DSC_3319 There’s a fair section of the – errm – normally-sane-side-of-the-climate-wars blogosphere that regards RP Jr as the spawn of the devil. Eli weighs in complaining about Nate Silver of 538 getting RP to write for him (Eli has form, dontchaknow). Now I’d be the first to agree that RP has said some silly things , and some disastrously silly things on trends. But that’s him playing away.

On his home turf, RP is very strong. Because he has a simple message based on good data. As I said in 2011 over SREX, “As usual, Pielke wipes the floor with Romm”; see-also another relevant article from 2009.

So while Eli heavily quotes Ryan Cooper not liking Pielke, what’s painfully absent in Eli’s piece, or in Ryan Cooper’s piece, is the slightest attempt to address what Pielke is saying. Indeed, so deeply do they dislike it that they can’t even bring themselves to link to Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change. Its not a very exciting piece, if you’ve read that stuff before, because its just the same data all over again. Looks pretty convincing to me, just as it did before.

Kiley Kroh at ThinkProgress also totally fails to engage with what RP is saying, instead relying on his previous errors, as though that somehow affects the validity of what he’s saying now (note that piece quotes Mialambre, pointing out some of RP’s errors with trends, which I mention above). All this stuff has a terrible echo-chamber mentality that I’m more used to seeing from the denialosphere. Daniel Kessler in the HuffPo links to the KK article above, saying Roger Pielke, Jr… posting a blog Tuesday on the site that claims there is no link between the rising costs of climate disasters and extreme weather fueled by climate change.Several noted climate scientists took Silver and Pielke to task for this serious error. But they don’t. KK’s experts aren’t addressing this claim at all. KK’s article is vacuous.

Emily Atkin’s article is better, because it does at least address RP’s article.

Pielke’s piece is deeply misleading… said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Pielke uses a very misleading normalization procedure that likely serves to remove the very climate change-related damage signal that he claims to not be able to find. Pielke, in this case, continues to use an extremely controversial ‘normalization’ procedure when analyzing these data… That procedure assumes that damages increase with population but it completely ignores technological innovations (sturdier buildings, hurricane-resistant structures, better weather forecasting, etc.) that have served to reduce societal vulnerability, thus likely masking some of the aggravating impacts of climate change.

I don’t really understand that, but I’m presenting it to you for balance. RP presents two pix, one of which is the dollar cost of losses, the other the cost as a proportion of global GDP. How That procedure assumes that damages increase with population is relevant to that is beyond me. If you scroll to the bottom of the article you’ll find RP responding, as you’d expect, with links to his papers on the subject. Oddly enough, those criticising him don’t seem to have any papers on the subject they want linked to (Trenberth has a book review but its paywalled).

[Update: I mistakenly linked to the wrong RP - such a schoolboy howler - but I've struck that out now (and just to be clear, the "disastrously silly" text travels with the idea, not the link, so does not apply to the RP Sr post. I still think its wrong, mind). The episode I meant was this, by JA which links to me, if you want to continue the trawling.]

[Update 2014/03/23: there’s a particularly crap article at the Daily Kos on this: By hiring a climate disinformer, Nate Silver undermines his entire premise of data-driven journalism. Which sez How ironic, then, that with over 97 percent of the 11,944 peer-reviewed studies of “global climate change” or “global warming” between 1991-2011 endorsing the consensus on anthropogenic global warming [blah blah etc...] Silver would hire as one of his science writers the egregious purveyor of disinformation on climate change, Roger Pielke, Jr. This is crap because RP doesn’t dispute the WG I consensus at all. He agrees with it. For example http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2010/10/interview-roger-pielke-jr-on-why-a-small-tax-is-our-best-hope-in-climate-change-fight/, which begins Roger Pielke Jr., a climate policy analyst, has a new book out called The Climate Fix in which he argues several points: 1) Science has sufficiently made the case that climate change is a significant threat that requires action…. This is part of a pattern: a denial-o-sphere worthy “hate” on RP that ignores facts and is either deliberately, or just ignorantly, misleading.]

[Late update: I was expecting something in reply to the crit of 538 from Pielke; it looks like there won’t be anything. Indeed, in this piece at KK’s Pielke says, errm, “I no longer write for 538. Last month, after 538 showed some reluctance in continuing to publish my work, I called up Mike Wilson, the lead editor there, and told him that it was probably best that we part ways”.


* Some News from RP Jr. AFAIK he hasn’t had much to say about the storm.
* Brian thinks Continuous plagiarism of James Annan needed
* Found incidentally whilst looking for something else: Martin Hoerling defends Pielke in general: “Much more balanced arguments can be found in R. Pielke Jr.’s work that consider changes in society, communities, coastal development, etc.”
* Mike Wallace: Weather and Climate Extreme Events: Teachable Moments
* More on Extreme Weather in a Warming Climate by Andy Revkin
* FiveThirtyEight to Commission Response to Disputed Climate Article
* The Decline of Tornado Devastation (RP, WSJ) and Compare and Contrast from Eli.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett


    The problem with RPJ’s take is that he discounts for everything that reduces damage intensity such as GDP and population and just forgets to mention things like improved building codes, improved construction and better warning and track forecasting. Things had a pretty good take on this
    Ostensibly, Roger Pielke Jr. accepts all of the above. He just doesn’t want you to focus on this big picture. Instead Pielke wants you to believe and to focus on the claim that we’ve seen no increase in “normalized” damages due to climate change. The fundamental conceit of this claim is that even though disaster losses are unquestionably on the rise, once you account for changes in the value of infrastructure being built in areas affected by disaster (due to population growth, inflation, etc.), there is no “statistically significant increase”.

    This claim rests on our ability to account for factors which might spuriously inflate the damages caused by disasters, but also our complete failure to account for factors that have allowed us to avoid even greater losses.

    Since this is the case if the RP method says no increase/no decrease, there obviously is an increase, something Eli has been saying for years.

    [http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2476-2008.02.pdf certainly explicitly mentions building codes. One of his points, as I take it, is that improved building codes would indeed help, and that were we, for example, interested in saving lives we should focus on such areas -W]

  2. #2 Tim Beatty

    A couple things seem obvious. 1) Larger populations will suffer more losses when they are hit by disaster (more property and lives will be damaged) 2) larger populations are numeric which allow for comparison.

    Building code improvements, construction methods, better warning systems, and track forecasting don’t lend themselves well to numerical methods. A car that is damaged by a tornado isn’t going to hold up better now than before. Also, building code improvements and systems are all designed to protect life, not property. Just like cars are designed to crush in a certain way to save occupants even though the physical damage to the car is more than if they didn’t design those factors in. Fire sprinkler systems in building save lives but do much more damage than most fires (think MGM grand hotel fire – no sprinklers, barely any physical damage but lots of casualties: result was to add sprinklers.) Construction improvements probably suffer more monetary damage in a disaster but reduce the loss of life. But again, it’s not numeric.

    The stickler for me is that if RPJ has done the analysis and doesn’t have a statistically significant residual after accounting for population, where do all the other non-numerical reasons fit? Hand-waiving that that there are other factors doesn’t seem like an appropriate response if his fit using his model is good.

  3. #3 Eli Rabett

    If nothing else hurricane straps significantly limit water damage. Early warning moves cars out of hurricane paths.

    Tornadoes are a different thing, so let’s not shuffle the cards but if you must James Elsner has an interesting deck to look at.

  4. #4 MikeH

    And of course there is the famous Pielke Jr “bait and switch”.

    1. The bait (in this case a quote from the IPCC)
    “Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded”

    2. The switch
    “…it will be many decades, perhaps longer, before the signal of human-caused climate change can be detected.”


  5. #5 Roger A. Pielke Sr
    University of Colorado at Boulder USA

    Hi William – Very good post. in general. However, in writing your text

    RP has said …some disastrously silly things on trends.

    the link you give is not RPJr but mine.


    Actually on that post of mine, it looks like it was not silly. :-)

    Roger Sr.

    [Oops, my apologies. I'll fix that up; I had in mind something your son had said. As to that particular post, we can just disagree for the moment -W]

  6. #6 David Appell

    It seems to me the problem with normalizing to GDP is that the rate of GDP increase would need to keep up with rate of damages from climate change. To the extent you don’t, you fall behind.

    Also, so what? Unless there are ways for the climate change winners to compensate the climate change losers, if you have damages from climate change you’re stuck paying them yourself, with no help from the winnners. Vulnerable people don’t care what’s the overall trend for the planet relative to GDP, they care about what’s happening on top of their head.

  7. #7 Ryan

    RP at least does the more obvious and necessary normalisations. I’ve seen other analysis’ which don’t even account for population growth and the alarmist crowd parades it as robust (“alarmist crowd” understates the point, government funded climate bodies).

    The bar sure does take a leap when the analysis doesn’t promote a dire climate picture.

  8. #8 andrewt

    I think you are visiting the sins of the father (“disastrously silly things on trends”) on his son.

    [Yes, RP Sr has said the same himself (his comment is above yours, now, but didn't appear when posted because it ended up in moderation through no fault of his) -W]

  9. #9 Paul Kelly

    Those you describe, especially the thinkprogress crowd, as part of the normally-sane-side-of-the-climate-wars blogosphere have formed a silence the heretics cadre for some time now. Personal attacks and demands for retraction and firing, as hard nosed as any from the other side, have been their stock and trade. They make no scientific argument here because the motivation here is their partisan political priorities.

  10. #10 MikeH

    @Paul Kelly

    Given the thrust of William’s post, some evidence would be nice. How is the irony bypass going BTW.

  11. #11 Paul Kelly


    Check out the climateprogess archive. I was a daily reader the first couple of years. Romm called for the boycott of Nature the firing of Revkin and other journalists and attacked in the most personal of terms. The activities of the others are well known. Recall that editor who resigned over a Spencer paper. To what does the irony bypass refer? Is it something from some previous comments?

  12. #12 Joseph O'Sullivan

    In the blogosphere I think RP jr’s problem is not substance but style, for me at least. He likes to stir controversy or bring up hypothetical issues without the necessary caveats. When he took a comment of mine out of context and misattributed it to Judith Curry was a glaring example of this.

  13. #13 Angech

    Thank you for this article.
    JC and RPJ seem by their comments to be impressed as well.
    With less tornadoes and hurricanes recently (?) it seems possible that there is less damage anyway than what is being claimed by Obama’s little helpers

  14. #14 thingsbreak

    What I don’t understand is your lopsided application of skepticism.

    You’re deeply skeptical of criticisms of Junior, but seem to be completely happy to accept his claims on his own behalf at face value.

    You say he cites four papers showing that there’s no impact from mitigation efforts on disaster trends so it’s fine to omit such consideration. Well, the very first of the four I looked at absolutely does not support that claim.

    I don’t mind pushback. I think it’s good to keep people on their toes. But this seems like contrarianism for its own sake. Why else would you not put Junior’s claim to the same scrutiny as others’?

    [Late reply. I hope you see this: I think the "reply", which is the third-of-the-first, viz http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2011.12.pdf does address mitigation. Also, looking closer, those aren't RP's words introducing those 4 papers, but EA's paraphrase of RP. Its a shame she didn't quote him directly.

    Where he is quoted directly - In one paper, for example, Pielke says that even though stronger building codes have been shown to be able to reduce losses from hurricanes by more than 40 percent he is demonstrably telling the truth -W]

  15. #15 thingsbreak

    Is anthropogenic warming real? Yes. Will extreme events increase under anthropogenic warming? Yes. Will this have negative consequences for us down the road? Yes.

    This is a conversation Roger very much wants to turn attention away from.

    The common denominator in everything- his attacks on scientists, his claims of persecution, his laughable innumerate claims about the IPCC being wrong or trends being inconsistent, his stuff about losses, his attacks on legislation to stabilize emissions, his gloating about failed efforts to price carbon, his advocacy for carbon sequestration, and his advocacy for “innovation” funding- is that the problem is not as bad as some claim, and that technology will save us in the future, so there’s no urgency in stabilizing emissions now.

    [All this is beside the point -W]

  16. #16 Martin Gisser

    I wonder why nobody recalls the Munich Re chart of natural catastrophes. Perhaps I haven’t looked close enough at all the RPJr fuss. The chart has damages classified in several categories, one being “geophysical events” like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes. You just normalize for these and voila, guess what. If you don’t trust your eyes, Tamino has done the maths here: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/unnatural-catastrophes/

  17. #17 Tim Beatty

    I think the question is: are we seeing it now? If examples like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and floods are causing more damage due to climate change that has already occurred. I believe his conclusion is that weather event related damage increase (tsunamis don’t count) is explained adequately with population and increased wealth in the path of the events.

    I believe the point is that we will see more extraordinary weather events as time goes by and use some the recent weather as examples. This gets muddled into a message that the recent weather is causally connected to existing changes to climate. It is not, though. At least with any certainty.

    Really, the next step would be to take RPJ’s normalization of wealth and property and extrapolate it out 100 years – then apply an increase in intensity. The analysis that wealth and people are increasing in places affected by extreme weather is a double-edged sword in that it explains today’s losses without climate change but it puts a lot more people and property in harms way in the future even if the increase in storms is moderate.

  18. #18 Lawrence

    Many of the criticisms of RPJ that you link to were written more as a response to his hire in the first place than to his article per se. You can see by the times they were posted that most were coming out concurrently or shortly after the 538 post.

