they received a huge assist from climate activists who pursued a false narrative for more than a decade which emphasized that climate was simply a political, not a technological problem.
  • The good news: The emperor’s new clothes are being seen for what they are.emperor

Everywhere you Look, There It Is: Zombie Climate Scenario RCP 8.5

  • Last month, I explained the misuse of RCP 8.5 (a fantastical emissions scenario dismissed in the scenarios that underlie the IPCC) to generate implausible scenarios of our climate future;
  • Yes, like a zombie, RCP 8.5 continues to be characterized as “business as usual” and used as a baseline for climate projections;
  • RCP 8.5 is appealing because its use in climate models generates big changes to the climate in the distant future, which helps fill a demand for climate porn;
  • You can’t always see the presence of the scenario, because it gets buried in the details as reporting on climate goes from peer-reviewed research to press release to news story to aggregation to Tweet to your eyes and brain;
  • For instance, last week the New York Times had an article about how sea levels will soon swallow Easter Island. Sad, Scary. And also, manipulative, based on Zombie Climate Scenario RCP 8.5.
  • Follow the links, and you will discover that the NYT article is ultimately based on a scenario of sea level rise by 2100 that is two times higher than the highest scenario of the IPCC.
  • How do you get such an outlier scenario?  RCP 8.5 of course.
  • Sea level rise is real, is influenced by greenhouse gases and is inexorable. We will have to adapt to it and it can be influenced (but not stopped) if carbon dioxide levels are stabilized at low levels. All of this is true. These truths however do not justify zombie science.
  • In another example, writing at the Manhattan Institute @oren_cass explains that scenarios used to generate future climate impacts used as a primary basis for the calculation of “social costs of carbon” not only ignore the potential for human adaptation (I thought we were past this?), but they rely on … RCP 8.5 of course.
  • A new study in Climatic Change concluded that identifying the signal of human-caused climate change in tropical cyclone damage to 2100 would not be possible, due to the large amplitude of variability in storms. The lack of signal occurs even under scenarios of RCP 8.5. This story did not get any media mention that I’m aware of; its not climate porn.
  • Bottom line: Scientific, media or policy reports that reply on RCP 8.5 are selling you something, and it isn’t the truth.

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

  • Research keeps accumulating that shows that so far at least, the rising costs of weather disasters are not a result of weather extremes that have become more common or intense due to climate changes resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases (or really, anything else either).
  • Yet, a committed and influential group of climate scientists and journalists persist with a narrative that disasters are being driven by climate change.
  • There have been some important new papers published on the empirical record of weather extremes, which reinforce the conclusions of IPCC AR5 and SREX (and the US National Climate Assessment).
  • Here are a few that crossed my desk with key quotes:
    • Archfield et al. 2016: “Anticipated changes in flood frequency and magnitude due to enhanced greenhouse forcing are not generally evident at this time over large portions of the United States for several different measures of flood flows.”
    • Magini et al. 2018: “the picture of flood change in Europe is strongly heterogeneous and no general statements about uniform trends across the entire continent can be made”
    • Hodgkins et al. 2017: “the number of significant trends in major-flood occurrence across North America and Europe was approximately the number expected due to chance alone . . . For North America and Europe, the results provide a firmer foundation for the IPCC finding that compelling evidence for increased flooding at a global scale is lacking”
  • After last year’s US hurricanes there were frequent claims that flooding from hurricanes has become worse due to climate change. Fortunately, we can look at the empirical record of flooding from US hurricanes to evaluate such claims. Turns out, they are false.
    • Aryal et al. 2018: “No statistically significant trends in the magnitude or frequency of [tropical cyclone] floods … We do not detect statistically significant trends in the magnitude or frequency of TC floods.”
    • This is consistent with the overall record of US hurricanes. Klotzbach et al. 2018: “since 1900 neither observed [continental US] landfalling hurricane frequency nor intensity show significant trends, including the devastating 2017 season.”
  • Dare I to state the bottom line here, which stands as strong as ever?
  • Bottom line: Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change
  • I am happy to debate anyone, anytime, anyplace on this subject. Funny thing, no one does, they just call names. Go figure.

Final note for those who read to the bottom: The 2nd edition of The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change (ASU/CSPO) is now in press. Stay tuned …

Pielke on Climate #8


Welcome to issue #8 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues, and the first installment of 2018. 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.
  • Thanks to those of you who have contributed! These funds have helped me defray the costs of several trips where I have had the chance to develop and present new talks related to climate.
  • 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’d like to engage or critique, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or send an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on these newsletters.
  • Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well. Anonymity guaranteed for those who want it.
  • Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me (looking at you Michael E. Mann), oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be muted or ignored.

With that,  some of what I found interesting since last time, with a focus on expanding a bit on a recent article and talk . . .

