01 March 2014

John Holdren's Epic Fail

Last week in a Congressional hearing, John Holdren, the president's science advisor, characterized me as being outside the "scientific mainstream" with respect to my views on extreme events and climate change. Specifically, Holdren was responding directly to views that I provided in Senate testimony that I gave last July (and here in PDF).

To accuse an academic of holding views that lie outside the scientific mainstream is the sort of delegitimizing talk that is of course common on blogs in the climate wars. But it is rare for political appointee in any capacity -- the president's science advisor no less -- to accuse an individual academic of holding views are are not simply wrong, but in fact scientifically illegitimate. Very strong stuff.

Given the seriousness of Holdren's charges and the possibility of negative professional repercussions, via email I asked him to substantiate or correct his characterization, to which he replied quite quickly that he would do so in the form of a promised follow-up to the Senate subcommittee.

Here is what I sent him:
Dear John-

I hope this note finds you well. I am writing in response to your characterization of me before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight yesterday, in which you said that my views lie "outside the scientific mainstream."

This is a very serious charge to make in Congressional testimony about a colleague's work, even more so when it comes from the science advisor to the president.

The context of your comments about me was an exchange that you had with Senator Sessions over my recent testimony to the full EPW Committee on the subject of extreme events. You no doubt have seen my testimony (having characterized it yesterday) and which is available here:
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2013.20.pdf

Your characterization of my views as lying "outside the scientific mainstream" is odd because the views that I expressed in my testimony are entirely consonant with those of the IPCC (2012, 2013) and those of the US government's USGCRP.  Indeed, much of my testimony involved reviewing the recent findings of IPCC SREX and AR5 WG1. My scientific views are also supported by dozens of peer reviewed papers which I have authored and which have been cited thousands of times, including by all three working groups of the IPCC. My views are thus nothing if not at the center of the "scientific mainstream."

I am writing to request from you the professional courtesy of clarifying your statement. If you do indeed believe that my views are "outside the scientific mainstream" could you substantiate that claim with evidence related specifically to my testimony which you characterized pejoratively? Alternatively, if you misspoke, I'd request that you set the record straight to the committee.

I welcome your response at your earliest opportunity.
Today he has shared with me a 6-page single space response which he provided to the Senate subcommittee titled "Critique of Pielke Jr. Statements on Drought." Here I take a look at Holdren's response.

In a nutshell, Holdren's response is sloppy and reflects extremely poorly on him. Far from showing that I am outside the scientific mainstream, Holdren's follow-up casts doubt on whether he has even read my Senate testimony. Holdren's justification for seeking to use his position as a political appointee to delegitimize me personally reflects poorly on his position and office, and his response simply reinforces that view.

His response, (which you can see here in full in PDF) focuses entirely on drought -- whereas my testimony focused on hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and drought. But before he gets to drought, Holdren gets off to a bad start in his response when he shifts the focus away from my testimony and to some article in a website called "The Daily Caller" (which is apparently some minor conservative or Tea Party website, and the article appears to be this one).

Holdren writes:
Dr. Pielke also commented directly, in a number of tweets on February 14 and thereafter, on my February 13 statements to reporters about the California drought, and he elaborated on the tweets for a blog post on The Daily Caller site (also on February 14). In what follows, I will address the relevant statements in those venues, as well. He argued there, specifically, that my statements on drought “directly contradicted scientific reports”, and in support of that assertion, he offered the same statements from his July testimony that were quoted by Senator Sessions.
Let me be quite clear -- I did not write anything for "The Daily Caller" nor did I speak or otherwise communicate to anyone there. The quote that Holdren attributes to me - “directly contradicted scientific reports” -- is actually written by "The Daily Caller." Why that blog has any relevance to my standing in the "scientific mainstream" eludes me, but whatever. This sort of sloppiness is inexcusable.