    There’s the old saying “a lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is still tying its shoes”. Given RPJs track record of downplaying climate change concerns, I take these articles as trying to slow down the lie (or at least obfuscation) rather than direct refutations. They were “pre-bunking”.

    Let’s look at this in the abstract:

    The AAAS just stated that “We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.”

    Given that, does it not seem a little disingenuous to you that RPJ is a pony whose one trick is to constantly downplay any effect climate change has had over the past decade or two? What do you think his motivation is for doing that? Do you think it’s to help humanity lessen its burning of fossil fuels? Or do you think maybe, just maybe, it’s an attempt to justify a continuation of business as usual, which has worked out well for him and his peers?

    Furthermore, if he’s looking at catastrophes on a global level, increases in one area can easily be balanced by decreases in another. But try to tell that to people who have just had their lives torn apart by disaster.

    Actual climate scientists, including James Hansen, not political scientists like RPJ, have documented how events like the Russian heat wave were made far more intense by climate change. Is RPJ really trying to argue that the thousands of deaths in that event aren’t related to climate change, despite the fact that it was hotter than it otherwise would have been (and probably longer lasting as well)?

    Or Superstorm Sandy. It’s impacts were undeniably worse due to sea level rise. Is RPJ going to aruge that flooding wasn’t exacerbated by these higher levels? Not to mention the ongoing debate as to whether it even made landfall in the first place due to a blocking caused by climate change.

    Bottom line: RPJ is a professional disinformer who deserves no benefit of the doubt.

  19. #19 Sou

    You say you don’t really understand the criticism of the normalisation process – “That procedure assumes that damages increase with population but it completely ignores technological innovations”

    Perhaps an example will illustrate. Where I live we’ve had three major fires this century, including two of more than a million hectares and one of half a million or so. Last century there were about the same number or maybe not quite in my area. Thing is, the fires this century took place over a span of six years, not a span of 100 years.

    Now this century, even compared to the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 (which were in a different part of the state), the technology is vastly improved. Almost everyone has a mobile phone and there are text messages sent to warn people. There are now helicopters on standby during the (longer) fire season. So communications and firefighting technology is vastly improved. Building codes have also improved.

    Now the cost of building according to the code has most probably not been factored in to Roger’s calculations. Hundreds of volunteers took weeks off work to fight the 2003 fires and I doubt that cost was factored in. (That fire burnt for 59 days.) The cost of the loss of bushland and its inhabitants would not be factored in either, because Roger only focuses on human structures. In Victoria, property is given priority when it comes to fire fighting. Native forests are last to be protected if at all (after towns, buildings, farms).

    And that’s just one example. Then there are floods and droughts. Did Roger factor in the huge cost of desal plants that are now springing up because of worse droughts? Or drought relief, or loss of business – farms, farm suppliers and rural towns? I’ll bet not.

    [The bit I meant really was "That procedure assumes that damages increase with population...". Why is that being mentioned? I don't see RP assuming that at all. I guess its true that increases in tech will mean that some costs of climate change are less that they would have been otherwise, because its easier to respond. But I'm not sure that helps you (if your point is "climate change will be a disaster"). That just shows that a by-product of increasing tech is to reduce the costs of disasters. That's good, obviously -W]

  20. #20 Joshua

    Re-posting a comment from Things':

    I have discussed with Roger the issue of advances in building codes and building technology, and their impact on his “normalization” figures. My take is that he has examined those issues, but not in a comprehensive manner. So the claims on the one side – that he has ignored those issues – seem overstated, but on other hand it seems to me odd that anyone would take Roger’s claims about controlling for those factors for granted. Things’ point w/r/t a need to address events such as closing NYC’s subways in anticipation of Sandy, when “normalizing” damages, would surely seem consistent with the minimal requirements of appropriate skeptical scrutiny.

    But anyway, it seems to me that Ian (above) is focusing on what’s the most important question w/r/t Roger’s advocacy:

    >”Surely it is the number of climate disasters and their severity that is important for determining trends not “normalized” dollar damage.”

    Normalizing on the basis of GDP seems to me to be an odd way to measure what’s important: Whether climate change is causing more misery. Suppose GDP increases at fast clip, and concurrently, climate change increases damages from extreme whether at a directly proportional rate. What would that tell us? Would it tell us that increased amounts of extreme weather have not caused more misery? No.

    Given that Roger seems to accept the assertion that climate change will, eventually, cause more extreme weather (he’s a bit cagey on that when asked directly, why does he repeatedly focus on the rate of increase in damages as a ratio of growth in GDP?

    WC? Perhaps you could explain why that is a meaningful point of focus?

    [Because it addresses the question "is climate change going to cause disasters so expensive that we'd be better off not changing the climate *because of that*"? If climate-damage increases just in proportion to GDP then the answer is no (globally; forgetting equity for a moment); because you're gaining more from GDP growth than you're losing from catastrophes (reducing it to crude economic terms). Of course, that doesn't address your "Whether climate change is causing more misery" but then that's a pretty hard thing to measure -W]

  21. #21 GregH

    > [All this is beside the point -W]

    I disagree – this is already a meta-discussion anyway. Why not look at people’s behaviour and as well as the words they spout?

    Secondly, if there’s a scientific discussion to be had, why not address the Tamino article posted by Marvin Gisser above? Does it not directly address RPJ’s contentions?

    [I'm not sure. Tamino looks at the Munich Re dataset for "catastrophes which are not weather-related (earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption)". As you'd expect, there is no long-term trend to these, because they should just be random. Notice that he uses count, not cost. Then he discovers that this doesn't make much difference to the *number* of weather-related catastrophes, which continue to increase. But RP is looking at costs, not number.

    It seems to me that a better criticism of RP's work would be that because he looks at cost, that will weight heavily disasters in the West, and underweight stuff in the Poor World -W]

  22. #22 verbascose

    To illustrate Pielke’s fallacy (Eli’s comment, #1): in Central Europe, a whole bunch of measures have been implemented after a devastating flood of the river Danube in 2002. Entire villages were abandoned, many others were fortified with dams. A similar flood should now cause much less damage (but an even stronger one came last year).

    One should also not forget that the GDP is at best a proxy. It is a metric for what we produce, not for what we have at a given time (and the latter is what is damaged by disaters). It is affected by disasters itself (it is reduced if factories are hit; on the other hand, it can also increase since people who have lost their homes will spend their savings for reconstruction).

    These arguments are all rather simple and obvious. It is, thus, somewhat surprising that the author of this blog fails to see them.

  23. #23 thingsbreak

    I emailed you. Commenting on blogs is tedious if there is a desire to communicate rather than score points.

    Let me say this:

    – I directly answered what your “point” was, as best as I understand it, both at my own place and my initial response here.
    – My subsequent comment is in support of *my* point, which is that your skepticism seems to be lopsided. It was not relevant to me answering your point.

    [I'm not sure fragmenting the discussion between two blogs and an email thread is such a great idea. You replied to me saying I am stipulating his claim and saying it ultimately tells us little, I am not “rebutting” it. I've no objection to that, but I think that's incompatible with Eli's gloss on your post in comment #1 -W]

  24. #24 Paul S

    I guess its true that increases in tech will mean that some costs of climate change are less that they would have been otherwise, because its easier to respond. But I’m not sure that helps you (if your point is “climate change will be a disaster”).

    It’s not just technological advance – it’s applying that technology, planning, allocating resources. I’m not sure you’re getting RPJr’s argument. He believes the “disaster loss adjusted for GDP” figure actually says something about the physics of the relationship between climate change and emergence of extreme “disaster” events. You could make a different argument that the figures suggest how societies with growing GDPs naturally tend to invest more in protecting that wealth, limiting the ultimate losses. But RPJr’s words taken as they’re given advise against such investment because he’s saying it makes no difference to losses. Do you agree with that?

    [RPJr’s argument. He believes the “disaster loss adjusted for GDP” figure actually says something about the physics of the relationship between climate change and emergence of extreme “disaster” events. Could you quote him saying that? -W]

  25. #25 MMM

    Pielke does have a response to the Munich Re analysis at http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/12/earthquake-vs-weather-trick.html. I’m not entirely convinced. But in any case, it seems to me that what you want is to take a region where you have estimated hurricane damages and earthquake damages, and compare their relative trends. And it seems Pielke has done work on earthquakes (http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/%28ASCE%291527-6988%282009%2910%3A3%2884%29), but apparently when it is earthquake work he includes the possibility of a 1-2%/year mitigation factor for better building codes, which he doesn’t do (to the best of my knowledge) for weather damages. But I can’t see the full paper, so I’m not sure…


    ps. You aren’t alone in confusing the Pielkes. For example, this Pielke Jr. webpage (http://cires.colorado.edu/people/pielke/) contains a link to the “Pielke Group”, but that’s actually a Pielke Sr. page…

  26. #26 NewYorkJ

    William: ” If climate-damage increases just in proportion to GDP then the answer is no (globally; forgetting equity for a moment); because you’re gaining more from GDP growth than you’re losing from catastrophes (reducing it to crude economic terms).”

    The proper comparison would be with what the costs would be without climate change. If costs increased along with GDP in the present global warming scenario and costs decreased with GDP in a relatively stable climate, there is obviously a benefit of actions in mitigating global warming, and the conclusion that disaster costs have not increased because of global warming is misleading, as they have increased relative to a base scenario. Others have mentioned the various benefits, such as stronger structures and early warning systems, that would clearly reduce disaster losses. One might note that these benefits have worked to offset large disaster losses, but these losses could have been reduced further without the increase in disasters. Also, what point do these improvements level off in the future?

    I’ve read at least one of RPJ’s studies on the matter. As others have mentioned, he doesn’t account for these factors in his normalized trends. It’s only mentioned as caveats. He could argue that it’s difficult to estimate those impacts, but then it calls into question the conclusions one can derive from his studies. Such caveats are often absent from his opinion pieces. I agree that some should take the time to counter his claims in the literature.

  27. #27 Lawrence

    Can anyone tell me if this line of thought is correct, and if so, does RPJ follow it in his analysis:

    Every dollar expended on disaster response is also included as GDP growth. So this amount would need to be substracted before a comparison could be made. Meaning the growth rate of GDP would be lower than otherwise calculated.

    And to fully account for the costs, all adaptation and mitigation efforts (everything from solar panel installation to storm wall construction) should also be subtracted from GDP while being included in the distaster column of the ledger. By this method, you don’t even get into the thorny issue of things like building codes that may or not even be related to climate change and their rate of adoption.

  28. #28 thingsbreak

    “I’m not sure fragmenting the discussion between two blogs and an email thread is such a great idea”

    Fair enough.

    “I think that’s incompatible with Eli’s gloss on your post in comment”

    Eh. I’m not sure it’s incompatible.

    I am stipulating that, using Junior’s “normalization” method, there might not be a statistically significant increase in losses (though this depends on a host of other factors, like the length and end points of the period in question, the statistical model, etc.). I am saying that this does not mean much, because his “normalization” method is incomplete in a way that will likely bias his results, and that the entire premise adds little to the broader contexts of climate policy, or the stupid climate “debate” in the public sphere.

    [I disagree that it adds nothing to the policy debate. Indeed, it seems immeadiately relevant. And part of the fuss is from people who strongly dislike the policy implications of Peilke's work.

    As to the normalisation: lots of people have criticised it, but then again lots of people have criticised MBH's hockey stick. What's absent are the papers. Plenty of people have armed-waved about "oh, this might matter" but then again, loads of denialists will happily tell you similar reasons why they don't believe the surface temperature record. And we reply: so why haven't you published? -W]

  29. #29 Ned

    William writes: [… As you’d expect, there is no long-term trend to these [non-weather disasters], because they should just be random. Notice that he uses count, not cost. Then he discovers that this doesn’t make much difference to the *number* of weather-related catastrophes, which continue to increase. But RP is looking at costs, not number. ]

    I don’t know how reliable the Munich Re analysis is, but let’s take it at face value and assume that non-weather disasters are constant but weather disasters are increasing in frequency.

    Pielke looks at costs of weather disasters, not frequency, and finds the cost isn’t increasing.

    [No, He finds the cost is increasing in line with GDP -W]

    So if the cost isn’t increasing but the frequency is, the cost per disaster must be decreasing, right?

    [No. Partly because of the above. But you'd probably need to disaggregate the things geographically too -W]

    I can see several quite different explanations for that:

    (a) AGW leads to more frequent but less expensive disasters. This would seem to be a wash as far as the global economy, though there’s obviously the potential for distributional injustices depending on the details. But overall this would seem like basically good news.

    (b) AGW leads to more frequent disasters, but with economic growth we’re better able to protect ourselves, so the cost doesn’t increase. This is not actually good news, because it still means AGW-related disasters are costing us — if we could achieve the same improved protection without AGW, costs for disasters would presumably be dropping not staying constant.

  30. #30 Paul S

    Could you quote him saying that? -W

    He shows that increasing losses due to climate-related disasters disappear when adjusting for GDP – obviously entirely reasonable.

    He also believes trends in losses are barely affected by increasing resources allocated to mitigation against disaster losses – see his response on the Emily Atkin’s article.

    I’m not sure how else to interpret these combined arguments other than that he believes the normalised data is in some sense representative of how extreme events have physically changed over the past few decades – i.e. apparently not much.

