23 November 2011

FOIA2011 on The Shameful Paper

[UPDATE: Andy Revkin started an email discussion with relevant parties on this post and the following response from Kevin Trenberth and my rejoinder are part of that exchange. Posted here with Revkin's permission.


I am just back from travel and I have not seen any of the new batch of emails yet.  Whatever is there is highly selective.

The full story wrt the hurricanes is given on this web page and all the related links:


The paper by Pielke et al was not pertinent to the material in Chapter 3 and neither it nor the Anthes et al paper were included.  It did not deal with physical science topics included in chapter 3 and was countered by Anthes et al.   There is a huge trail of emails between the Anthes et al authors and the editors of BAMS related to all this and the difficulties we had even getting a comment published.

Far more shameful is the fact that of the 5 papers listed at the bottom of the page given above, not one was included in SREX!

SREX is a sham. 

My reply to Trenberth:
 Hi Kevin-

The webpage that you link to does not discuss Pielke et al. 2005.

The section of IPCC Chapter 3 (3.8.3) that is relevant deals with hurricanes and climate change.  Pielke et al. 2005 is a peer-reviewed literature review of ... hurricanes and climate change. I have no problem with your objections to the paper, however I find the decision making process employed to exclude it from your chapter a bit lacking.

Given that you were a co-author of Anthes et al. 2005 critical of Pielke et al. 2005 at the time you were deciding what literature to include in the IPCC, did you ever think that it may have been good sense to recuse yourself on this topic?  Lest one get the impression that you were waging a bit of a personal or academic vendetta against others?

Your comments on SREX help to underscore this.

Perhaps the IPCC should have better procedures in place under such circumstances.

All best,

SREX was a sham!?! Whoa.]

[Note: This post has been updated to link to the Chapter 3 of the IPCC AR4 WG I which was responsible for reviewing the science of hurricanes and climate change.]

Long time readers will recall that  in 2004 and 2005 (before Katrina), I led an interdisciplinary effort to review the literature on hurricanes and global warming. The effort resulted in a peer-reviewed article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (here in PDF).

That paper, despite being peer-reviewed and standing the test of time (as we now know), was ignored by the relevant part of the IPCC 2007 that dealt with extreme events. Thanks to the newly released emails from UEA (hacked, stolen, donated, or whatever) we can say with certainty why that paper was excluded from the IPCC 2007 report Chapter 3 which discussed hurricanes and climate change. Those various reviews associated with the release of the UEA emails that concluded that no papers were purposely kept out of the IPCC may want to revisit that particular conclusion.

First though, a bit of backstory ...

Upon our paper's acceptance for publication by BAMS in 2005 Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at NCAR here in Boulder and the person (along with Phil Jones) in charge of the 2007 IPCC AR4 chapter that reviewed extreme events including hurricanes, said this in the Boulder Daily Camera (emphasis added) about our article:
I think the role of the changing climate is greatly underestimated by Roger Pielke Jr. I think he should withdraw this article. This is a shameful article.
Trenberth personally disagreed with the paper, which is fine and appropriate -- academics disagree about the most trivial stuff all the time.  To get a sense of this issue, here is what we concluded in the "shameful article"and Trenberth disagreed with (more on Trenberth's views below):
To summarize, claims of linkages between global warming and hurricane impacts are premature for three reasons. First, no connection has been established between greenhouse gas emissions and the observed behavior of hurricanes . . . Second, the peer-reviewed literature reflects that a scientific consensus exists that any future changes in hurricane intensities will likely be small in the context of observed variability . . . And third, under the assumptions of the IPCC, expected future damages to society of its projected changes in the behavior of hurricanes are dwarfed by the influence of its own projections of growing wealth and population . . . While future research or experience may yet overturn these conclusions, the state of the peer-reviewed knowledge today is such that there are good reasons to expect that any conclusive connection between global warming and hurricanes or their impacts will not be made in the near term.
In the newly released emails there is a 2005 exchange between Trenberth and Phil Jones about this paper which shows them deciding together to exclude the paper from the IPCC for "political" reasons, and it was indeed excluded.