Leaving the silly misdirection aside -- common on blogs but unbecoming of the science advisor to the most powerful man on the planet -- let's next take a look at Holdren's substantive complaints about my recent Senate testimony.

As a starting point, let me reproduce in its entirety the section of my Senate testimony (here in PDF) which discussed drought.
Drought 

What the IPCC SREX (2012) says:
  • “There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have  experienced a trend to more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.” 
  • For the US the CCSP (2008)20 says: “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”21
What the data says:

8. Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”22

Figure 8.
Figure 2.6 from CCSP (2008) has this caption: “The area (in percent) of area in severe to extreme drought as measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the United States (red) from 1900 to present and for North America (blue) from 1950 to present.”

Note: Writing in Nature Senevirnate (2012) argues with respect to global trends that, “there is no necessary correlation between temperature changes and long-term drought variations, which should warn us against using any simplifications regarding their relationship.”23

Footnotes:

20 CCSP, 2008: Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. Regions of Focus: North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, and U.S. Pacific Islands. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. [Thomas R. Karl, Gerald A. Meehl, Christopher D. Miller, Susan J. Hassol, Anne M. Waple, and William L. Murray (eds.)]. Department of Commerce, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, Washington, D.C., USA, 164 pp.

21 CCSP (2008) notes that “the main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”

22 This quote comes from the US Climate Change Science Program’s 2008 report on extremes in North America.

23 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7424/full/491338a.htm
Let's now look at Holdren's critique which he claims places me "outside the scientific mainstream."
Holdren Complaint #1:  "I will show, first, that the indicated quote [RP: This one: "“droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”21"] from the US Climate  Change Science Program (CCSP) about U.S. droughts is missing a crucial adjacent sentence in  the CCSP report, which supports my position about drought in the American West. . . That being so, any reference to the CCSP 2008 report in this context should include not just the sentence highlighted in Dr. Pielke’s testimony but also the sentence that follows immediately in the relevant passage from that document and which relates specifically to the American West."
What is that sentence in question from the CCSP 2008 report that Holdren thinks I should have included in my testimony? He says it is this one:
"The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends."
Readers (not even careful readers) can easily see Footnote 21 from my testimony, which states:
CCSP (2008) notes that “the main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”
Um, hello? Is this really coming from the president's science advisor?

Holdren is flat-out wrong to accuse me of omitting a key statement from my testimony. Again, remarkable, inexcusable sloppiness.

Holdren's reply next includes a section on drought and climate change which offers no critique of my testimony, and which needs no response from me.
Holdren Complaint #2: Holdren implies that I neglected to note the IPCC's reference to the fact that drought is a regional phenomena: "Any careful reading of the 2013 IPCC report and other recent scientific literature about on the subject reveals that droughts have been worsening in some regions in recent decades while lessening in other regions."
Again, even a cursory reading of what I quoted from the IPCC shows that Holdren's complaint does not stand up. Here is the full quote that I included in my testimony from the IPCC on drought:
“There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced a trend to more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.”
Again, hello? Seriously?
Holdren Complaint #3: Near as I can tell Holdren is upset that I cited a paper from Nature that he does not like, writing, "Dr. Pielke’s citation of a 2012 paper from Nature by Sheffield et al., entitled “Little change in global drought over the past 60 years”, is likewise misleading."
He points to a January 2014 paper in Nature Climate Change as offering a rebuttal to Sheffield et al. (2012).

The first point to note in response is that my citing of a paper which appears in Nature does not provide evidence of my being "outside the scientific mainstream" no matter how much Holdren disagrees with the paper. Academics in the "scientific mainstream" cite peer-reviewed papers, sometimes even those in Nature. Second, my testimony was delivered in July, 2013 and the paper he cites as a rebuttal was submitted in August, 2013 and only published in early 2014. I can hardly be faulted for not citing a paper which had not yet appeared.  Third, the 2014 paper that Holdren likes better actually supports the IPCC conclusions on drought and my characterization of them in my Senate testimony.The authors write (PDF):
How is drought changing as the climate changes? Several recent papers in the scientific literature have focused on this question but the answer remains blurred.
 The bottom line here is that this is an extremely poor showing by the president's science advisor. It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far.