    What is it you think he believes based on these facets of his argument?

    [I still don't see how you get your conclusion from synthesising those two statements. What I think he means is that the signal of climate change, if its present in the dollar-cost-of-extreme-damage, is overwhelmed by the building-new-condos-by-the-seaside signal. I'm really baffled why so many people find that objectionable, or surprising -W]

  31. #31 Hank Roberts



    “The economic effects of a natural disaster are to change exactly these things that GDP does not measure. The primary economic effect of a major disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, extensive flooding, or  a swath of destructive tornadoes is to destroy wealth and destroy our capacity to produce.  In macroeconomic terms, a natural disaster is a sudden reduction in our resources: capital equipment, buildings, and available labor. None of this is a good thing.  It reduces our ability to produce goods and services in the future and it reduces our welfare right now.  But that effect won’t show up in GDP measures.

    [You're wrong. Disasters will show up in GDP figures, because they destroy wealth, which affects our ability to produce, ie our GDP. For example, http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/159785.pdf

    As your econproph says: It reduces our ability to produce goods and services in the future and it reduces our welfare right now. But that effect won’t show up in GDP measures. The first sentence is correct. The second is incomprehensible, since it is directly contradicted by the first -W]

    What will show up in GDP measures after the natural disaster is a perverse reaction in the months after the disaster.  This comes because of the re-building activity that comes after the disaster.  Repairing buildings, cleaning up, rebuilding all require paid services, building supplies, labor, etc.  These transactions will show up in GDP measures in the months/quarters after the disaster as an slight increase in total GDP.  But it’s a deceptive increase in total GDP because we aren’t really significantly better off.  We’re just getting back to the condition before the disaster.  GDP counts the fixing, but not the damage done.  This is why we sometimes here commentators say that a “disaster is good for the economy”.  It isn’t really.  It’s good for GDP, but that’s not a perfect measure of the economy.  The mistaken idea that damage or disasters are good for the economy is what economists call the Fallacy of the Broken Window. It was first explained by Frederic Bastiat.”

  32. #32 Hank Roberts

    (and his point is that even the biggest hurricanes barely blip GDP – neither up nor down — in a large economy like the USA — but that hurricane damage should be tracked using other measures. Which ones? I’ll leave that to you and Roger, but a list of the other possible measures economists have used — and why Roger chooses not to use them — would be interesting.)

  33. #33 Victor Venema

    WMC: There’s a fair section of the – errm – normally-sane-side-of-the-climate-wars blogosphere that regards RP Jr as the spawn of the devil. Eli weighs in complaining about Nate Silver of 538 getting RP to write for him

    That makes this post a general one about RP Jr and not just about his first post at 538. Thus I would argue that the #15 comment by ThingsBreak is therefore relevant and not “beside the point.”

    [My intent was for the post to be about the specifics of RP's post at 538; what you're quoting above was just intro. I'm not going to stop people broadening the topic; but TB's first comment was certainly beside the point I was interested in -W]

    As 538 wants to give the impression of being an objective data-focused magazine, it is a strong contrast to hire someone like RP Junior. It could be that first post is not wrong. This could well be the case on a sentence by sentence sentence basis. RP Jr. is very smart and knows his facts.

    Also his testimonies are not probably not wrong on a sentence by sentence basis, or at least defensible at this level. However, by focusing on the extremes for which there is no good evidence whether and how they chance and not stressing the changes in extremes we do understand reasonably (heat waves, heavy precip), he gives a very unbalanced story of what is happening. Exactly because he knows the scientific literature so well and one should thus expect that he also knows the articles that do not support his message, I find this very worrying. If I would be working in his field and had to read his articles, I would not give him the normal benefit of the doubt, I would normally give a scientist.

    If 538 wants to publish data-driven objective stories, they have made a very strange move by selecting someone with such an unbalanced story line.

    Paul S.: “RPJr’s argument. He believes the “disaster loss adjusted for GDP” figure actually says something about the physics of the relationship between climate change and emergence of extreme “disaster” events.”

    WMC: “Could you quote him saying that?”

    Might be that he never said it. He sure suggested it by showing the plot. When you can expect that a considerable part of your audience could interpret a plot wrongly, a honest good communicator would explicitly write that this is not reliable information on changes in the physical changes in the climate system.

    And no, Pielke Senior is not the devil, but it is a pity he does not use his intellectual might more productively and that he surrounds himself with bad company.

  34. #34 Dana Nuccitelli

    “If you scroll to the bottom of the article you’ll find RP responding, as you’d expect, with links to his papers on the subject.”

    If you read those links, they don’t say what Pielke claims or support his argument.

    We’ll have a post on this on SkS next week that focuses on the normalization issue.

    [Ah, good, I look forward to it. I trust you're not prejudging the issue though. A post pre-written to diss RP, for which you went out to search for facts to fit your prejudices, would be less interesting that an unbiased piece -W]

  35. #35 thingsbreak

    “Where he is quoted directly … he is demonstrably telling the truth”

    He is using that paper to claim that the impact of mitigation has been studied and is not important. The paper he links to does not study this question at all, and in fact explicitly disavows the position that mitigating measures can be ignored.

    And you say he’s “telling the truth”?


    [The text I’m talking about is In one paper, for example, Pielke says that even though stronger building codes have been shown to be able to reduce losses from hurricanes by more than 40 percent, those types of codes “have only been implemented in recent years and in some cases vary significantly on a county-by-county basis.” This means that stronger building codes are unlikely to change the results on overall loses, he says.

    And that text is indeed in that paper. And he’s using it to support “that there were no strong effects [of mitigation] on the data.” -W]

  36. #36 thingsbreak

    And if you doubt that Junior is in fact using that paper to claim that mitigation can be ignored, he makes it clear in a follow up at 538:

    “One final note: Other readers raised questions about the role of technological change — such as evolving building practices — and its effects on disaster losses over time. This subject is well addressed in the literature, and has been deemed important in damage trends with respect to Australian cyclone damage and U.S. earthquakes, for instance, but not for floods, U.S. hurricanes or tornadoes.”

    The “US hurricanes” bit links to the paper we’re discussing.

    You know, the one that does not actually study the impact of mitigation in any way whatsoever, and explicitly says that you shouldn’t ignore it.

  37. #37 Victor Venema

    Had Pielke not had a history, I do not think we would have seen this wave of responses. Then people would have politely written a comment below the post that it is a bit unbalanced and short sighted. That would be it.

    P.S. Does “Notify me of followup comments via E-Mail” only not work for me or for everyone?

  38. #38 David B. Benson

    The entire post and discussion misses the mark, more than just the fallacy of the broken window. What should be done is measure the growth in global precipitation (presumed nonlinearly temperature dependent) and then some sorts of global extreme precipitation measures.

    With that some sane economic consequences might possibly be found.

    [But people do indeed study trends in precip, and extremes of same. I don't see why everyone has to do the same thing -W]

  39. #39 MikeH

    William says
    > [RPJr’s argument. He believes the “disaster loss adjusted for GDP” figure actually says something about the physics of the relationship between climate change and emergence of extreme “disaster” events. Could you quote him saying that? -W]

    I have already done that.
    “…it will be many decades, perhaps longer, before the signal of human-caused climate change can be detected.”

    How else can that statement be interpreted? How do you interpret it?

    There are more examples – in Australia when he and his colleagues attacked the CC Angry Summer report.


    [I don't think that the sentence you quote above *follows* from the disaster-costs stuff. I think its independent. Its also regrettably unclear. Taken literally, its obviously wrong: we can detect the signal in global mean temperature. And I'm sure RP would agree with that. So the sentence needs to be some thing, but I can't tell whether that something is extremes, or costs-of-extremes.

    FWIW, I thoroughly agree with:

    Extremes are by definition rare events, and for that reason they are just not the best place to be looking for, or expecting to see, the consequences of climate change today. -W]

  40. #40 Victor Venema

    David B. Benson, I can imagine that WMC will find you comment a little off topic, but you can find a good start on the requested topic here (page number 201, PDF page 217)

  41. #41 Harold Brooks

    The GDP adjustment is, effectively, a measure of the net stock of fixed reproducible tangible wealth, in other words, the amount of things that people and governments own. See http://www.bea.gov/scb/account_articles/national/0597niw/maintext.htm. GDP is well-correlated to the net stock, but we have longer time series of it.

    Re #3. I’m unclear how hurricane straps limit water damage. Their primary purpose is to keep the roof on the house from wind damage. Automobile damage is a small part of hurricane damage in comparison to fixed property.

    I’d be cautious at looking at the Elsner paper on tornadoes. It uses a short record (<20 years) and is entirely based on reported path length and width. Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that path width has changed from non-meteorological factors. In particular, with the adoption of the enhanced Fujita scale in 2007, mean reported path widths doubled.

  42. #42 Tim Beatty

    I still don’t get the controversy. GDP has grown. We all are more fortunate than the wealthiest kings in pre-industrial. The rich pre-industriaists employed a chambermaid, we flush the toilet. Wealth continues to rise. A Tsunami hitting California or Japan costs more than undeveloped areas. The same model should apply to weather events. China has grown tremendously in the last 15-20 years, compared to inflation so a Cat 5 Typhoon hitting a spot now would cause larger damage. The question is are there more storms or are they greater in intensity. “Cost” that only adjusts for inflation is a poor metric because real wealth has increased. I simply don’t see the evidence that “today” we are seeing damage resulting from climate change, rather we are setting the table. This should not be controversial.
    (and BTW, whoever said sea level rise affected Sandy damage needs to review sea level with the land rise gradient. High tide affected Sandy but the millimeters of sea level rise would only extend damage a foot or so). They had real hurricanes hit the same area in the 1960’s but we didn’t have cell phone infrastructure, internet infrastrucure and lots of electronics. The difference is reliance on electrical and internet for services. That wasn’t an issue when people stayed warm from fuel-oil burners, bought food with cash, and a flooded car simply dried out and would run just fine. If you buy food with a debit card, electric power being knocked out for two weeks is life and death. In 1960’s, a two week power failure didn’t affect much. That’s the difference and is a cost above just inflation. This is not controversial.

  43. #43 Eli Rabett

    Harold, if the roof stays on there is much less damage from water coming in the top from wind driven water intrusion plus, of course saving (in cases) the roof. http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/publications/wp/wp94/wp94.html

    Where roof failure did not lead to total structural failure, roof failure allowed rain, often heavy, to penetrate to the interior of the home. This not only resulted in damage to furnishings, but also further weakened the structure when rain-soaked ceilings collapsed, reducing reinforcement of the ceiling joists.

    One of the most damaging classes of failure in economic terms was the loss of gypsum wallboard ceilings (Keith, 1994). This form of damage affected most houses in the path of Andrew to some degree. The rain accompanying and following the passage of Andrew was driven in through gable-end vents and roof turbines, through the joints between roof sheathing panels after roofing was blown off, and directly into the attic space of failed roof systems. Rain quickly saturated the insulation and the ceiling. The loss of ceiling strength due to water saturation, and the increased weight of the wet insulation, caused widespread collapse of ceilings. The loss of the ceiling also contributed to gable-end wall failures due to the diminished lateral support at the base of the gable-end walls.

  44. #44 Eli Rabett

    #13 “With less tornadoes and hurricanes recently (?)”

    See articles by Elsner referenced in #3 to start on tornados, but he also has something on hurricanes. There the verdict is mixed, with some basins having more. Also maybe this where on first pass there is a significant (in the colloquial sense) increase in deadly storms in the Carribean.

    Say, wasn’t that something Roger was going on about watching out for?.

  45. #45 Eli Rabett

    Some time ago Eli mentioned that Roger was of the lie back and enjoy it school of climate policy recommendations. The Weasel, in his comment under #20 agreed

    [Because it addresses the question “is climate change going to cause disasters so expensive that we’d be better off not changing the climate *because of that*”?/

    however, Roger was not amused. As a matter of record he three one of his Gunsalus fits. Even granting that they are both wrong, because they ignore damages to the ecology everybunny and everyweasel hops about in which are not well captured by GDP.

  46. #46 Eli Rabett

    Harold, Elsner is well aware of the issue with the Enhanced Fujita scale. Eli thinks he remembers (Scientific Seminar Alzheimers correction, aka napping in a dark room accepted), besides which the integrated tornado energy plot goes back to 1979, and we didn’t even know what the global temperature anomaly was before that.

  47. #47 Paul S

    But RP is looking at costs, not number.

    I disagree. He’s using cost data but doing so to make an argument about number:

    Indicative of more frequent disasters punishing communities worldwide? Perhaps the effects of climate change? Those are the questions that Congress, the World Bank and, of course, the media are asking. But all those questions have the same answer: no.’

    ‘it’s tempting to think that it must be because more storms are happening. They’re not’

    RPJr did actually put up a <a href="http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/new-paper-on-global-disaster-losses.html?m=1"recent blogpost displaying the MunichRe disaster count graph though I’m not sure why since the post itself appears to be about losses again. In the comments he says something I thought would probably be the case – a disaster only counts when it gets past a certain cost threshold, hence there’s a wealth influence here too. Having said that, the lack of trend in geophysical events makes that explanation look dubious. I think another thing could be that development itself can result in disasters – both creating conditions for extreme events, such as flooding, to occur or pushing people into the path of extreme events, turning them into disasters.

