03 May 2013

Blog Break

This blog is going to go silent for the summer, as I turn my attention to completing the 2nd edition of The Honest Broker.

I'll keep up my blogging at The Least Thing and my periodic column at The Breakthrough Institute. You can also find me on Twitter @RogerPielkeJr.

Have a nice summer and tune back in here in the fall!


1 Aug: Morgan Bazilian and I have a new paper out, Making Energy Access Meaningful" in Issues in Science and Technology. It is here in PDF.
29 July: My recent talk at Columbia University -- "Climate Policy for a High Energy Planet" is now on YouTube.
28 July: I am quoted in the Boulder Daily Camera on Boulder's emissions reductions goal. Here are my full comments provided to the reporter @Meltzere.
18 July: Here (PDF) is my written testimony from Senate EPW yesterday. Here is the video, my testimony is at 2:59 and Q&A at 3:04.
17 July: I am testifying tomorrow before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. After the hearing I'll post up my written testimony plus a PowerPoint file with all the graphs.
12 July: Earlier this week I wrote a piece for The Breakthrough Institute on the stagnation in the growth of carbon-free energy consumption worldwide. Here is a neat graph that improves upon the presentation.
3 July: On July 11th I'll be speaking at Columbia University in NYC, the title of my talk is "Climate Policy for a High Energy Planet." I'll post up the video of the talk when available.
1 July: I have a piece up at The Breakthrough Institute where I update my 2009 analysis of the UK Climate Change Act.
5 June: I have a piece up at The Guardian on public understanding of uncertainties and technological aids in sport refereeing.
4 June: For The Guardian, I provided a quick update on my 2009 paper on UK decarbonization targets. Still impossible to meet without accounting tricks or other means.
3 June: The CU/CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research has a new director. Thanks much to Bill Travis for leading us these past five years!
1 June: Here is an unpublished to the FT on why there is no such thing as a carbon cap
24 May: I have a piece up at the Political Science Blog of The Guardian: "Have the Climate Sceptics Really Won?"
21 May: Our paper on normalized tornado damage is discussed at The Atlantic and The Washington Post
15 May: I have a review of Michael Levi's The Power Surge up at The Breakthrough Institute
15 May: My latest Bridges column is out: Overcoming the Tyranny of the Stylized Fact 


  1. Thanks for all the hard work. Have a good 'summer'. It's not really summer though, is it ?

    Weather, climate, it's so confusing.


  2. Summer doesn't start until June 21st, Roger. Oh, the life of an academic!


  3. Now I'll have time to catch up on some of your posts ;)

    Enjoy the summer!

  4. Happy Summer, Roger! Thanks for everything you do!

  5. Too bad! I normally check your blog everyday.

    Hurry back.

  6. Here is a letter to the FT on China's supposed carbon cap that did not make it into the paper:


    Your editorial “China would gain from carbon caps” (May 28) is written without an apparent understanding of what a “carbon cap” actually means.

    Carbon emissions are the product of (a) GDP growth and (b) technologies of energy consumption and production. More precisely, this relationship is called the Kaya Identity -- after Yoichi Kaya, the Japanese scientist who first proposed it in the 1980s – which posits that carbon emissions result from increase in population, per capita income, the energy intensity of the economy or the carbon intensity of energy production.

    Thus, a “carbon cap” actually means that a government is committing to either a cessation of economic growth or to the systematic advancement of technological innovation in energy systems on a predictable schedule, such that economic growth is not constrained. Because halting economic growth is not an option, in China or anywhere else, and technological innovation does not occur via fiat, there is in practice no such thing as a “carbon cap.”

    Where carbon caps have been attempted, clever legislators have used gimmicks such as carbon offsets or set caps unrealistically high so that negative effects on GDP do not result and the unpredictability of energy innovation does not become an issue.

    It should thus not come as a surprise that carbon caps have not led to emissions reductions or even limitations anywhere. China will be no different. The sooner that we realize that advances in technology are what will reduce emissions, not arbitrary targets and timetables for reductions, the sooner we can focus our attention on the serious business of energy innovation.

    Professor Roger Pielke Jr.
    University of Colorado
    Boulder, CO

  7. Professor Pielke: re: letter to the FT

    This is precisely why I value your opinions and insights. You have a peculiarly pragmatic perspective of the issues influenced by a vision of the ideal.

    I do not agree with your position on very issue; but, as with science, we must recognize and respect limited frames in order to function.

    So, thanks for respecting the terms and circumstances of reality while pursuing your concept of progress, which often intersects with my own.

    Enjoy your summer distractions.