74 comments:

  1. May I suggest you follow Mike Mann's lead on this issue? Demand a retraction, and failing that, bring a lawsuit. Willful defamation is actionable. What puzzles me most about this post is that you consider Holdren a 'colleague'... He hasn't really done much science for a very long time.... politics seems to be his main focus.

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  2. Sadly Roger, it is all too common these days. Holdren is but one of many to sacrifice his scientific credibility to worship at the altar of global warming. Also, your post was very effective. Well done.

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  3. The anti-science Obama Administration also doesn't like dissent and is willing to cross the line to stifle it. I offer some comments in your defense here. http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2014/03/white-house-attacks-roger-pielke-jr.html

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  4. The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell (1995)

    The following synopsis might be insightful when considering Holdren’s debate points [argument with no arguments]:

    “What all the [ideological crusades of the twentieth-century] have in common is their moral exaltation of the anointed above others, who are to have their very different views nullified and superseded by the views of the anointed, imposed via the power of government....[S]everal key elements have been common to most of them:

    1. Assertions of a great danger to the whole of society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious.

    2. An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe.

    3. A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few.

    4. A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes....(p.5)

    What is remarkable is how few arguments are really engaged in, and how many substitutes for arguments there are. This vision so permeates the media and academia, and has made such major inroads into the religious community, that many grow into adulthood unaware that there is any other way of looking at things, or that evidence might be relevant to checking out the sweeping assumptions of so-called "thinking people". Many of these "thinking people" could more accurately be characterized as articulate people, as people whose verbal nimbleness can elude both evidence and logic. This can be a fatal talent, when it supplies the crucial insulation from reality behind many historic catastrophes. (p. 6)”

    http://nobsblog.blogspot.com/2002/12/vision-of-anointed-by-thomas-sowell.html

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  5. Roger:
    Scientists do footnotes, politicians do not. Footnotes are anathema to tropes, memes, sound-bites and slogans.

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  6. And if we don't agree with the ridiculous, unfounded views of the likes of Holdren we are called 'deniers.' Is 'outside the scientific mainstream' a euphemism for 'denier?'

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  7. It was clear from Holdren's White House video on Arctic warming and the US deep freeze, that science is to Holdren what sunlight is to vampires. ;-)

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  8. If John Holdren was someone you had just met socially, and he expressed the views he has held for the past thirty years, you would immediatly conclude that he is a lunatic.

    But having the imprimatur of a federal science advisor, his views carry weight with the public even though they are borderline insane. That is the problem with John Holdren.

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  9. This is politics, not science. This is the way consensus is influenced and formed. And people thought this corruption was limited to the so-called "social issues". Professor, you are not his kind of Democrat. I'll guess that you are more closely aligned to the Clinton than Obama faction.

    The Democrats are divided. The Republicans are divided. Perhaps it's time to form a new party, say a "Progressive Party". Probably not. As long as the debt flows, and private capital is redistributed, then the party will continue.

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  10. Prof. Pielke, I recommend that you find a good tax lawyer and give him a speed dial number in your phone. You will need it.

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  11. You could do without the "um" and "hello?" which reads like a tween girl tweet.

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  12. I wouldn't sweat it. every intelligent person I know is an anthropogenic global warming skeptic. Lack of skepticism indicates either a lack of intellect, or being a political hack sell-out. Either is not good for a "science" advisor to the president.

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  13. Roger,

    As I recall, in your support for Obama in 2008 (and continued in 2012), you were complimentary of the choice of John Holdren as science advisor. Have you changed your mind yet?

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  14. -13-Brian

    Very happy I voted for Obama. Thanks!