  48. #48 Harold Brooks

    The enhanced Fujita scale isn’t the only issue with the dataset and Elsner trusts the quality of reports too much. His approach is very sensitive to the width data, which are the weakest aspect of the database and have not been consistently reported. It’s also unfortunate that he didn’t go back until 1954, when some aspects of the database start being reasonably decent. There is a lot of evidence that the early 1970s were a big period for tornadoes (total path length by year, which correlates well in recent time, number of days with long total path lengths.)

  49. #49 verbascose

    Having now read a couple of papers on that topic, it’s breathtaking to find how these guys in socioeconomics treat technological advance & mitigation: not at all. In the rare cases where they do, they just guess. An example is a paper from Pielke on earthquakes (Vranes & Pielke 2009, Nat. Hazards Rev.): for mitigation, they plug in 0, 1 or 2%, without any attempt to justify the value: “…we simply acknowledge that other values for the effectiveness of mitigation are plausible”. That’s all. The final, normalized trend is directly proportional to a wild guess. Depending on your choice, you can get everything.

    William, you call this shaky ground of Pielke “very strong” and “good data”? That’s ridiculous.

  50. #50 Hank Roberts

    > GDP has grown. We all are more fortunate
    > than the wealthiest kings in pre-industrial.

    They had a rich planet to live on, we don’t.
    All your GDP can’t come close to purchasing replacement of what was eaten, wasted, and burned to make money fast.
    Yet that environment could replace itself, if left to do so.


  51. #51 Eli Rabett

    Harold, Eli suggests you email Elsner on those points.

  52. #52 Eli Rabett

    OK, we’re hard enough what’s next.

  53. #53 Sou

    “I guess its true that increases in tech will mean that some costs of climate change are less that they would have been otherwise, because its easier to respond. ”

    That’s not the point I was making. (Are you taking this position just to be contrary?)

    My example was to illustrate the fact that the costs of climate change are increasing but are not factored in. For example building codes have been altered to deal with climate change. Every home now costs more than it would have without climate change.

    The cost of business foregone and wages foregone is not built in – eg firefighting, inability to conduct normal business because of extensive long term flooding, loss of income because of drought. Even the extra cost of travel while roads and buildings are being repaired and/or rebuilt I doubt is being built in. That can take months. In our area it took almost 12 months – there were so many roads and bridges washed away or seriously damaged in the year of the “big wet” in Victoria – all the focus was on Qld, but the floods were everywhere.

    The fire season in our region is also the tourist season – is the cost of loss of business factored in? Doubt it. And there are more precautionary burns – some years the smoke is so bad as to reduce visibility, plus the health impacts and the overlap with the busiest tourist fortnight of the year.

    There are a lot of other costs that aren’t factored in to Roger’s work – same with the mob who’ve done similar analysis in Australia. (Such as the extensive damage to native forests, which AFAIK hasn’t been costed.)

  54. #54 SM

    I think it’s important to recognize TB’s main point about whether or not “[Pielke's] entire premise adds little to the broader contexts of climate policy”. I am looking at this from a logical perspective which means I must list my assumptions.

    1. Every data specific point made in the 538 article is correct
    2. Nothing in the 538 article says anything about the future data on disasters or CC.

    In the article’s last paragraph, it says “When you next hear someone tell you that worthy and useful efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to fewer natural disasters, remember these numbers and instead focus on what we can control. ”

    1. That statement says that the numbers in the 538 article should make us draw conclusions on mitigation for CC b/c of his data
    2. Mitigation efforts are one the broad context treatments for CC
    3. Mitigation efforts are about future loss, not past

    If Pielke’s data is not relevant for the future, how could the conclusions he draws from his research be correct or notable or relevant? If you agree with my assumptions, I’d say that TB’s comment is much more important than whether or not Pielke’s normalization procedure is worth a damn.

  55. #55 John Mashey

    For Pielke-watchers (I’m not), maybe somebody know if RP JR has commented on 2 things that must not have happened in his state:
    1) Bark beetles killing lodge pole pines en masse
    2) Storms/floods in 2013

  56. #56 And Then There's Physics

    What SM has said is an impression I have also had. I haven’t looked at Roger Jr’s work in detail but it does seem, often at least, to be analyses that show that there is no trend in some dataset (often, I think, something for which a trend would probably be difficult to detect at this time). The conclusion is then, probably correctly, that there is no signal of a global warming effect on whatever is being analysed. So, this may be correct, but given that it is an analysis of past data, how can we really use this to conclude anything about the future, especially if finding no trend is what we would expect, even if we might expect a trend to become more apparent in the future.

    [I think RP's main point, and the reason I value him, is as a counter to all those who say "disasters are increasing! Its GW! ZOMG, we're all going to die". I exaggerate for effect. Push me and I'll find examples, though I'm hoping you agree that such suggestions aren't uncommon -W]

  57. #57 SM

    [I think RP's main point, and the reason I value him, is as a counter to all those who say "disasters are increasing! Its GW! ZOMG, we're all going to die".]

    If that were the end of it, this would certainly be valuable, but unfortunately it came with broad (and specific) policy recommendations that do not follow logically from the data being presented in the article.

  58. #58 And Then There's Physics

    [Push me and I'll find examples, though I'm hoping you agree that such suggestions aren't uncommon]

    Sure, I agree that they exist and may not be uncommon. I do think that there are subtleties, though. In many case, I think that people are quite careful about what they say. They may use a powerful cyclone as an example of what might occur more often in the future. They may use the flooding in the UK to discuss what may occur more often in the future. I don’t really have an issue with this as there is evidence to suggest that these extreme events may become more common in the future. Maybe they won’t, but discussing the possibility that they will, seems fine as long as it’s done carefully. Surely, this is allowed and criticising anyone associates – in any way – an extreme event and GW is, itself, a bit extreme?

    It does seem, though, that Roger is amongst those who will heavily criticise (attack?) anyone who associates an extreme event, in any way, with GW. So, I think there is a big difference between countering those who do indeed make claims about disasters increasing (when there is no evidence to suggest that they are) and criticising those who are much more careful in what they say. I would value Roger more if he put more effort into distinguishing between those are making claims that aren’t supported by the evidence, and those who are more careful in what they say. I would also value him more if he was more willing to acknowledge that his work does not counter that extremes events may increase in frequency and intensity in the future.

  59. #59 Eli Rabett

    AndThen, first of all, there is useful evidence that hydrological disasters are increasing in number while geophysical ones are not (Munich Re). There are also your namesakes claims that there are physics reasons for this. You are falling into Pielke’s trap where you extrapolate from his rather shallow argument into your experience.

    Pielke claims that the COSTS of such are remaining constant when one corrects for population density and therefore one should simply lie back and enjoy it. The Weasel is also of that school.

    However, there is always a however, is there not? by his own logic since one of the things he controls for is population, the increasing number of disasters is affecting an increasing number of people, perhaps at a constant cost to each (the GDP thing), but at an increasing total cost.

    So if there are more people, more people will die in a disaster all other things remaining constant. That explains a lot


  60. #60 And Then There's Physics

    [You are falling into Pielke’s trap where you extrapolate from his rather shallow argument into your experience. ]

    I think you’ve misunderstood what I was trying to say, or I’ve expressed myself poorly (or maybe you haven’t misunderstood me, and I’ve said something foolish :-) ). I may have made it sound like there wasn’t any evidence for an increases in certain events, which wasn’t actually what I was trying to say. I was agreeing that in circumstances when the evidence is weak (non-existent), it’s fine to call people out when they make unsupported claims. However, there are circumstances when people express themselves quite carefully and yet are still attacked/heavily criticised for simply associating an event with GW, even if they have added suitable caveats.

    I certainly agree that, from a physics perspective, it would be very surprising if continuing to add energy to our climate system did not effect the intensity and frequency of certain climate events.

    [Pielke claims that the COSTS of such are remaining constant when one corrects for population density and therefore one should simply lie back and enjoy it. The Weasel is also of that school. ]

    I’m certainly not of that school.

  61. #61 OPatrick

    [Push me and I'll find examples]

    Can I push you? It’s not that I don’t think there are any, I’m just wondering how easy they will be to find and how closely they match your characterisation (accounting for the exaggeration for effect).

  62. #62 Russell

    # 10 Mike H:

    Only a kevlar aorta can survive the levels of sardonic mirth Republicans experience reading the collected works of Mooney and Oreskes.

  63. #63 Mark

    Does Pielke call for a carbon tax od something equivalent? I have the impression from several comments here as if Pielke is suggesting to do exactly nothing. Is that so?

  64. #64 thingsbreak

    [I think RP's main point, and the reason I value him, is as a counter to all those who say "disasters are increasing! Its GW! ZOMG, we're all going to die". I exaggerate for effect. Push me and I'll find examples, though I'm hoping you agree that such suggestions aren't uncommon -W]

    That’s an awful goddamn reason to cheer someone on. Because what you’re doing is rooting for a position, not evidence.

    You do realize it’s possible to “value” someone who both has that *and* doesn’t have a history of being so laughably wrong, of absurd attacks on climate scientists, of hysterical claims of persecution, etc., right? And someone who actually is saying something meaningful? Someone who doesn’t lie about his sources?

    You clearly at first didn’t RTFRs. Now you are saying you have. Are you going to tell everyone here that Roger’s hurricane loss paper in any actually analyzed the issue of forecasting or adaptation measures, as Roger is claiming it did?

    Because the paper itself is pretty clear that it did no such thing.

  65. #65 thingsbreak

    @ Mark: “Does Pielke call for a carbon tax od something equivalent?”

    He pays lip service to a tiny price on carbon, but in practice he attacks pretty much every real world attempt to price it. He champions some magical future technological miracle that is supposed arrive via “innovation”, as though that’s something that we can produce on demand. And he is an enormous partisan for carbon capture (which of course is the most convenient for FF companies). He will attack anyone for even suggesting that the science on climate implies we might want to mitigate by pricing or stabilizing emissions, but if anyone wants to claim that the science indicates we should do carbon capture (e.g. Myles Allen), you get a free pass from Roger, because you’re on the right team.

    [@Mark / TB: I doubt you'll get an objective assessment of RP position from comments here. TB is correct that RP is (bizarrely, IMO) keen on carbon capture. But He will attack anyone for even suggesting that the science on climate implies we might want to mitigate by pricing or stabilizing emissions sounds wrong. For example http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2010/10/interview-roger-pielke-jr-on-why-a-small-tax-is-our-best-hope-in-climate-change-fight/ is far more measured. I can agree with most of that, other than the idea that only a low carbon tax is possible -W]

  66. #66 Brian Schmidt

    William says “I think RP’s main point, and the reason I value him, is as a counter to all those who say ‘disasters are increasing! Its GW! ZOMG, we’re all going to die’.”

    Actually that’s a reason why I value William’s work (not the sole one) but I think there’s a huge difference in how William looks askance at various claims and the misleading way RPJr does it.

    Another topic: I know something about flooding, although we here in Silicon Valley don’t worry about hurricanes. I would be surprised if Pielke’s unsupported claim is correct that building codes for hurricanes weren’t updated from the 1920s until recent years. I also suspect that seawalls, inflow channel design, and pumps have all had major upgrades that he’s ignored.

    My water district spends $50-$100 million annually to improve flood mitigation, and we’re just one county out of thousands in the country. Maybe that mitigation won’t affect hurricane damages as much as other disasters, but RPJr sure talks about other flooding issues in other contexts and doesn’t correct for mitigation.

  67. #67 Hank Roberts


  68. #68 Hank Roberts

    So who are these Colorado people and why do they care?

    Trends in population growth and relocation, increase in the rate of hurricane formation as the multi-decade hurricane cycle moves upward, and long-term climate change all point to increased residential damage from hurricanes in the future. With large-scale population shifts to sunbelt states, Florida in particular, and the increased popularity of coastal areas of other states, an increasing housing inventory is now at risk from hurricane damage. The observed 20-year hurricane cycle seems to be moving into its more active phase, increasing the likelihood of more intense hurricanes forming over at least the next decade, and possibly beyond. Studies on global warming suggest an increase in the frequency, intensity, and range of intense hurricanes as the oceans warm, and the pool of warm ocean water that fuels hurricanes spreads farther from the equator.

    Recent hurricanes have proved that inland areas, as well as coastal areas, are at risk from hurricane damage. Hugo, a large fast-moving storm, carried hurricane-force winds inland as far as Charlotte, North Carolina. Storms such as Hugo, Andrew, and Iniki have also shown that wind, by a large margin, is responsible for most of the damage and property loss experienced from hurricanes.

    Recent hurricanes have exposed the vulnerability of many existing homes located in hurricane hazard areas. Roofs are especially vulnerable to damage. Once roof damage begins, the rest of the structure often succumbs to progressive stages of failure. Wind-borne debris has proved to be a significant cause of damage, and windows and doors have been shown to be vulnerable and usually unprotected.

    Current state-of-the-art home construction is adequate, with the exception of wind-resistant roof cladding, to produce homes that can withstand presumable hurricane forces. Unfortunately, homes in hurricane hazard areas have not been designed or constructed with hurricane survivability as a key requirement. Much of the damage inflicted by hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, and Iniki could have been avoided by the application of affordable, straightforward, construction techniques.