  8. The battle over public opinion on climate change has long been won, and not by the sceptics.

    Perhaps you're right. But the arguments and evidence to support global cooling/warming, climate disruption/change are counterproductive to preserving the integrity of scientific enterprise and directing good policies. It is a mistake to exaggerate our skill to predict the progress of a chaotic system. It is not a simple assembly of random processes, if only for the reasons that it remains incompletely characterized and unwieldy to model.

    That said, why have people resorted to dropping the "human-caused" or "anthropogenic" prefix? Is it easier to manipulate perception to realize a preferred outcome through generalization?

    Also, am I the only person annoyed by the disingenuous effort to associate "normal" with a single number? I suppose that it is emotionally appealing to constrain the range of system variability. Perhaps there are more people who exhibit a positive response to this comfortable misrepresentation.

  9. Roger,

    Regarding your recent testimony at Senate hearing.

    Does AGW theory predict increasing storms?

    My understanding is:

    AGW theory predicts poles warm more than tropics due to co2 warming is higher in dry cold air. Thus the cold/hot gradient decreases resulting in less energy for storms (storms are heat engines).

    Tornadoes, hurricanes etc occur in mid latitudes where cold air meets warm air. Not in the tropics where oceans are warmest.

    We are currently on a 15yr higher temp plateau with a smaller temp gradient thus the lack of tornadoes and hurricanes the last few years.

    AGW theory seems consistent with observations.

  10. N.N. no, you're not the only person. You will find in Botkin's new book, the Moon and the Nautilus Shell, an excellent review of some relevant topics on the fact that systems have been dynamic and that some model them and write policies as if they were not. It's well-written and chockfull of examples of the real world and the modeled world in terms of ecology.

  11. Here are the comments that I provided to Erica Meltzer of the Boulder Daily Camera on Boulder's proposed new emissions reduction goals:

    "Hi Erica-

    I have looked over the relevant sections. A few thoughts follow ...

    1. The report clearly states that the goal here is not GHG emissions, but rather demonstrating an ethical commitment. The report states at p. 86 (of the document that you sent):

    "Eliminating GHG emissions in Boulder will not alter global climate
    change. But that’s not the point. Acting responsibly is an ethical position."

    From this perspective, it really does not matter whether the city adopts an 80% reduction target or carbon neutrality. They are both symbolic actions (with lots of practical implications).

    How much effort, cost, political capital etc. does Boulder wish to deploy to demonstrate its commitment to an ethical position? This is really what the debate is about. All of the numbers and analyses here are really just decoration.

    2. To be perfectly clear, taking the emissions reductions goal at face value (as emissions reductions goals ad not as symbols of community ethics) -- all of these goals are presently impossible to achieve given the present state of global energy technologies of production and consumption.

    Boulder might as well adopt a goal of all its residents living to 100 years old by 2050. The goals that are being discussed are that fantastic.

    That said, when the purpose of an action is primarily to reflect ethical commitments, expressing fantastic goals is one way to show how much you value them.

    3. The report shows a fair degree of hope winning out over experience. Achieving existing climate goals in Boulder has not fared so well. Why would anyone think that these challenges will go away now?

    4. There is an element of a "Christmas tree effect" here, where every colorful ornament is being hung on the climate tree -- the report states:

    "Add “community design” as a key area for climate action."

    I think that there is a big risk politically in placing broad issues like community design, which includes far more of city life than climate, under the umbrella of climate. I'd actually think that the ordering might be reversed -- specifically, there are lots of values and outcomes implicated in thinking about future "community design" -- city climate goals among them. However, I'd guess that many of the goals advanced in this report would garner city support even without the climate framing. So there is an element of a sales job going on here, which may appeal to some in Boulder, but equally could result in unnecessary opposition if it all becomes about climate.

    Finally, I want to be clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with Boulder wanting to devote resources to expressing its ethics, or adopting impossible targets as a was to express that commitment, or spending money in futile ways. However, I do believe that policy arguments should be as clear as possible and that people know what they are getting in return for investment. Subsuming "community design" under climate seems to close down rather than open up a discussion of what kind of city we want in coming years and decades.

    In this case, there is very little potential for deep emissions reductions or serving as a "lesson" for other communities. There is however, great potential to show the world how much we care about the issue.

    The reality is that addressing GHG emissions (and important objective, globally) is going to require significant technological innovation at the global scale, and particularly in developing countries as global energy use doubles, triples and more. Boulder is not even a rounding error in that big picture. It is uncomfortable, but true.

    Hope this is of some use, feel free to follow up.

    All best,