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  15. Note ... I am glad that this post is getting a wide readership. Please note that this comment thread is not the place for general debates about climate change. I'll just delete any of those comments.

    Thanks!

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  16. Roger,

    I meant have you changed your mind about Holdren, not Obama.

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  17. "some article in a website called "The Daily Caller" (which is apparently some minor conservative or Tea Party website, and the article appears to be this one"

    Roger,


    Although I've never visited the site before, I've seen many mentions of the Daily Caller at other sites and in media articles (not conservative outlets), so I don't think it's particularly "minor." Holdren's use of it suggests that it's not minor at all, but read widely by political types of all stripes. A quick look at the site shows that they claim 9 million unique visitors and over 40 million web views per month. The traffic numbers don't sound very minor either.

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  18. -16-Brian

    We all make mistakes. Holdren has kept his head down and done a good job by all accounts. This one is a doozy though ;-)

    -17-Brian

    Thanks. Obviously not in my "Daily me" ;-)

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  19. -14- Roger: those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

    Holdren has been a nutcase since the 1970s, when he was promoting a scientifically lunatic theory of 'thermal pollution' and advocating illiberal solutions to what he perceived as a population crisis. it's a defensible thesis that he and his peers contributed to the adoption of the barbaric population control program in India. He's apparently too arrogant to have read IPCC AR5; he's certainly ignorant of its contents.

    Seriously, when are you going to admit the Obama administration's science policies are a joke?; heavily politicized, and at odds with the scientific consensus.
    I mean, good grief, this is only Holdren, who at least is scientifically literate. They had Van Jones a green jobs czar and Sebelius as HHS secretary. His nominee for surgeon general's only qualification is that he ran 'Doctors for Obama'.

    I hate to say it serves you right for voting for him, but, well...

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  20. Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

    -13-Brian

    Very happy I voted for Obama. Thanks!

    One day, hopefully not to far in the future, some young genius is going to unravel this mystery. Jonathan Turley, anyone.

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  21. This is evidence that science is political. Or, at least, has been politicized.

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  22. @RKBall

    Everything is political. Always has been. Politics is the oldest profession.

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  23. If only the Tsar knew!

    A perversely sustained naïveté eventually becomes embarrassing, and then tiresome. You have crossed over into the tiresome stage.

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  24. A commenter mention Holdren's sacrificed credibility, let me state I am old enough to know for a fact that he never had any credibility to sacrifice. He has always been a fringe element that does not even qualify to be called a scientist. And with his conduct as of late I am questioning his inclusion in the realm of sentient beings.

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  25. DU WAG said... --"You could do without the "um" and "hello?" which reads like a tween girl tweet."

    When someone is action like a tween twit--its hard not to treat them as such.

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  26. Seeing that Holdren is a colossal failure (See his failed prophesies of doom made with Ehrlich) and was still appointed as science advisor, it is amazing that he has the gall to criticize others. The fact that Obama appointed him shows that Obama is anti-science. The arrogance of the ignorant is amazing sometimes.

    JD

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  27. Peter Gleick regards Holdren as his mentor. https://gustavus.edu/events/nobelconference/2009/gleick-profile.php

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  28. But science is supposed to be unbiased, or at least disclose potential bias. If not, then it has no business informing government.

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  29. If I were American I'd probably have voted for Obama as well. I fancy myself as a bleeding hearted Libertarian... which means I'm neither Democrat or Republican. I just value social liberties more than economic ones... if that makes any sense.

    That said, Holden has to be held accountable. Clearly his role is that of an Obama hack. Good work Roger!

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  30. From John Holden's testimony: "Sea-level rise is increasing the height of storm surge that hits coastal communities during hurricanes."

    Yeah...for the past 3+ decades, sea level rise has been increasing storm surges by about 1.3 inches per decade.

    I wonder what Chris Mooney would say about that? "War on science," or plain truth?