    There are three areas which, if addressed, will significantly increase the survivability of homes in hurricane hazard areas….”

    [With large-scale population shifts to sunbelt states, Florida in particular, and the increased popularity of coastal areas of other states, an increasing housing inventory is now at risk from hurricane damage. That's RP's point: that a lot of the increase in damage is from an increase in building in coastal areas -W]

  69. #69 Hank Roberts

    So aren’t they violating the rules of engagement for US policy planning by suggesting a precautionary policy of anticipating damage, where the rules say unless bodies are stacked on _your_ block for pickup, then you needn’t plan for troubles?

    Or am I missing something about how the game is played?

  70. #70 Paul Kelly

    How disappointing. Is there no peer reviewed literature that refutes, contradicts, or even offers an alternative analysis to Pielke’s?

  71. #71 Russell

    Brian has a point- many mid-atlantic seawalls were redesigned after the killer hurricanes of the 20’s and 30’s

    Trouble is that much of the mileage of concrete the Corps of Engineers poured in the 40’s to create Fortess Jersey fell into the sea before the 60’s were out.

  72. #72 Hank Roberts
  73. #73 Harold Brooks

    Eli-I’ve twittered, emailed, talked to, and reviewed Elsner on those points.

  74. #74 thingsbreak

    @WMC: “But … sounds wrong. For example”

    You might want to read my comment more carefully. You seem to be focusing only on the pricing part, look at the the “science implies” part. This is his “stealth advocate”/”honest broker” shtick, which is, like his normalization stuff, one-sided to produce a biased outcome. Myles Allen can claim whatever he wants about carbon capture, and Pielke will say nothing, because Pielke is pro-carbon capture. But people who even come close to implying that the science points to us wanting to stabilize emissions if we want to avoid bad outcomes get smeared as stealth advocates and dishonest brokers.

    [Sounds like mud flinging to me. Pielke is indeed pro-carbon-capture, but you asserted that "He pays lip service to a tiny price on carbon, but in practice he attacks pretty much every real world attempt to price it". Now you're backing off "attacks" to "smear" but you've provided no evidence for that, either -W]

  75. #75 Paul S

    Paul Kelly – Since there seems to be some disagreement on this point could you spell out exactly what it is you think RPJr has actually said/shown? A few bullet points perhaps so people can actually address specifics.

    From what I can see the main point people are making is that RPJr’s own citations don’t support his assertions, so asking people for alternatives seems wide of the mark.

  76. #76 Eli Rabett

    #73 Harold, care to share any responses???

  77. #77 Hank Roberts

    Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA
    Last Revised: December 30, 2013

  78. #78 Mark

    @ thingsbreak

    Yes, I just read this piece:


    But I think RP jr. has a point, here: a carbon tax as it springs out of traditional cost-benefit estimates would do little to change energy use in the near future. I’d have been comfortable with this approach 20 years ago, but by now we have built in so much tempearatur increase that IAMs are more and more off their comfort zone, and where the discussion gets more and more dominated by risk and uncertainty. And here, I think, RP jr. has a point: a carbon tax that has a notable impact may be justified economically, but might be politically unfeasible. This is not a problem RP jr. has pulled out his ass, it is the very background e.g. for Acemoglu to argue for R&D investment on top of a (faesible) carbon tax to avoid (potential) catastrophe, in “The Environment and Directed Technical Change”:


    If this would lead to much CCS is another question, and it would indeed seem strange if RP jr. is fixated on this, though I couldn’t find anything suggesting an obsession along the lines you seem to suggest. But again, I agree with the general thrust of the linked piece, expecially the final paragraph. Any policy instrument trying to tackle mitigation must be well designed, and just because something feels as if we were doing something doesn’t mean that it has an effect or is effective: some measures might just make things a little more expensive without doing much for mitigation, if anything.

    Though, I cannot find RP jr. suggesting to do nothing, as has been claimed here.

  79. #79 NewYorkJ

    It’s important to distinguish between peer-reviewed analysis and claims made beyond what the literature supports. Brad Johnson’s first comment on the follow-up exposes this. For example, Pielke cites Neumayer-Barthel, 2011 as evidence for his claim “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”. Yet in this study, they conclude, like many of us have:

    “It is premature to interpret these findings as evidence that climatic factors have not led to an increase in normalized disaster damage. This is because defensive mitigating measures undertaken by rational individuals and governments in response to more frequent and/or more intensive natural hazards may have reduced natural disaster losses such that these measures would mask any increasing trend in normalized disaster damage. Unfortunately, it is impossible to adequately account for measures such as improved
    early warning systems, better building qualities, heightened flood defences etc. It is therefore impossible to say whether one would see an increasing trend in normalized natural disaster damages in the absence of such measures.”

    I’ll add that trends in better building qualities are not limited to modern building codes.

    I’m not sure there’s any peer-reviewed study that supports Pielke’s core contention.

    It’s interesting that those who exaggerate the uncertainty in areas of climate science accept without question Pielke’s claims. The uncertainty monsters appear to be docile.

    Pielke has also chosen not to cite studies that show an increase in normalized disaster losses. This includes a study by the same authors Hank links to in #72.

    See also Schmidt, Kemper, and Hoppe: “Tropical
    cyclone losses in the USA and the impact of climate.”

    On the general topic of a data-driven guy like Nate Silver hiring Pielke, I think most of us agree he can do way better. Expect more selective “interpretations” of the evidence, and plenty of dodging and weaving when shown to be wrong. After relying heavily on a skeptical marketing professor for the climate chapter of his book, it’s certainly no surprise Nate Silver has made this blunder. I don’t think this discredits Silver entirely. It just reminds us that expertise in one area, such as statistical analysis of elections and baseball, does not mean one’s judgement in other areas is sound.

    [On that last point, it will be interesting to see what RP posts next at 538. He's used his strongest card already -W]

  80. #80 NewYorkJ

    My best guess is that one of the next cards will be along the lines of one that played out recently.


    See also the comments from Tom Curtis on that thread.

    His attacks on Chris Field in the SkS link in #39 and subsequent dodging and weaving are pretty revealing too.

    Later he may push Breakthrough Inst. tenants on inaction or delve into the physical basis material, targeting future projections. I hope at that point Silver has brought in some real climate scientists. If Silver’s goal is that his team writes provocative articles with questionable premises that generate a lot of commentary, then he’s on his way to meeting that goal, but then he’s not much different than the rest of the media.

  81. #81 Rachel

    I want to point out that there’s much more to disaster-related costs than just damage to infrastructure. There’s a human element which I think is missing from RP JR’s article and this includes things like stress, anxiety and mental health issues, all of which can have a noticeable impact on the heath care system. Does RP JR factor in all these other things? So I find it a bit callous to decide whether it’s worth *not* changing the climate simply on the basis of costs. It is always going to be better to mitigate natural disasters if we consider the human element and our wellbeing.

    [Its best to include all costs. But if you want to head down the "non-commensurable" path, you'll lose the economists. I used to think this made sense, but I now think its just doomed -W]

  82. #82 John Mashey

    See today’s Dilbert, whose argument style somewhat relates to those involving RP Jr.

  83. #83 Hank Roberts

    re 31, the economist wrote
    ” our ability to produce goods and services in the future and … our welfare right now….won’t show up in GDP measures.”

    How is that wrong? GDP doesn’t reflect either the future, or current welfare; the article is saying that using the national GDP number, the effect of even big hurricanes hasn’t showed up.

    If that’s wrong, where _does_ it show up in GDP for any given large hurricane?

    [I don't understand you. I pointing out the obvious: that destroying our ability to produce things will inevitably show up in (future) GDP. How could it be otherwise? -W]

  84. #84 Hank Roberts

    Oh, and re the inline comment on 31, the state.gov doc doesn’t say Japan’s tsunami showed up in GDP.
    That paper’s looking forward when written — it says it’s possible, once the numbers are known, that the damage might be as much as 4x what our last US great hurricane damaged.

    That’s well outside the ballpark Pielke’s talking about.

    And it says that amount of damage, if it happened, might be significant in Japan’s GDP figures, and Japan is 8-something percent of world GDP so might show up.

    But did it, or will it once the numbers are available?

    How much sea level rise, rain, hurricanes, etc. would have to be added attributable to climate change, to equal the Japanese tsunami’s effect on GDP?

    But that’s all aside from the article’s point; it was one economist citing others to say that GDP isn’t the appropriate measure to use.

    My question is what other measures are economists using, and did Dr. Pielke look at those?

    He wouldn’t cherrypick GDP just because it’s less sensitive to hurricane damage than whatever other measures the economists use, I assume. But what do they show?

    I find papers citing Pielke that argue with his conclusions; I don’t see Pielke citing those in his papers.

    So I’m wondering, what is he ignoring or dismissing?

  85. #85 Hank Roberts

    And to be clear I’m not taking a side here, except the side of the reference librarians asking what other sources ought to be read on this. That’s why I also pointed to http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes — titled
    “Global Warming and Hurricanes
    An Overview of Current Research Results
    1. Has Global Warming Affected Atlantic Hurricane Activity?”
    from December 2013.

    Is that a coy reference to Betteridge

  86. #86 Harold Brooks

    #76, Not in detail. I think he still wants to interpret changes in reporting practice (non-meteorological influences) as physical. Some of his techniques look like they might be good at identifying those reporting practice changes.

  87. #87 thomaswfuller2

    So the alarmist brigade, which already was suspicious of Silver because of what he wrote about climate change statistics in The Signal and the Noise, made a pre-emptive strike against both Silver and Pielke when the former hired the latter. No surprises there. Nothing new in this thread about Pielke, disasters, costs and climate, sadly.

    As someone who knows Pielke Jr. slightly, I can tell you that he not only endorses the WG1 physics of climate change, he believes that we need to work now to address climate change of the future. Not that that will change anybody’s opinion.

    My own phrasing of it may serve to capture Pielke’s broader thrust–claims of Xtreme Weather today which cannot be linked to climate change, either because of insufficient length of studies or smallness of signal, serve the function of the boy crying wolf. The tragedy is not that these claims are insubstantial. The tragedy is that there is a wolf.

    When extreme weather events do become more common as a result of climate change (and both Pielke and myself are on record writing this), it will be far more difficult to summon public support for appropriate action because of the vituperation of the Rommulans and the Book of Eli.

  88. #88 Hank Roberts

    > pointing out the obvious: that destroying our ability to
    > produce things will inevitably show up in (future) GDP.

    But not in a detectable way, to any significant degree — no attribution of a particular loss to the particular hurricane, the signal is lost in the noise, by the time the loss a particular storm caused has propagated through the economy given the lag time calculating GDP. Right?

    [But that doesn't matter. Since its mechanistic, you don't need statistics. Its like the difference between medical efficacy studies and geometry -W]

    The paper you cited from 2011 is saying the tsunami cost, if it’s at the top end of the estimates, -might- show up in GDP.

    So what other indicators are better as early warnings for this kind of event? Cost of upgrading buildings and revising codes, maybe? Lawyers and contractors and materials costs certainly go up after, e.g., a California earthquake or fire happens. I don’t know if those show up in GDP, or with what time lag.

    [Again, I don't understand. Early warnings for *what* kind of event? If you mean GW, and increases in hurricanes, or whatever, then I wouldn't look at the economy at all; I'd look at the climatology -W]

    Point of the original paper I posted was economists saying GDP isn’t the appropriate measure to use; I see Pielke cited in papers discussing his methods, but I don’t see him citing those discussions — ‘back but no forth’

    Yet Mr. Fuller says Pielke is in the position Hansen was thirty years ago, warning that there’s a change coming but that the signal is too small to reliably detect. Hansen was talking about temperature lost in natural variation; Pielke is talking about GDP change saying it’s lost in economic variation.

    And how many hurricanes does it take to do damage equal to the impact of one big mortgage lender?

  89. #89 Hank Roberts

    > you don’t need statistics
    Hey, I’m not the economist

    This is where I read that GDP isn’t the right measure:

    No one has responded to his blog post yet over there.

  90. #90 Harold Brooks

    RPJr’s not talking about the impacts of disasters on GDP (which is what the article was criticizing). He’s using GDP as a long-term normalization measure for “stuff” in order to compare damage from events over a long period of time. It’s clearly superior to inflation adjustment. It’s probably not as good as net stock of fixed reproducible tangible wealth, but the time series for that don’t cover as long of a period and, GDP and net stock go reasonably well in step. Roger’s trying to look at the question of how to compare the damage from a hurricane in 1925 to the damage from a hurricane in 2005. The GDP gives a normalization to do that in a reasonably good way. The article criticized using changes in GDP due to changes in manufacturing to measure the impact of a particular disaster.

  91. #91 thingsbreak

    “[Sounds like mud flinging to me... Now you're backing off "attacks" to "smear" but you've provided no evidence for that, either -W]”

    Seriously, WMC?

    All one has to do is suggest that the scientific evidence indicates we might want to stabilize emissions, and Junior will attack you.

    A half-second of googling brings up: http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/12/your-politics-are-showing.html

    in which he attacks Gavin Schmidt for “lying” because he had the gall to suggest that we do (an undefined) something (not even a particular policy).

    [You're misrepresenting him, again. I disagree with his comments there, as I've said in the past, but he is asserting that Mann, and Schmidt, are lying about what they're doing. He isn't attacking what they are doing -W]

    You are going out of your way to be super skeptical of criticisms of Roger, while giving him a free pass.

