30 June 2010

History is Written by Winners or "De vita et moribus tredecim virorum paraguaycorum"

If crashing out of the World Cup is not bad enough for England, the Catholic Church reports that Association Football actually may have originated in Paraguay, which of course has advanced further than England in this year's tournament.:
Amidst the enthusiasm over the World Cup Soccer tournament, L’Osservatore Romano published an article this week arguing that the Guarani Indians of Paraguay were the inventors of the game.

In an article titled, “The Guarani Invented Soccer,” reporter Gianpaolo Romanato asserted that soccer was born in the 17th century in the region known today as Paraguay. His source for the claim is an account by a Spanish Jesuit priest, Jose Manuel Peramas, who lived for several years at the St. Ignatius of Mini mission south of Asuncion, which was one of the 30 native missions established by the Jesuits in colonial Paraguay.

Father Peramas described the pastimes enjoyed by the Guarani in his 1793 book, “De vita et moribus tredecim virorum paraguaycorum” (Of the life and death of the 13 men of Paraguay).

“They often played with a ball that, although it was made completely of rubber, was so light and quick that instead of them hitting it, it bounced around without stopping, driven by its own weight. They did not throw the ball with their hands like we do, but rather they kicked it with the upper part of their bare feet, passing it and trapping it with great agility and precision,” the priest wrote.

“Three centuries ago the Guarani were surely masters of the ball. They are truly the descendents of the real inventors of soccer,” L’Osservatore Romano reported, although many British soccer enthusiasts would be quick to dispute such a claim.

On the other hand, one touts Paraguayan success with some trepidation.

In other news, R Klein and S Collins lead RogersBlogGroup, and my heart and my head continue a close battle. The big finance groups UBS, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs battle it out for sub-mediocrity. Stay tuned.

Ten Myths of Global Warming and the Green Economy

No, this is not a post about what who believes what about science (snore). This is a post about the economic and political assumptions that guide thinking about climate policy.

Andy Revkin helpfully points to a new report (PDF) from the Information Technology and Information Foundation, which seeks to expose 10 myths of global climate change. Here they are:
1) Higher prices on greenhouse gases are enough to drive the transition to a clean economy

Reality: Better price signals are helpful, but not sufficient in significantly reducing GHG.

2) The U.S. can make major contributions to solving climate change on its own

Reality: The energy needs of the rest of the world will result in them producing the lion’s share of GHG; any solution must be one that is able to be adopted by every nation in the absence of regulation or energy taxes.

3) Cap-and-trade is a sustainable global solution

Reality: As Copenhagen showed, a global agreement is not likely, and the only solution that can meet 50 the percent reduction of GHG is making non-carbon alternatives as cheap and functional as fossil fuels.

4) We don’t need innovation; we have all the technology we need

Reality: Current technology is woefully inadequate in reaching the needed 85 percent carbon reduction efficiency.

5) “Insulation is enough” (e.g. energy efficiency will save us)

Reality: Even the most optimistic estimates suggest energy efficiency measures will only provide one-quarter of the levels of GHG reductions that the United States needs to effectively address climate change.

6) Low growth is the answer…just live simply

Reality: Neither living simply nor a massive recession will enable us to obtain the level of reductions required.

7) Information technology (ITIT) is a significant contributor to climate change

Reality: A digital world leads to less energy use, not more.

8) Going green is green (e.g., it makes economic sense to go green)

Reality: With current technology, it often costs money to go green.

9) We are world leaders on the green economy, and it’s ours for the taking

Reality: Other countries got in on the ground floor and are already out pacing us.

10) Foreign green mercantilism is good for solving climate change (and good for the U.S.)

Reality: Foreign mercantilism reduces needed clean energy innovation and hurts U.S. industry and jobs.
This list is remarkably compatible with the arguments I set forth in The Climate Fix. In fact, Chapter 2 is titled, What We Know for Sure, But Just Ain't So. You can see from the imagery above where the inspiration came from for that chapter title ;-) My book has a few others not on this list as well.

Early Appearance of TCF in the MSM

The Climate Fix got a brief mention in a review of books on geoengineering which appeared in the New York Times yesterday. The review provided a few suggestive quotes from the book:
Still, if geoengineering is not yet an idea whose time has come, it is definitely gaining traction. It is discussed in . . . forthcoming book, “The Climate Fix,” by Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. . .

In his discussion of geoengineering in “The Climate Fix,” Dr. Pielke argues that research into geoengineering techniques could advance scientists’ understanding of the action of Earth’s climate. But if the techniques are put into effect, “unintended consequences are certain,” he writes, adding “there is no practice planet earth on which such technologies can be implemented, evaluated, and improved.”

His book will be published in the fall.

As you might gather from the quote, I am not a big fan of geoengineering proposals (to say the least). In Chapter 5 of The Climate Fix I provide a critique of the technologies of geoengineering and why they offer little aid in efforts to address climate change (human caused or otherwise). I do suggest that among the various geoengineering proposals, air capture of carbon dioxide offers the most promise, but it is costly and a technology of the future at best.

Of course, geoengineering is but one of the areas that I discuss in the book. If you want a more comprehensive discussion of geoengineering, then have a look at Hack the Planet, by Eli Kintisch, which is discussed in the NYT review and is pictured above.

28 June 2010

ICAT Damage Estimator 2010

The image above is a screen shot from the ICAT Damage Estimator, and on-line application that operationalizes our normalized US hurricane loss data (PDF) and allows it to be explored in the context of current storms and their predicted paths. The image above shows Alex and its forecasted location by the National Hurricane Center. You can use the site to display individual computer model forecasts and compare damage from past storms with similar tracks. Have a look!