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  31. Roger, you concluded (quite correctly, IMHO) your observations on Holdren's considerably less than intellectually honest performances by noting:

    "The bottom line here is that this is an extremely poor showing by the president's science advisor. It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far."

    The view from here, so to speak, is that this "delegitimization" is an increasingly frequent - and disturbing - pattern. Consider, for example, Trenberth's tirades and travesties against Landsea and/or his (somewhat more recent) 2011 bizarre demands for apology from (and resignation of ) Wolf Wagner as Editor of Remote Sensing for publishing Spencer & Braswell.

    And let us not forget the greatest delegitimizer of 'em all: (now former) faux Nobel Laureate, Michael E. Mann (and his Canadian counterpart, and shadow-dancer, Andrew Weaver) who will brook no questioning, or mockery of his highly questionable "hockey stick". How dare they question, how dare they mock? Sock 'em with a David Irving-ish frivolous libel suit** to shut 'em up.

    And if such civil nuisance suits aren't quite working according to plan, get the activist-journos to suggest the possibility of criminal charges against 'em.

    YMMV, but this escalation of polarization and delegitimization via sloppy "thinking" (for want of a better word) such as that demonstrated by Holdren, is something that I find to be ... well... somewhat alarming!

    ** See for example, http://hro001.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/the-many-misrepresentations-of-mann/

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  32. @22

    Correction: Politics is the 2nd oldest profession. Prostitution was first because you had to whore yourself out first to gain enough support to be in politics.

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  33. Holdren is doing what he was appointed to do. Tell the president what the president told him to tell him.

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  34. Were Holdren's comments related to your Op Ed in the FT?

    It seems like you may have been targeted because of that.

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  35. Progress - only good things will come of this.

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  36. Is "outside scientific mainstream" the academic way of shouting "Denier!"?

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  37. If John Holdren (or his staff) thinks you are worth spending good deal of his or their presumably highly valuable time on trying to debunk you, well, that means that what you write or state really, really matters at the highest political levels.

    Kudos!!!

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  38. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  39. Roger hi.Hope you're well.
    I posted some comments earlier, but got distracted & did not prove I wasn't a robot. :(

    If this post is salvageable, you may put it up, if you feel it has any merit. :)

    Cheers,
    JD.

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  40. Roger is apparently very upset that the Obama administration is lying about him the same way they lie and slander every other person they disagree with. Roger should be happy they haven't put the racist label on him yet. Or sexist, hate-filled, mean-spirited, bitter clinger. Or accused him of wanting to deny people medical care. Or called him a terrorist. Or unleashed an army of government agencies loose on him to wreck his life.

    Or perhaps it doesn't bother Roger when all that nastiness is directed at other innocent people and he's only upset because they found it convenient to turn their abusive harassment on him.

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  41. Roger, even the EPA Endangerment TSD agrees with you on U.S. drought. Section 4(l) states:

    "Lettenmaier et al. (2008) state that "[w]ith respect to drought, consistent with streamflow and precipitation observations, most of the continental United States experienced reductions in drought severity and duration over the 20th century. However, there is some indication of increased drought severity and duration in the western and southwestern United States.." For the past 50 years, Dole et al.
    (2008) conclude: "It is unlikely that a systematic change has occurred in either the frequency or area coverage of severe drought over the contiguous United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present."
    ...

    Jansen et al. (2007) find (based on paleoclimate studies) that there have been periods over the past 2,000 years during which drought in North America was "more frequent, longer and/or geographically more extensive ... than during the 20th century." They indicate some evidence suggests droughts were particularly extensive, severe, and frequent during intervals characterized by warmer than average summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere."

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  42. -42-climateaudit.org

    Thanks, interesting!

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  43. Roger, I don't know why you bother responding to anything he says. In a couple of years he will just be another former political appointee looking for a job with an NGO or similar, and you will continue to build a good reputation, which is more than anything he has done.