Jones to Trenberth on 22 June 2005:

I'll read the Pielke et al piece for BAMS that came over the skeptic email today. Presumably we'll get forced to refer to it [in the 2007 IPCC report].
Trenberth replies:
Don't see why we should refer to the Pielke piece. It is [n]ot yet published. It is very political and an opinion.
Jones soon comes around, despite noting its peer-reviewed status:

Read the article on the new patio at home with a glass of wine. I thoroughly agree that we don't need to refer to it. Wrote that on it last night. It is very political. Several sentences and references shouldn't be there. I don't know who was supposed to have reviewed it - maybe Linda [Mearns] will know, as she used to or still does have something to do with BAMS. The inference in the email (from whence it came) is that it has been accepted !

The gatekeeping of the IPCC process is abundantly clear, and the shadowy suggestion that they can find out who the reviewers are from another colleague is a bit unsettling as well.

Here is some further background on the "shameful paper," which despite being ignored by the the IPCC, has been cited 179 times according to Google Scholar and appears to be consistent with the most recent IPCC report on the subject.

Even though the IPCC in 2007 didn't see the paper as worth discussing, a high-profile team of scientists saw fit to write up a commentary in response to our article in BAMS (here in PDF). One of those high-profile scientists was Trenberth.

Trenberth and his colleagues argued that our article was flawed in three respects, it was they said,
. . . incomplete and misleading because it 1) omits any mention of several of the most important aspects of the potential relationships between hurricanes and global warming, including rainfall, sea level, and storm surge; 2) leaves the impression that there is no significant connection between recent climate change caused by human activities and hurricane characteristics and impacts; and 3) does not take full account of the significance of recently identified trends and variations in tropical storms in causing impacts as compared to increasing societal vulnerability.
Our response to their comment (here in PDF) focused on the three points that they raised:
Anthes et al. (2006) present three criticisms of our paper. One criticism is that Pielke et al. (2005) “leaves the impression that there is no significant connection between recent climate change caused by human activities and hurricane characteristics and impacts.” If by “significant” they mean either (a) presence in the peer-reviewed literature or (b) discernible in the observed economic impacts, then this is indeed an accurate reading. Anthes et al. (2006) provide no data, analyses, or references that directly connect observed hurricane characteristics and impacts to anthropogenic climate change. . .

In a second criticism, Anthes et al. (2006) point out (quite accurately) that Pielke et al. (2005) failed to discuss the relationship between global warming and rainfall, sea level, and storm surge as related to tropical cyclones. The explanation for this neglect is simple—there is no documented relationship between global warming and the observed behavior of tropical cyclones (or TC impacts) related to rainfall, sea level, or storm surge. . .

A final criticism by Anthes et al. (2006) is that Pielke et al. (2005) “does not take full account of the significance of recently identified trends and variations in tropical storms in causing impacts as compared to increasing societal vulnerability.” Anthes et al. (2006) make no reference to the literature that seeks to distinguish the relative role of climate factors versus societal factors in causing impacts (e.g., Pielke et al. 2000; Pielke 2005), so their point is unclear. There is simply no evidence, data, or references provided by Anthes et al. (2006) to counter the analysis in Pielke et al. (2000) that calculates the relative sensitivity of future global tropical cyclone impacts to the independent effects of projected climate change and various scenarios of growing societal vulnerability under the assumptions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This series of exchanges was not acknowledged by the IPCC even though it was all peer-reviewed and appeared in the leading journal of the American Meteorological Society. As we have seen before with the IPCC, its review of the literature somehow missed key articles that one of its authors (in this case Trenberth, the lead for the relevant chapter) found to be in conflict with his personal opinions, or in this case "shameful." Of course, there is a deeper backstory here involving a conflict between my co-author Chris Landsea and Trenberth in early 2005, prompting Landsea to resign from the IPCC.

So almost seven years after we first submitted our paper how does it hold up? Pretty well I think, on all counts. I would not change any of the conclusions above, nor would I change the reply to Anthes et al. Science changes and moves ahead, so any review will eventually become outdated, but ours was an accurate reflection of the state of science as of 2005.

Papers and links

Pielke, Jr., R. A., C. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver and R. Pasch, 2005. Hurricanes and global warming, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 86:1571-1575.

Anthes et al. 2006, Hurricanes and global warming: Potential linkage and consequences, BAMS, Vol. 87, pp. 623-628.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., C.W. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver, R. Pasch, 2006. Reply to Hurricanes and Global Warming Potential Linkages and Consequences, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 87, pp. 628-631, May.