    You have admitted that this is because you find Roger a convenient opposition to a position that you don’t like. Perhaps instead of defending Roger you should just spend more time personally taking that position.

    And as best I can tell, you have failed to admit that Roger was misrepresenting his sources. Why?

    “One final note: Other readers raised questions about the role of technological change — such as evolving building practices — and its effects on disaster losses over time. This subject is well addressed in the literature, and has been deemed… [unimportant for] U.S. hurricanes or tornadoes.”

    Roger then cites two papers, which he has coauthored, which absolutely do not analyze this question. In fact, the one on hurricanes explicitly says it does not analyze this question and warns against ignoring it.

    Roger is lying about his sources. But hey, he disagrees with Joe Romm (who you disagree with), so I guess that’s perfectly acceptable.

    [If you find yourself arguing by putting words into other people's mouths, that's a sign that you've gone wrong -W]

  92. #92 thingsbreak

    “he is asserting that Mann, and Schmidt, are lying about what they’re doing. He isn’t attacking what they are doing -W”

    He is attacking them, calling them liars, etc. for supposed “stealth” advocacy (of no specific policy).

    [Yes, he is attacking them for what he calls inconsistency: he believes that what he sees as advocacy is incompatible with their rejection of advocacy -W]

    He does no such thing to the people advocating his preferred solutions/specific policies, like Myles Allen.

    [Presumably because MA hasn't rejected advocacy. The point you're missing is that he's not attacking their policy, but their inconsistency (as he calls it), because it promotes his Honest Broker meme; not because he cares about their policy -W]

    This was my claim. You seem to agreeing with it, but you don’t understand that this is my point, yes?

    [I no agree with you -W]

    “If you find yourself arguing by putting words into other people’s mouths, that’s a sign that you’ve gone wrong”

    I am paraphrasing your comments, with some amount of sarcastic spin. As best I can tell, this is in fact what you actually believe. You like that Roger pushes back against people/a position that you disagree with, so you support him:


    You are supporting him even though he has a history of attacking climate scientists, a history of hysterical claims about persecution, a history of innumerate buffoonery in attacking climate science, a history of misrepresenting the science or just plain being ignorant of it, etc.

    You were supporting his claims and demanding evidence from his critics without bothering to investigate any of Roger’s claims yourself.

    And you do all this because, in your own words “the reason [you] value him, is as a counter to all those who say ‘disasters are increasing! Its GW! ZOMG, we’re all going to die’.”

    Please, William, show me the analyses performed on mitigation and forecasting effects on losses for hurricanes and tornadoes in the papers Roger is citing in support of his claim that these effects are both “well addressed” and “not important”.

    I’ll gladly wait.

  93. #93 thingsbreak

    To be absolutely crystal clear:

    Please show me the analyses performed on mitigation and forecasting effects on losses for hurricanes and tornadoes in these papers

    DOI: 10.1080/17477891.2012.738642 (tornadoes)
    DOI: 10.1061/ ASCE1527-6988 20089:1 29 (TCs)

    showing that these effects are both “well addressed” and “not important”.

  94. #94 Harold Brooks

    What possible forecasting effects would there be for reducing property damage in tornadoes? There’s been quite a bit showing impacts on death tolls, but I’m having a hard time thinking of what could be done on forecasting time scale to reduce damage. I’m also not sure how much effort has gone into mitigation, as far as property damage is concerned, in most places where tornadoes occur.

  95. #95 thingsbreak

    “What possible forecasting effects would there be for reducing property damage in tornadoes?”

    Was this question for me? The forecasting aspect is much more relevant for the TCs portion of my comment than tornadoes. I have not been up on the literature for the latter nearly as much as I have for the former. I would imagine severe thunderstorm warnings in tornado-prone areas could at least in principal reduce losses associated with vehicles being driven in affected areas and reductions in electrical damage/fires. And of course as you note, the benefit in reducing deaths.

  96. #96 Harold Brooks

    I asked because you asked “Please show me the analyses performed on mitigation and forecasting effects on losses for … tornadoes.” Building (not vehicle) damage is by far the biggest aspect of tornado damage and I’m unaware of anything that suggests people’s driving lessens in tornado-warned areas (in some cases, such as the tornadoes in late May in the Oklahoma City area, there was probably a significant increase in accidents because the warnings were in effect and people were attempting to drive to a place of perceived safety.) Also, I doubt if severe thunderstorm warnings do anything to reduce tornado damage. Severe warnings are rarely in effect during damaging tornadoes and people, unfortunately, tend to ignore severe thunderstorm warnings.

  97. #97 thingsbreak


    Certainly we can both agree that no such analysis (be it for mitigation or forecasting) was performed in the paper that Roger cited in defense of his claim, yes?

  98. […] 2014/03/20: Stoat: RP Jr to world: come on if you think you’re hard enough […]

  99. #99 Carrick

    Hank Roberts: What possible forecasting effects would there be for reducing property damage in tornadoes? There’s been quite a bit showing impacts on death tolls, but I’m having a hard time thinking of what could be done on forecasting time scale to reduce damage.

    Movement of livestock to more secure locations would be one example. There are others.

  100. #100 Carrick

    Harold Brooks: Building (not vehicle) damage is by far the biggest aspect of tornado damage and I’m unaware of anything that suggests people’s driving lessens in tornado-warned areas (in some cases, such as the tornadoes in late May in the Oklahoma City area, there was probably a significant increase in accidents because the warnings were in effect and people were attempting to drive to a place of perceived safety.)

    When you are facing EF4 or EF5 tornados, unless you have a tornado bunker or underground protection, you will likely not survive a direct hit. EF4s kick your building to the ground, EF5s can sweep concrete pads clean of debris associated with the failed structure, and sometimes even lift and move the concrete pad.

    In the event where a tornado is known to be in the area, police can cordon off areas to prevent people from driving into the danger area. Given improved forecast skill, this would become a great civil defense planning tool, it could save lives and reduce associated property damage.

  101. #101 Carrick

    On #100, I dropped the ball a bit in my comment: My point was that people have to get in their cars and move for safety.

    That is, it’s not just a perception that it’s safer, they are generally advised by radio and TV that, unless they have a secure location like a basement or tornado bunker, they should not remain in their homes.

  102. #102 Tom C

    thingsbreak – You are one angry, unpleasant dude. It might come as a shock to you, but there are people in the world who don’t come to the same conclusions as you do, and you need to debate them rather than call them names. The name calling does fulfill an emotional need but you might want to examine that need a bit more thoroughly.

  103. #103 MapleLeaf

    “Now you’re backing off “attacks” to “smear” but you’ve provided no evidence for that, either -W]”

    Come on Stoat, Pielke almost habitually calls people he doesn’t like or which disagree with him liars, or he might insinuate nasty things about them. There is evidence for that on Pielke’s blog, but you seem reluctant to seek it out for some reason. I’ll help:


    H/T to Susan Anderson at Eli’s. Now, can someone find a long list like that in which Pielke mocks, insults, slanders etc. deniers and fake skeptics? Unlikely.

    [Well, re #9, you can have http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2013/04/01/rp-jr-is-a-tosser/ if you like. But *all* the rest? No -W]

  104. #104 MapleLeaf

    Also posted at ThingsBreak,

    “William can’t have read the papers very carefully. First off, the earthquake is irrelevant to the subject at hand, Pielke is specifically talking about weather-related damage costs in his 538 diatribe. Two of the papers do not even mention how technology may have affected damage costs. The paper on tropical cyclones does make some brief mention, but the authors then dismiss the impact of changes in building codes with nary a citation or any analysis.

    William is not being honest with himself. William probably doesn’t really cares, but his handling of this reflects just as badly on him as it does on Pielke Jnr.”

    William, reading this thread, it is quite clear that you are being argumentative and arguing for the sake of arguing, or you are just going out of your way to annoy people. That is hardly constructive nor is it illuminating. It is disappointing that you seem content to add to Pielke’s attempts to muddy the waters, and defend his disinformation. Well done, I guess….

  105. #105 SM

    I do agree that someone who calls out people for using over the top claims about climate change and disaster is useful. I imagine I think it is useful because I don’t think that information that does not help us in our decision making about the future, should be refuted if wrong, or ignored if not relevant.

    On the same thought, if you use information that only gives us minimal information about the past, and then use that to address a rather large and complicated future policy issue, what exactly is the difference? Are both not examples of using proxies to deliver a policy solution, even though neither actually addresses the situation? Isn’t that exactly what happened in 538 when he implies we should not focus on mitigation? Isn’t that kind of refutation just as useful?

  106. #106 Eli Rabett

    Better construction reduces damage on the periphery of the tornado and for large well engineered structure those in the path


    C’mon folks this ain’t rocket science.

  107. #107 Hank Roberts

    > Carrick 2014/03/24
    > Hank Roberts: What possible …

    Attribution failure :-)
    that wasn’t me

  108. #108 Hank Roberts

    > he is asserting that Mann, and Schmidt, are lying about
    > what they’re doing. He isn’t attacking what they are doing -W]

    Wait, can you unbundle that?

    They’re doing something.

    [Yes -W]

    You think RP is right, or wrong, about what RP thinks they are actually doing?

    [Yes :-). Or, non-mathematically, I think RP is substantively wrong about what they are doing -W]

    You think RP is right, or wrong, when he says they’re lying?

    [He's wrong -W]

    See this is the problem with RP. When people try to talk about what he says, it’s hard to get an explicit statement out of anyone after a while about what he actually says he thinks.

  109. #109 Harold Brooks

    #100. Absolutely wrong. For people who are inside houses that had (E)F4 or (E)F5 damage at the time the tornado hit and had no specially built shelter or below ground shelter, the death rate is ~1-2%. This has been seen multiple times (Birmingham 1998, OKC/Moore 1999, OKC/Moore 2013).

    I’ve never seen a concrete pad lifted and moved.

    We’re a long way from having that level of accuracy on path to cordon off areas with confidence in most cases. Road closures that were put in place on 31 May 2013, for instance, would have been disastrous if the tornado would not have dissipated after it turned towards where traffic was diverting.

    #101. We (the tornado research and emergency management communities) are certainly attempting to get the media that have been giving bad advice to get on board with the message to shelter in place.

    #106. Of course, better construction would reduce damage in tornadoes. Unfortunately, there’s little incentive to do so. Very few places have codes that require most of what IBHS is talking about. Enforcement of codes that exist is also problematic. From an insurance standpoint, the amount of damage associated with winds is small enough that it’s not worth it for companies to give a break to customers who go behind code. (Fire and hail are much bigger damage problems.)

    That’s not to say that people don’t do some or all of the things in construction now. One of the home builders in the OKC area does it for all new housing it does, but it would be decades before the current housing stock is replaced and until a large fraction of it is, debris from poorer construction will be a lot of damage to good construction.

  110. #110 thingsbreak

    As I said before, WMC, your skepticism of any and all criticisms of Roger coupled with your complete and utter failure to apply similar levels of skepticism to Roger’s claims is astounding.

    Whenever you bother getting around to #93, let me know. Otherwise, it’s hard for me to take anything you’re writing as anything other than deliberate trolling or motivated reasoning.

  111. #111 Carrick

    Harold Brooks: #100. Absolutely wrong. For people who are inside houses that had (E)F4 or (E)F5 damage at the time the tornado hit and had no specially built shelter or below ground shelter, the death rate is ~1-2%. This has been seen multiple times (Birmingham 1998, OKC/Moore 1999, OKC/Moore 2013).

    No. The 1-2% number is for all affected people, not just those stayed in homes that were exposed to the high-wind area of the tornado, who had no shelter.

    I think you are showing very poor judgment to be making claims about something that affects other people’s safety, when it is clear you actually know so little about it. This could cost somebody their life, when they find out definitively that collision with a heavy piece of detritus hurling through the air at 300-mph is generally fatal (something that most of us fortunately have the common sense to be aware of).

  112. #112 Eli Rabett

    Harold, pressure for better construction is more likely to come from the insurance industry than Republican dominated state and local governments.

    What is really worrying is the trend in states to deny the insurers the right to set their rates to reflect construction, etc. See FL flood damage insurance for an example.

  113. #113 Eli Rabett

    Carrick you may have the wrong Harold E. Brooks or Eli does. Wikipedia has a name for the trap into which you may have fallen.

  114. #114 David B. Benson

    Victor Venema @ #40 — Thank you. I fear WMC does not fully comprehend the scientific method; RPJr certainly does not.

  115. #115 Jon

    [...Now you're backing off "attacks" to "smear" but you've provided no evidence for that, either -W]

    MInor point though it is, I have to ask – in whose lexicon is “smear” meaningfully less bad than “attacks”, provided the “attacks” in question didn’t involve actual violence?

  116. #116 Harold Brooks

    #111: You apparently know nothing of the studies that have been done. The 1-2% figure are from survey work that looked at who was inside of the house at the time the tornado occurred. See Hammer and Schmidlin 2002 (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/1520-0434%282002%29017%3C0577%3ARTWDTM%3E2.0.CO%3B2), Brooks et al. 2008 (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-89-1-87) and the recent Oklahoma State Department Health study presented at the National Tornado Summit last month. One of the pernicious myths is that F4/F5 is fatal unless you have special shelter. It has led to people taking very dangerous actions when they could have dramatically improved their survival by taking simple actions.