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  44. Roger, I do agree Holdren's analysis is sloppy but you should consider that "Readers (not even careful readers) can easily see Footnote 21 from my testimony, which states:" sounds a little bit funny. Footnotes are not meant for content that substantially alters the meaning of the content in a paper.

    In this case "For the US the CCSP (2008) says: “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.” means something completely different when the footnote is included. If you take this statement without the footnote the reader is left with the impression that climate change has not had an impact on drought (which IS out of the mainstream view on climate change). To be more complete some statement as to the regional impact is entirely necessary... I realize that this is the point of the footnote but it shouldn't be in a footnote. It should be in the text and it probably belongs in your "take home points" as well.

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  45. -45- Jacob,

    The footnote does not make the statement mean "something completely different" unless you take "for the most part" to mean all. It's a clarification of what that means, exactly, and it seems pretty clear to me.

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  46. -45-Jacob Bauer

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. A few quick thoughts in reply.

    1. Holdren's complaint did not mention a footnote placement. He incorrectly said in his screed that the statement in question did not appear in my testimony. He was wrong.

    2. Others have complained about the footnote. Fair enough.

    I disagree 100% that the footnote "substantially alters the meaning of the content in a paper" in this instance.

    This statement, on its own, is 100% correct as stated: "droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.”

    I included the footnote, because with respect to the US, that detail is important. But it does not contradict the overall US claim. If you prefer Dole et al., here is how they stated the same thing:

    "It is unlikely that a systematic change has occurred in either the frequency or area coverage of severe drought over the contiguous United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present."

    I am quite comfortable that this claim sits squarely in that region of "mainstream science" however one chooses to define it.

    With respect to weather phenomena, it is well understood that as you go to smaller geographical regions and shorter time scales you will see more variability. With respect to floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes and drought one can easily find regions with up or down trends -- you can do the same with temperature records too.

    3. What about attribution of regional trends? On attribution of trends in drought to human-caused climate change Trenberth et al. (2014) (cited by Holdren) states "the answer remains blurred." Holdren would seem to disagree with this conclusion, if so he should take it up with them and the IPCC.

    4. If the biggest complaint made (but not one made by Holdren;-) about my testimony is about an editorial decision to place a sentence in a footnote vs. main text, then I'm pretty satisfied that their isn't much to debate about the scientific validity of my testimony. Seriously, a footnote? On the other hand I do welcome the very close scrutiny of what I write, as it can only help improve communication.

    I do appreciate the feedback, and in future testimony see no problem in including that sentence in the main body of text or take home points. It does not alter any of the science or policy conclusions in my testimony. Nor I should add, does it delineate whether I belong inside or outside the scientific mainstream ;-)

    Thanks!

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  47. Roger - that footnote puts you outside the mainstream. Be more careful next time.

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  48. I think I've made my point and appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I'll simply add that the policy conclusions based on:

    1. "Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.”

    2. Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century; the main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends.”

    For someone like Holdren, who really seems concerned about the connection between droughts and climate change #1 probably reads much different than #2 which reflects his own personal biases.

    A lawyer I was working with on an extremely litigious water rights case once instructed me never to use footnotes or ellipsis. People will think you are trying to hide something. I'm sure you weren't but that's the way it may appear to some.

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  49. Roger and Jacob: I really appreciate the tone of your discussion. Can I ask one question. My understanding is that in the SW US droughts have historically been longer and more severe. Therefore isn't attributing the current drought in California to climate change more problematic than say droughts in Florida or New England. (I could not find a real source but the following tells the basic story: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140213-california-drought-record-agriculture-pdo-climate/ )

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  50. Roger and Jacob: I appreciate the civil tone of your discussion. One question though. It is my understanding that deep and long droughts in the SW are a historical reality. If so, it seems to me that it is very difficult to attribute the current drought to anthropogenic climate change. Given that the Pineapple Express is now in gear it does look like some of the hyperbole is misplaced.

