17 June 2009

More on the CCSP Report

I took a look at the public review comments on the CCSP Synthesis report released yesterday that were submitted to the CCSP (here in PDF) earlier this year and there are frequent mentions of my work and how it is at odds with the statements in the report. The following comment from Chip Knappenberger and CCSP response are telling (from p. 299).

Citation 27 is to Mills, Science, 2005. The Mills paper has come under intensive criticism, largely from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr—another expert in the field of disaster losses. Pielke Jr. published a response to the Mills paper in Science.

It is inconceivable that the authors of the CCSP report don’t know of the Pielke Jr. criticisms (after all Evan Mills is listed as a CCSP author) and yet it is equally inconceivable that knowing of them, that absolutely no reference is made to them.

The fact is, is that Pielke Jr. concluded “Presently, there is simply no scientific basis for claims that the escalating cost of disasters is the result of anything other than increasing societal vulnerability.” (Pielke Jr., Science, 2005). This is precisely the opposite of the CCSP conclusion. How can such criticism be completely ignored?
CCSP Repsonse (I wonder who wrote it -- I'd bet that is was a particular guy at LLNL, given that its statements that come right out of Mills's response to my Science letter):
The referenced paper is a synthesis of a large literature, and also parallels conclusions from IPCC/TAR/WG2/Ch8 (which should also be cited at this juncture). The referenced criticism took the form of a brief letter from Pielke Jr. to Science, which was answered in detail in the same issue by Mills. It would be beneficial to cite this exchange of letters, and, space allowing, draw out the many factors not accounted for in simplified “normalization” procedures. Considerable effort has been made to normalize historic offices (sic) upward to account for factors such as inflation, but little has been done to quantify the countervaling (sic) factors of improved construction practices, early warning systems, and other adaptive responses that reduce losses.

The referenced exchange of letters in Science has been cited.
Of course, as I documented earlier, in the final version the CCSP did cite my response to Mills to support a claim that I never made. Some improvement. Mills' response to my critique of his 2005 commentary in Science provides no data and does not directly address the substance of my critique, which is grounded in various peer-reviewed studies that I cite ( I provided a critique of Mills' response at the time). Mills' response does have this interesting statement (PDF):
Assuming that only socioeconomic factors— rather than rising emissions—influence losses may yield ill-founded policy recommendations that focus exclusively on adapting to climate change while dismissing energy policy as a legitimate part of the toolkit for responding.
You could not ask for a clearer statement of political necessity driving the need for certain scientific conclusions. The CCSP reports were supposed to summarize the peer-reviewed literature, not to serve as a place to air out unfounded critiques that have never appeared in the peer reviewed literature in order to protect favored policy choices. If Mills thinks that "contervailing forces" hide a greenhouse gas trend in the losses, then he should do the work necessary to support that claim and then publish it. Of course, we have considered that fact in our work on hurricanes and floods, e.g., for hurricanes because the trend in losses matches the trend in hurricane landfall events there is no bias introduced by adaptation, as this would have shown a trend in normalized losses differing from the trend in geophysical events. Regardless, the place for arguing about science is in the peer reviewed literature, not behind the scenes in an assessment report. If there are in fact different points of view to be found in the literature, they a good assessment will report on these differences. In this case, the peer-reviewed literature is unambiguous. Whomever wrote this section just didn't happen to like what it said. Further, if it was Mills writing about his own work it shows how incestuous the process is.

More broadly, there are dozens of peer-reviewed studies not referenced by the CCSP relevant to this subject. The focus on a single study, not peer reviewed and written by an author of the CCSP, should be of concern to anyone, regardless of their views on climate policy and politics.