    112: The reality is that there’s very little pressure from insurance for better construction for wind resistance in any place in the country outside of Florida. The reason is that the losses associated with wind are dwarfed by fire and hail. From my conversations with the industry folks, I’m probably paying ~<$100 for the wind part of my policy on my home and probably 5X that for hail. They can't provide meaningful incentives for wind. In new construction, it would take 20+ years to recoup the investment even if they gave me a 50% break on the wind part. For hail, they'd be happy to cut that part of the policy if I put hail-resistant shingles up and they could give me enough money to make that difference pay off in just a few years.

  117. #117 Eli Rabett

    Harold, of course that depends on the trends in hurricane and rain damage. If those increase (and they are) the cost relative to hail goes up (of course, hail can increase too). So Eli’s answer is wait.

  118. #118 Harold Brooks

    Eli-the current consensus in the severe thunderstorm community would probably be the most likely thing to increase would be non-tornadic wind events, then hail, and there’s weak evidence for tornadoes and some (also weak) evidence for tornado numbers to decrease. It would take a lot to change the dynamic. Hail damage to residences has skyrocketed for non-meteorological reasons (materials cost, business practices by roofing and insurance companies) in the last decade. Fire’s probably always going to be the loss driver.

  119. #119 Steve Bloom

    Late to the party.

    Text of the Trenberth review is here.

    Hmm, is RP Jr.’s “honest broker” meme something that pre-dates him, or is it his own invention? If the latter, why is anyone even paying attention to it? Oh, that’s right, because some journalists find it appealing and keep repeating it. But it explains a lot to realize that Pielke’s dictum can be restated as “scientists should behave according to the same standards as journalists.” Even if one accepts that, though, it’s unjustifiable to neglect the distinction between “this is a terrible problem, society has to do something” and “this is a terrible problem, society has to choose x, y, z solution.”

    Re the subject of the post, the disaster business, RP Jr.’s main message as I’ve understood it is that present disaster trends in and of themselves contain no climate component that should lead policy makers to take steps to mitigate based just on that component. How is this not just missing the point? It’s mainly a matter of future losses.

    [That may well be your point, and its a reasonable one. But its not the one RP's article is addressing, which is losses to date. He thinks that people are asserting that trends-in-losses-to-date-demonstrate-GW. Admittedly, he provides no examples - perhaps you'd argue that there are none such (if so, I'd disagree with you)? -W]

    But as looking for subtle trends in such things is a necessarily murky enterprise scientifically, and the public is going to be prone to misunderstanding, it’s fertile ground for a self-promoting policy academic looking for a good career path.

    The difficulty, to the extent anyone actually believes what he says , is the strong implication that because some people are (or may be) wrong about climate contributions to present disasters, maybe we don’t need to be concerned about mitigation in anticipation of future increases. I know he doesn’t *say* this, thus my use of implication.

    Well, what does he say, specifically in the 538 article that will probably be read by more people than anything he’s written before?

    “When you next hear someone tell you that worthy and useful efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to fewer natural disasters, remember these numbers and instead focus on what we can control. There is some good news to be found in the ever-mounting toll of disaster losses. As countries become richer, they are better able to deal with disasters — meaning more people are protected and fewer lose their lives. Increased property losses, it turns out, are a price worth paying.”

    So to avoid more and worsening disasters, don’t mitigate, just get rich? Oh, but “worthy and useful.” In what regard exactly? He doesn’t say, but not to reduce actual or anticipated increases in disaster losses, apparently. Yet that advice, if followed, would remove much of the (entirely correct) motive for engaging in mitigation.

    He’s a tosser all the way down. Up and sideways too.

  120. #120 Steve Bloom

    Floods related to intense thunderstorms, Harold (non-SLR-related, as I think there’s clarity on that)?

    Thanks for the Marshall McLuhan moment, BTW. Few deserve it so richly.

  121. #121 Steve Bloom

    For any who don’t know the McLuhan reference, here. Once in a great while, life is like that.

  122. #122 Harold Brooks

    Heaviest precip should increase and appears to have in many places. In US usage, those aren’t severe thunderstorms and I don’t anyone has used the kinds of approaches used for the severe thunderstorm problem to look at heavy precip from thunderstorms.

  123. #123 thingsbreak


    “He thinks that people are asserting that trends-in-losses-to-date-demonstrate-GW.”

    He does? Or he is attacking that strawman as a way to criticize people for saying things that are far more defensible?

    [I don't think it is a strawman. Do you? -W]

    When Chris Field testified, “the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear”, which is a statement completely consistent with the evidence, Junior attacked him for supposedly misleading Congress.

    Junior didn’t attack him for what Field actually said, however, he attacked him for saying something different.

    Junior’s MO is to take something someone has actually said and reword it slightly so that he can either attack it or claim that it agrees with him.

    Still waiting on @93, BTW.

  124. #124 Steve Bloom

    “That may well be your point, and its a reasonable one. But its not the one RP’s article is addressing, which is losses to date. He thinks that people are asserting that trends-in-losses-to-date-demonstrate-GW. Admittedly, he provides no examples – perhaps you’d argue that there are none such (if so, I’d disagree with you)? -W”

    Noting the forward-looking nature of that concluding paragraph, he thinks rather more than that. The pea moves. As JA pointed out eight years ago (h/t the Big Bunny), the implied frequentist approach to climate change, i.e. waiting until we have 95% confidence that major damage is already happening, is badly mistaken.

    And, just in case someone missed making this point above, our overwhelming problem with climate change is the failure of policy makers and the public to grasp the severity of the situation. Frankly I think a little over-reaction around the edges of the debate (it is the edges, and overstating current loss trends is a pretty small piece of that pie crust) doesn’t hurt. In any case it’s probably unavoidable, human nature being what it is, and the people engaging in it aren’t listening to RP Jr. anyway. His only influence is on people like Revkin who are predisposed to the views he promotes. I don’t take the Congressional testimony and WSJ op-eds as having any influence at all. If he weren’t available, they’d just find someone else to say the same stuff. Time will tell whether the 538 venue is any different.

  125. #125 Hank Roberts

    Delay until the science is settled.
    Here’s how that works:


    [If that's a ref for RP, its misdirected. As already noted, he accepts the WG1 science -W]

  126. #126 thingsbreak

    “[I don't think it is a strawman. Do you? -W]”

    More often than it’s not, yes. I’ve seen him cry wolf on it too often to believe otherwise, in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary.

  127. #127 Steve Bloom

    Oh, let me:

    Well yes, smoking is causing cancer, but is a campaign to get people to stop really the best use of resources? After all, many will be resistant, so perhaps palliative care should be the priority. And what about respect for the freedom to make choices for oneself? Besides, there’s no present evidence that smoking hurts anyone but the smoker.

    I could embellish further, but you get the point.

  128. #128 Laurence Lewis

    You seem to have cherry-picked and misunderstood the opening of my long post without bothering with the rest of it. Pielke conveniently accepts AGW, then discounts its impacts; and as explained by Joe Romm, in a direct quote in the post, Pielke “has publicly questioned the scientific integrity of more climate scientists than just about anyone else on the planet. He has smeared literally hundreds of scientists (as I document here).” On the connection between AGW and extreme events, Pielke butchers data and often is just plain wrong, at times embarrassingly so. The only thing misleading was your omitting the bulk of my post.

  129. #129 Thomas Lee Elifritz

    You are one angry, unpleasant dude. It might come as a shock to you, but there are people in the world who don’t come to the same conclusions as you do, and you need to debate them rather than call them names. The name calling does fulfill an emotional need but you might want to examine that need a bit more thoroughly.

    Is he more angry or less angry than those with enough math and physics to understand a global heat retention imbalance that has been left unaddressed for the last twenty five years or so, and in fact vehemently denied?

    Do try not to get angry considering the number of petawatts.

  130. #130 Hank Roberts

    > he accepts the WG1 science

    Yeah, but political science is his area of expertise, “what is to be done” is the question I’d expect him to be answering, given that he accepts the WG1 science.

    Wait and see?

  131. #131 Eli Rabett

    Convenient spring break at Boulder. Time to spend more time with the family

  132. #132 SM

    Without taking a definite stance on its merits, Nate Silver at least acknowledges the stealth policy bomb in the 538 article.

    “Roger’s article also contained an implicit policy recommendation in its closing paragraph. Whether or not the recommendation was justified by Roger’s thesis and evidence, we generally prefer to avoid these kind of recommendations, and instead allow readers to draw any policy conclusions for themselves. Furthermore, there was some loose language in the article. We pride ourselves on precise, matter-of-fact language. These things reflect a poor job of editing on our part.”


    [Thanks. I'll add that to the refs -W]

  133. #133 Steve Bloom

    Hmm, based on that semi-retraction looks like some were indeed hard enough.

    Good for Nate for admitting the problem, although I’m mystified as to why he didn’t see it coming. Or maybe he did, and it’s only getting called out by Krugman that forced him to this. We’ll see is he’s willing to keep RP Jr. on an adequately short leash in future, and what the Mystery Scientist has to say. .

    I must say seeing Tol and RP Jr. suitably flamed in the same week was a treat.

  134. #134 NewYorkJ

    The 538 response is fairly good, at least acknowledging RPJ went beyond what the science supports, but there’s an area of concern with their reasoning:

    “Reception to the article ran about 80 percent negative in the comments section and on social media. A reaction like that compels us to think carefully about the piece and our editorial process.”

    Shouldn’t have to take a high percentage of disapproving comments to conduct a review of his post. Now this just encourages sceptics to flood the comments sections of articles, believing it will influence content, and the latest 538 article has quite a few of them. The RPJ tribe is circling the wagons. Would have been much more appropriate to say something like “some commentators, both in the comments section and through email, gave reasoned critiques which lead us to review the material”.

    A quote also gets to why I think they hired him:

    “Roger and his critics can kick up a lot of dust everywhere they go. ”

    More dust. More poorly-reasoned arguments. More noise. Less signal. More clicks. More revenues. Same old media.

    On Jon Stewart, Nate said the criticism was “like someone’s throwing apples at your kids”. I suspect his threshold for reconsidering his contributors will be very high.

  135. #135 Susan Anderson

    Pretend the future will solve the present? Nonsense.

    As to the stances of RPJr, here’s a nice compendium of his insults to all the world’s knowledge:

    I’m baffled as to how the otherwise sensible, sometimes brilliant, and amusing William Connolley can support this. Everyone thinks RPJr has some sense on his side until they see a bit more, and a bit more, and notice the drift towards recommending inaction in the service of popularity.

    [Its not a good list. #1 is nonsense. am I obliged to read on? Ah, I see I did, at #103. Has it got any better since then?

    I did read on. Perhaps you could point me at the rebuttal of #110? The article you link to seems to have neglected that step. Or are they all regarded as so obviously wrong that no evidence is required? -W]

  136. #136 Susan Anderson

    NewYorkJ@135 makes sense. Nate Silver should have addressed substance instead of noting comment volume: a red flag to the ever vigilant comment machine that action will be rewarded.

  137. #137 Marco

    Susan #136, a very good example of “volume” can be seen in the latest Bloggies results.

    Best European blog: Tallbloke’s Talkshop
    Best Canadian blog: Small Dead Animals (not a standard climate webblog, but the times it does do this topic it is right out there in lala-land – it mentions with a big happy smile that elimination of the science category got other categories taken over by climate septic blogs)
    Best political blog: GWPF. Hilarious, considering that it just reblogs articles from third parties
    Best topical blog: Climate Audit
    Best group/community blog: WUWT
    Lifetime achievement: Jo Nova
    Weblog of the year: WUWT

  138. #138 dhogaza


    “I’m baffled as to how the otherwise sensible, sometimes brilliant, and amusing William Connolley can support this”

    He’s quite conservative politically, and, though he’d be the last to admit it, it clearly clouds his vision regarding certain topics he blogs about.

    [As Hank notes, the word is largely meaningless unless defined. I don't know what you mean by it. For example, the only political party I'm a member of is the Green Party -W]

  139. #139 Hank Roberts

    > conservative politically

    I believe that requires a link to a definition; the words have very different meanings in different parts of the world.

    Local to me, I think
    “a conservative is a liberal who got mugged; a liberal is a conservative who got bankstered” about sums it up.

  140. #140 thingsbreak


    And now an interesting question arises. WMC has two competing heuristics to work with. Defend Junior/dig in.

    Or give way to someone who doesn’t have the unpleasant stench of “alarmism” about him and who is obviously vastly more informed on the subject.

    I bet the latter, but WMC does love to play the spoiler, so we’ll see.

    [I guess I ought to read it all properly. But to begin with, To begin with, it’s not necessarily appropriate to normalize damages by gross domestic product (GDP)... A 2012 study2 by London School of Economics researchers Fabian Barthel and Eric Neumayer looked at damage trends normalized by GDP, a measure they used because others are not universally available. For Germany and the United States, with 29 and 36 years of data, respectively, they detected “statistically significant upward trends... isn't promising. You see the problem, I'm sure -W]

  141. #141 Hank Roberts

    > [I guess I ought to read it all properly….

    What, raise the bar, spoil the fun, and make the rest of us actually do some work at this to keep up with you?

  142. #142 thingsbreak

    “[I guess I ought to read it all properly.”