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  51. -49-Jacob Bauer

    Thanks ... for these very reasons I included a section in my testimony titled, "To Avoid Any Confusion" which clearly expressed my views on the significance of what I was relating in my testimony.

    Thanks again.

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  52. Holdren was very careful in his February 25 testimony and in his Feb 13th press conference to specifically say that droughts are getting more severe only in some regions, "In the United States of America droughts are getting more severe in the American West and in the Colorado River Basin. We are experiencing in the Colorado River Basin what looks like probably the most severe drought in 1000 years. California is heading for what looks like one of the most severe drought in 500 years."

    At which point your testimony was thrown back in his face by Senator Sessions.

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, may be aware of your writing to Senator Sessions to clear up the issues.

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  53. "With respect to weather phenomena, it is well understood that as you go to smaller geographical regions and shorter time scales you will see more variability. With respect to floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes and drought one can easily find regions with up or down trends -- you can do the same with temperature records too. "

    Holdren was/is simply looking for something to support his desire for constraining everyone's (except his of course) consumption... his life long goal.

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  54. I see that John Holdren is much more circumspect in his discussion of climate change and extremes in this posting today at the CEQ:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/04/preparing-now-our-climate-future

    No polar vortex, no California drought ... no hurricanes, floods or tornadoes either.

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  55. @55, that article is authored by Boots, Holdren and Monaco. From the beginning of the article:

    "Our climate is changing. We are not just seeing global increases in air and ocean temperatures, we are seeing changes across the United States: extended periods of unusual heat, a greater number of heavier downpours, more severe regional drought and wildfires in parts of the American West, permafrost thawing in Alaska, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threatening coastal communities. "

    Looks to the prudent and reasonable person that we already have enough problems to deal with and be concerned about.

    Pity that you and your readers are not more circumspect when characterizing Holdren (and others), for example, you have allowed comments calling Holdren a "lunatic" to stand. You prose really does appeal the anti-science crowd and right-wing ideologues out there ;)

    Given that you love the attention, you will probably be happy to read this.

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  56. @56, my name is John Barksdale. Why are you hiding behind "Albatross"? Can you point me to scientific proof that carbon dioxide is increasing the Earth's temperature? Not a model, but a repeatable scientific experiment. And while you're at it left-wing, carbonphobe what is the proper temperature for the Earth's atmosphere?

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  57. "Holdren was very careful in his February 25 testimony and in his Feb 13th press conference to specifically say that droughts are getting more severe only in some regions ... "

    The honorable Rabett reminds us that AGW-forced "global" climate change has the remarkable property of making unwanted weather happen on a "selective" basis. If somebody got some bad weather, it's all because of AGW.

    Any other kind of weather, and you're on your own to provide an explanation. Natural variation, anything you want to call it.

    This is what this ridiculous AGW "interpretation" has degenerated into; 50 years ago no such preposterous interpretation would be given any attention by anybody

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  58. I'm seeing -0.04/decade for PMSI in the Southwest from 1900-2014. that changes to +0.09/decade 1950-2014. It changes again to -1.28/decade from 1980-2014. It drops to -0.30/decade 2000-2014. It shoots up to +1.30/decade 2005-2014.

    Drought is or isn't a problem in the Southwest US depending on what my start date is for measuring drought. The long range full modern record is -0.04 1900-2014. I'm not seeing anything in the actual data that would motivate me to claim that RPJ is outside of the mainstream even if I'm looking ONLY at the Southwestern USA. What Holdren is selling is complete rubbish IMO.

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  59. Reflecting on #59 on a comment made by Tom Curtis,

    "I am not sure what is meant by "zombie science", but the term is clearly not meant to be flattering."

    For an example of "zombie science," see #58 above. If it weren't for people speaking out, we would have nothing but Lysenko type "science " as the basis of policy making.

    That charade has gone on long enough, and it is time to bring the curtain down on it.