2017 Disasters in Review


  • I have a new essay up at Risk Frontiers (Sydney) titled, Weather-related natural disasters 2017: Was this a reversion to the mean?
  • The new essay bookends one from last summer titled, Weather-related Natural disasters: Should we be concerned about a reversion to the mean?
  • In my latest I look at the disasters of 2017 and put them into economic and climatological context.
  • The graph at the top of the post is new. It shows global weather disasters as a percent of global GDP, using two measures of weather disaster losses (Aon Benfield and Munich Re) and an dataset on GDP from the World Bank. I’ve updated this graph for many years and will continue to do so.
  • The graph shows that 2017 was a big disaster year, mainly due to the 3 major hurricanes in the Atlantic. There was only one other major hurricane that made landfall worldwide in 2017 (details).
  • The graph also shows that since 1990 the overall trend in disasters as a proportion of GDP is down. That means that the world is getting wealthier faster than disaster losses are increasing. This is good news, and so far at least, contrary to various projections, such as that famously made by the Stern Review more than a decade ago (as I explained back in the day).
  • One reason for the depressed weather-related losses over more than a decade, even with 2017, has been the paucity of landfalling US hurricanes. The intense hurricanes of 2017 broke a remarkable streak.
  • Below is a graph updated from Weinkle at al. 2012 (courtesy @RyanMaue)showing total global landfalls of tropical cyclones at hurricane and major hurricane strength.Newsletter_17_2_Pielke_graph2
  • There is no overall trend, and you can see that in 7 of the past 9 years the world has been at or below the long-term average for major hurricanes. If you look at our paper and the accompanying data, you’ll see that we have data for some global basins back well before 1970.
  • Buckle up, we are not quite regressed to the mean.
  • I am co-author on a just accepted paper (in BAMS) led by @PhilKlotzbach landfalling US hurricanes. More to come on that in a future newsletter (see the abstract here on Twitter), but for now, have a look at these graphs from the paper on US hurricane and intense hurricane landfalls since 1900.klotz-figs

Tokyo Talk on Integrated Assessment Models


  • Last week I gave a talk in Tokyo at the 2018 ALPS International Symposium — Towards long-term, deep emissions reductions hosted by METI and RITE (and special thanks to Keigo Akimoto).
  • You can see my full talk here in PDF and also on Twitter.
  • It was really fun for me to be able to spend some time with Prof. Yoichi Kaya (shown speaking at the Symposium above) of “Kaya Identity” fame and the inspiration for much of the technical analysis in The Climate Fix.
  • The talk is long and somewhat technical and references many peer reviewed papers, so I’ll only discuss a two extensions to the talk here.
  • The talk focuses on a number of “fudge factors” in IAMs, specifically assumptions of spontaneous decarbonization, misuse of RCP 8.5 in climate impact studies and the dependence on BECCS in scenarios. Three other assumptions I could have included are temperature overshoot assumptions, estimates of climate sensitivity and misleading definitions of what constitutes “energy access.”
  • First extension: We identified the importance of assumptions of spontaneous decarbonization in IPCC scenarios more than a decade ago (Pielke, Wigley and Green 2008).
  • Even though a solid piece of research, our 2008 paper and me specifically were the subject of a furious and sustained attack by the Center for American Progress, such as Joe Romm’s “Why did Nature run Pielke’s pointless, misleading, nonsense?” (the first of dozens of such pieces).
  • With hindsight it seems clear that our paper in 2008 was the trigger for a long effort to drive me out of the climate debate (funded by Tom Steyer with lots of behind-the-scenes help from activist climate scientists)cap-rp
  • Anyway, taking a look back at our research, and updating it in my Tokyo talk, I observe that heroic assumptions of spontaneous decarbonization not only survived our critique, but have since thrived. They showed up in the following set of IPCC scenarios (the RCPs) and now in the most recent set of scenarios (SSPs).
  • Such assumptions are like a narcotic in the climate debate. They give the impression that the climate policies at the center of international climate diplomacy might actually work, even as evidence of their failure should seem obvious.
  • Second extension: In the talk I reference a paper by MIT’s Kerry Emanuel as an example of the misuse of RCP 8.5. I cannot overstate how egregiously bad this is.RCP-85
  • Emanuel’s paper is so bad not simply because it uses RCP 8.5. Rather it is so bad because its estimate of the impacts of climate change on Hurricane Harvey in 2017 are entirely a function of projected impacts in 2100., which he then divided by 6. Had Emanuel used any of the other scenarios out to 2100, then estimated 2017 impacts would have been much less. That’s right, the arbitrary choice of a 2100 emissions scenario determines the impacts of climate change from 1980 to 2017.
  • As explained in detail in my 2 books on climate (which in turn draw upon the IPCC and many, many peer reviewed papers), there is excellent and robust science on human influences on climate. Make no mistake, this science is robust and performed with integrity.
  • However, the continued misuse of RCP 8.5 to generate scientifically unsupportable estimates of climate impacts places climate advocates in a position of promoting dodgy science to support political advocacy originally grounded in solid science.
  • Seriously, Why do this? Scientifically empty studies based on RCP 8.5 legitimately give climate science a bad name.
  • In my talk I pick on Emanuel, but he has lots of company. Below is a figure from a Bloomberg story just yesterday on a new paper by Justin Ritchie and Hadi Dowlatabadi that critiques RCP 8.5, showing, much as I do in my talk, the love of RCP 8.5 in the climate impacts literature. It’s endemic.800x-1

Bottom Line: The Emperor’s Clothes

  • The three assumptions that I highlight in my talk support three political stances reinforcing the status quo:
    • First, the costs of status quo climate policies are low
    • Second, the costs of inaction are already extremely high
    • Third, climate diplomacy is on track because a future, unproven, massive technology will save us
  • Without these assumptions, each of these political stances is questionable — or at least, should be opened to questioning.
  • While important assumptions go unchallenged and challenging questions go unasked, the IPCC is about to release a report on 1.5 degrees (fantasy land).
  • I’ll close this installment with two slides from my talk on the actual magnitude of the challenge posed by stabilizing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at any low level. dvopedyv4aevjzmdvopxevvaaavnmu
  • The emperor’s clothes, though, they are lovely.