    Let me know when you get around to reading it. And also get around to answering #93 for that matter.

    [I am not yours to command -W]

  143. #143 Hank Roberts

    > 93
    Things, RP writes fuzzy. Whatever he meant, it’ll be arguable.

    Opining about what RP meant is asking for trouble.

    Why not instead ask the authors if they agree with what he’s said describing the conclusions based on their papers?

  144. #144 thingsbreak

    “[I am not yours to command -W]”

    Oh, of course.

    This is your blog. You can choose which comments to reply to and which to ignore. Just as you can, apparently, choose which aspects of Roger’s claims you choose to defend, and which you pointedly choose to ignore…

  145. #145 Susan Anderson

    Here’s a partial list of RPJrs targets for cheap insults from the cited list, none of which appear to provide any technical backup, demonstrating a talent and preference for cheap shots:
    Holdren, Mann, Francis, Masters, IPCC, Munich Re, Marcott/Shakun et al., RealClimate mafia, AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd, USGCRP and science community, etc., UN’s Figueres, Romm, Field, Hansen, (defends Lindzen in this gallimaufry), Rahmstorf, AGU, NSF, EPA, “the scientific community”, Trenberth, Shuaizhang Feng, Alan B. Krueger, and Michael Oppenheimer (PNAS), Pachauri, Gavin Schmidt, (supports SuperFreakonomics), Briffa, Eric Steig, David Schneider, Scott Rutherford, Josefino Comiso Drew Shindell, CCSP, (supports Steve McIntyre), Annan, (supports Lomborg), Harvard, Swiss Reinsurance, Mario Molina, Sir John Houghton, international science academies, NSF, AAAS

    What is interesting is that by choosing to support this list, Dr. Connolley also supports people who duplicate the careful work of Marc Morano. They love the list and think it’s right on target.

    [That's not an answer to my question. You pointed me to a list of RP quotes, and its clear from context that those quotes are supposed to be unsupportable. By pointing me at the list, the implication is that you agree.

    But I find by reading at least some of them that they appear quite reasonable. So I asked if you had any support for #110. You've declined to answer. That rather sounds like you have no answer -W]

  146. #146 Susan Anderson

    Krugman says it fairly well (emphasis mine):

    “Similarly, climate science has been developed by many careful researchers who are every bit as good at data analysis as Silver, and know the physics too, so ignoring them and hiring a ***known irresponsible skeptic*** to cover the field is a very good way to discredit your enterprise. Economists work hard on the data; on the whole you’re going to do better by tracking their research than by trying to roll your own, and you should be very wary if your analysis runs counter to what a lot of professionals say.”


    I’m feeling pretty hard myself on this. Climate is too serious to be left to those who prefer insults to facts, because it brings them traffic and makes them popular with those who don’t want to face facts.

  147. #147 angech

    Green, mean and lean. and acerbic. wish you were on the other side.
    So can anyone of the critics come up with papers [more than 10 say] disproving Roger’s thesis?
    Obviously not or
    one he would not have been able to espouse his point of view
    two he would not be subject to personal attacks .
    Still 600,00 under arctic but antarctic up a notch.
    When the arctic goes positive, I guess we all swap to hurricanes as their incidence is not measurable or reproducible and there will always be spates of wild weather to say look Climate change

  148. #148 Susan Anderson

    Thanks for the reminder. Like you, I am my own person, and not always attending to the detail, nor here to be dictated to. But since you did me the courtesy of a specific reply, I hunted about to find out what was in that letter. I was impressed by the wholesale nature of the insults on offer, but if we must focus on #110 (the list was also posted to Grist), here’s a link that provides a bit more information:


    This were the points the Nobelists signed.
    1. “President Bush and his administration are compromising our future on each of these counts. By reducing funding for scientific research, they are undermining the foundation of America’s future.”
    2. “By setting unwarranted restrictions on stem cell research, they are impeding medical advances.”
    3. “By employing inappropriate immigration practices, they are turning critical scientific talent away from our shores.”
    4. “Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare.”

    As to the argument RPJr makes about funding, I will have to return to that when there is more time, because I believe his selective use of hard numbers is a reinterpretation but it will take time and work, which I don’t have at the moment. Until then, I must concede that if these arguments are taken at face value, #1 needs to be broken down into where the funding is going. One thing I do know is that basic research has suffered in favor of research designed with particularly goals in mind, and honest work on climate is not one of those goals. You need only look at the sorry state of US satellites to see the rot.

    In this case my father (PW, age 90) was not a signatory, but we are working to get past the blocks that preventing people asking him to support mainstream climate science.

    [I read that as saying that you don't know that RP was wrong in that instance. That doesn't seem to much faze you: you seem quite sure that the list is justified, regardless. Whereas to me it seems like the list is unjustified - indeed, mere mudflinging - until it is justified -W]

  149. #149 thingsbreak

    @145 Susan

    That sounds a bit like guilt by association, which is fallacious and uncharitable.

    Criticize WMC for the bias and error he’s responsible for, not for others’.

  150. #150 Hank Roberts

    A reminder, for those who haven’t sat in academic seminars: they call it “hard argument” and it can be devastating. All the rhetorical flourishes get used by some (not by the best scientists, but by those who like that sort of thing). One has to be very confident about one’s work, and _right_ about that, to emerge unscathed.

    When I was a young and precocious faculty brat I had ample opportunities, listening to scientists talk (from behind the furniture, pretending not to listen) to get quite a few earfuls of unmitigated opinion after such seminars, about who was doing honest hard argument, and who was spinning sleaze to hurt other researchers’ credibility.

    It’s how that world works:
    Peter Watts, Nov 22, 2009 – “Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it.”

    Even those who’ve left the academic premises can listen to that kind of stuff with some ability to sort out crap from criticism. But those not familiar with it are shocked by it, often enough.

    Just sayin’ — the point is to be able to ignore all the drama and focus on facts.

  151. #151 Steve Bloom

    William is no conservative, but libertarian leanings are not uncommon in the Green Party. I even have a streak of it myself, although of a different sort.

    Failing to see instantly the problem with RP Jr.’s concluding paragraph, which even Silver felt compelled to admit was problematic when it was pointed out, is proof enough that William isn’t in listening mode in this thread. Trying to argue with him further would be time-consuming and futile, so I won’t.

    I should mention for those who aren’t aware of the history that Krugman’s graduate adviser was William Nordhaus, more or less the godfather of climate economics, so the former’s characterization of RP Jr. as a “known irresponsible skeptic” was very well informed.

  152. #152 Paul Kelly

    Consider that William is correct about this narrow piece of the Pielke pie, and take Pielke’s point to heart. Arguing that the disastrous effects of climate change are already upon us is counterproductive to the discussion of mitigation strategies.

  153. #153 Hank Roberts

    > the disastrous effects of climate change are already upon us

    Would you believe the annoying, or inconvenient, effects?

  154. #154 Susan Anderson

    thingsbreak, you misread me, or perhaps I expressed myself poorly. I posted a summary of the recipients of RPJr insults in a list in response to an earlier response to mine, and discovered that I had missed WMC’s specifics, and was being accused of not having being able to answer because I didn’t follow through. As noted, I have not yet had time to find and/or break down the specifics on that, but it has been suggested by a third party that a good bit of it went to “star wars” and other political items (the “science” supporting abstinence as a preferred technique to prevent teen pregnancy would be another guess, if I might venture an example). I don’t see where I accused WMC of RPJr.’s wholesale attacks, but he does seem to think point one of item 110 required an effort on my part, which I have agreed to get to as soon as I have time and can dig out where the funding went.

    Meanwhile, I, as a US citizen, endured 8 years of Bush, and it was not pleasant and significantly added to our troubles. Saying he supported honest science independent of politics is simply wrong, but as noted the numbers must be explored to find out how these inconsistent bits of knowledge fit together.

  155. #155 Susan Anderson

    re Bush: “he” = his administration, fwiw

  156. #156 Steve Bloom

    Susan, note that “impugning the motives, ethics, and honesty of climate scientists and communicators” is more a claim about tone than substance.

    Also, RP Jr. could have asked them (i.e. checked the facts) what their justification was for the first item before publicizing his views.

    “Whatever the reasons, you’d think that 48 Nobel laureates would check the facts before putting their name on unsupportable claims.”

    Well, claims plural, and RP Jr. said his focus is on just one of them. So in addition to the overall insulting tone, there’s your innuendo, open and shut. I think that’s quite enough to fit the quoted criteria.

    But Stoat wants to know what they did mean by item 1, and to what degree RP Jr. could have been justified in his criticism.

    For starters, Nobel science laureates as a group will be far more interested in R than D, and indeed limited their claim to R, so to what extent do RP Jr.’s figures neglect the distinction?

    Following the link to a related RP Jr. post where he quotes an NYT article noting that Bush planned to send a big chunk of money to NASA, that can only be a reference to the absurd-on-its face Mars program. Homeland Security “research” is also mentioned, although I think it’s fair to say that’s more likely D. I don’t recall other specifics, but possibly some other big ticket D projects were similarly involved. And indeed R was slated to suffer.

    Here’s the full quote (referring to a AAAS presentation):

    “Federal support for research and development stands at $126.5 billion this year, and the administration has proposed increasing it over five years to $141.6 billion. But Mr. Koizumi found that large projected increases for research at the Department of Homeland Security and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration masked steep declines at all other nondefense agencies.

    “For instance, he said, federal budgets would decline 15.9 percent for earth science over the next five years, 16.2 percent for aeronautics, 11.8 percent for biological and physics research, 21 percent for energy-supply research, and 11.3 percent for agriculture research. Research budgets would drop 15 percent at the Environmental Projection Agency, 10.5 percent at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and 4.7 percent at the National Science Foundation.”

    On the face of it, that seems like plenty of justification for the letter statement. RP Jr. goes on to argue that these figures aren’t so bad when one considers prior Bush R+D budget increases, and that after doing so there’s still a net increase compared to past administrations, but in making that argument he makes no attempt to separate R from D, which as we’ve seen is crucial to understanding what actually happened with R funding. If he cared a whit about the substance of the matter, he’d have done so.

    So in conclusion, this looks to have been just another RP Jr. rhetorical shell game. You’re welcome, William.

    The original Nobel laureate letter link is dead, so for reference here’s a post that seems to include the complete text.

    [http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/rd_funding/000028rd_budgets_redu.html -W]

  157. #157 Steve Bloom

    That was my first link, William, which I then discussed. What’s your point?

    [Oh, I hadn't realised you'd linked to the same thing. I was reading bits like "The bottom line: If overall non-defense discretionary funding is reduced in real terms from 2005-2009 to about the equivalent of 2002 levels, while the falling tide would lower all boats, it appears that with the exceptions of DOT and DOC, federal research and development agencies do no worse than the average decline, and in some case do significantly better." -W]

  158. #158 Steve Bloom

    Sure. Summarizing: Laureates talk R, not mentioning D, RP Jr. talks R+D even while quoting evidence that the R part is suffering, then attacks laureates for failing to properly consider R+D. Have I missed anything?

  159. #159 Susan Anderson

    What I had in mind, aside from opinion and what might be characterized as prejudice, though I wouldn’t agree that my poorly documented memory is particularly bad, was this graphic which is posted from time to time on DotEarth, where I no longer hang out if I can avoid it. It’s a good picture, and shows that the last time R&D for energy met the real needs of the present was Carter’s administration, and we all know how that went:


    Steve Bloom provides some flesh for these bones – of course, Mars, Star Wars, and the likes of Homeland Security.

    Now I did reread what I said and I did express myself inelegantly. I regard my participation here as “sinning above my station” as I am not a scientist. I quality, as Hank Roberts does, as faculty brat, though MIT was a home from home for many years, starting briefly in biochemistry, then a job in a lab, with the biggest portion of the time spent teaching scientists and others how to draw later on. I know a lot about how they think, and have been taught, myself, to face my ignorance *before* I start thinking I know what I don’t.

    I appreciate very much Steve Bloom’s more successful answer that digs out some facts about that research.

    In general, even research (compared to development) has become much more of a slave to the bottom line and practical goals. This would not include the kind of work my dad did and does, starting with an example at home. Encouraging people to think and do their best may be nice, but it is a teensy bit idealistic.

  160. […] från bl.a. Judith Curry,  Lubos Motl, och så Delingpole här och här. T.o.m. klimatkrigaren William M. Connolley tog Pielke i försvar den här gången. Riktigt underhållande […]

  161. #161 Hank Roberts

    More waffling from those indecisive climatologists, despite an alarmed-sounding newswriter who starts off with “mayhem may ratchet up …”
    “There are caveats …. Just because … does not necessarily mean ….
    … Rather, “in order to more fully understand … we need to consider how (African easterly waves) may change themselves,” …
    “… based … on 17 model simulations … with carbon dioxide concentrations about double … the waves strengthen … This “results in greater potential energy …” … “As a result (the waves) intensify.”

  162. #162 Hank Roberts

    oh, the citation, right:
    Projected changes in African easterly wave intensity and track in response to greenhouse forcing

    Christopher Bryan Skinnera,1 and
    Noah S. Diffenbaugha,b

    aDepartment of Environmental Earth System Science and
    bWoods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
    Edited by Kerry A. Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, and approved April 1, 2014 (received for review October 17, 2013)

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