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  60. #60 - Papa Zu: Holdren cites a pretty long list of literature related to drought in the US Southwest. I haven't reviewed all of it, but I suspect if his view is rubbish, it's rubbish that's firmly backed by the peer-reviewed literature - which is the standard cited here and elsewhere by Roger for scientist advice to policy makers. It seems to me after reading all of this that Roger's view is firmly in the scientific mainstream with respect to global trends in drought and Holdren's view is firmly in the scientific mainstream with respect to trends in Southwest US drought. Most of the rest of this is posturing and talking at cross purposes.

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  61. Holden was talking about California, in particular, the Imperial Valley's drought. The geography scold in me notes that the phrase "Southwest and parts of the interior of the West" does not include California. California is in the Far West or Pacific Coast.

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  62. Roger,

    When you said on twitter,

    "Hmmm ... Climate change & "number & severity" of hurricanes--> "Obama and his advisers say the connections are clear"

    Am I correct in assuming that you said that to criticize the WaPo, not Obama and his advisors?

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  63. @#62

    Thanks Eric. I will look at Holdren's peer reviewed papers over the weekend. RPJ did footnote the mainstream view of the Southwestern USA drought so from my reading he is not in disagreement with Holdren on the Southwest drought claims. My examination of empirical drought data and paleoclimate papers on 200+ year drought in the Southwest around the 10th century along with many other multi decadal past droughts shapes my thinking on this issue though.

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  64. Roger, re my question to you at #64, could you please clarify what you were trying to say or imply. An answer from you would be helpful. Thanks!

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  65. From an interesting column about the difference between politics and academics:

    "He learned that when you are attacking your opponent, you have to hit his strengths because his weaknesses will take care of themselves. Political discourse, he came to see, is not really a debate about issues; it is a verbal contest to deny your opponents of standing, or as we would say, legitimacy."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/opinion/brooks-the-refiners-fire.html?ref=davidbrooks&_r=0

    Holdren prevarications were meant to attack your strength (encyclopedic knowledge of the role of climate change in extreme weather) and deny you legitimacy in the eyes of wavering Democratic legislators. I hope you response was effective.

    Holdren's legitimacy is illustrated by this professionally made video that was posted on the White House website on the coldest day in Washington DC in the past few years. Who paid for it and who was consulted on its content? Holdren got the science badly wrong.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2014/01/08/polar-vortex-explained-2-minutes

    http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-polar-vortex-myth-and-reality.html

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  66. Hi Roger,

    OK, so you are avoiding the question for some reason. Why?

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  67. -68-Albatross

    Regrettably, any residual good will left in your favor was used up long ago. Trolling will continue to be treated as such. Please refer to the comment policy with respect to future complaints. Thanks!

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  68. Hi Roger,

    Can we please deal with the present? Also, please explain to your readers how someone asking you to clarify what you said in a tweet that was related to your exchange with Holdren amounts to trolling? Twitter is often clumsy when trying to convey a message. Asking you politely to clarify is not at all unreasonable. Thank you.

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  69. Tip of the day - do not feed trolls because their appetite is never satisfied

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  70. It is good to see Cliff Mass come down on the side of sanity when it comes to Holdren's interpretation of "you are freezing and it's all because of AGW."

    Editorial comment: Cliff Mass seems like a reasonable individual, he and I have had our differences, I think he became totally wacky under Steve Schneider's influence, but Schneider is gone, and maybe this influenced Cliff's return to sanity.

    /end of editorial remarks

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  71. With regard to comment #4 Heasley

    The saddest thing is that many wonderful, well-intentioned people end up believing those things and are surrounded by a miasma of despair and distrust of those who don't agree with them. That is the worst byproduct of this behavior IMHO.

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  72. Does your inclusion in your testimony of the footnote saying that drought in the Southwest has increased in intensity due to global warming mean that you accept the possibility that global warming could have been a factor in the current drought in California?

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