The Other Book

Our book on presidential science advice (along with a few chapters on Congress) is now out. Here is how Springer describes the book:
For the past 50 years a select group of scientists has provided advice to the US President, mostly out of the public eye, on issues ranging from the deployment of weapons to the launching of rockets to the moon to the use of stem cells to cure disease. The role of the presidential science adviser came under increasing scrutiny during the administration of George W. Bush, which was highly criticized by many for its use (and some say, misuse) of science. This edited volume includes, for the first time, the reflections of the presidential science advisers from Donald Hornig who served under Lyndon B. Johnson, to John Marburger, the previous science advisor, on their roles within both government and the scientific community. It provides an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of the White House, as well as the political realities of providing advice on scientific matters to the presidential of the United States. The reflections of the advisers are supplemented with critical analysis of the role of the science adviser by several well-recognized science policy practitioners and experts. This volume will be of interest to science policy and presidential history scholars and students.

And here is the Table of Contents:

1. Introduction and acknowledgments

Part I – Overview of Presidential Science Advising

2. The Rise and Fall of the President’s Science Advisor

Roger Pielke, Jr., Professor, Environmental Studies and Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado

Roberta Klein, Managing Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado

Part II – The Science Advisors In Their Own Words

3. Science Advice in the Johnson White House

Donald Hornig, Science Advisor to President Lyndon Johnson (1964-69)

4. Science, Politics and Policy in the Nixon Administration

Edward David, Science Advisor to President Richard Nixon (1970-73)

5. Science and Technology in the Carter Presidency

Frank Press, Science Advisor to President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

Phil Smith, Associate Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (1976 – 1981)

6. Policy, Politics and Science in the White House-- The Reagan Years

George Keyworth, Science Advisor to President Ronald Reagan (1981-85)

7. Science Advice to President Bill Clinton

John Gibbons, Science Advisor to President Bill Clinton (1993-98)

8. Threats to the Future of U.S. Science and Technology

Neal Lane, Science Advisor to President Bill Clinton (1998-2001)

9. Science Advice in the George W. Bush Administration

John H. Marburger, II, Science Advisor to President George W. Bush (2001 – present)

Part III – A View From The Hill


Daniel Sarewitz, Director, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University

10. Science Advice in the Congress?

Radford Byerly, Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science (1991 – 1993)

11. Science, Policy and Politics: A View from Capitol Hill

Robert Palmer, Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science (1993 – 2004)

Part IV – Critique

12. Science, Politics, and Two Unicorns: An Academic Critique of Science Advice

Dave Guston, Associate Director, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes; Professor, Political Science, Arizona State University


  • In Memoriam to D. Allan Bromley

  • Transcripts of question and answer sessions from science advisor public appearances at the University of Colorado – Boulder

Dr. Donald Hornig

Dr. Edward David

Dr. George Keyworth

Dr. John Gibbons

At $139, it won't be a hot seller but it should be of interest to anyone interested in science advice and history at the highest levels of the US government.

27 June 2010

Who are the Most Over- and Under-Paid World Cup Managers?

[UPDATE: New Zealand's coach appears to have received a phantom raise in the list below.]

The table below shows the salaries (in Euros) of the managers of the 32 World Cup teams, courtesy of futelbolfinance.com. I have made one change to their data (which is from 2009, and does not include any bonuses), and that is to add Sven Goran Eriksson (to replace his much lower-paid predecessor), who picked up a cool $3 million for five weeks work, including a chance to stand on the sidelines and watch three World Cup games. Not bad work if you can get it (Poor Fulham.). Note the aggregate lack of correlation between manager salary and team performance. Maybe the coach doesn't matter in international football either.

While I expect that there might be some debates about who is the most overpaid manager (Bob Bradley anyone?), the most underpaid looks pretty unambiguous: Oscar Tabarez wins the prize.

Coaches Salaries 2010 World Cup

Annual Value

1 Fabio Capello ING € 8,800,000
2 Marcelo Lippi ITA € 3,000,000
3 Joachim Low GER € 2,500,000
4Sven Goran ErickssonCIV€ 2,400,000
5 Bert van Marwijk NED € 1,800,000
6 Ottmar Hitzfeld SUI € 1,750,000
7 Vicente Del Bosque ESP € 1,500,000
8 Carlos Queiroz POR € 1,350,000
9 Pim Verbeek AUS € 1,200,000
10 Carlos Parreira RSA € 1,200,000
11 Javier Aguirre MEX € 1,200,000
12 Carlos Dunga BRA € 800,000
13 Diego Maradona ARG € 800,000
14 Takeshi Okada JPN € 800,000
15 Ricki Herbert NZL € 800,000
16 Otto Rehhagel GRE € 750,000
17 Paul Le Guen CMR € 650,000
18 Marcelo Bielsa CHI € 575,000
19 Raymond Domenech FRA € 560,000
20 Jung Hun Moo KOR € 405,000
21 Morten Olsen DEN € 390,000
22 Milovan Rajevac GHA € 365,000
23 Radomir Antic SRB € 305,000
24 Bob Bradley USA € 275,000
25 Majtaz Kek SLO € 245,000
26 Gerardo Martino PAR € 245,000
27 Rabah Saadane ALG € 245,000
28 Reinaldo Rueda HON € 240,000
29 Vladimir Weiss SVK € 215,000
30 Oscar Tabarez URU € 205,000
31 Kim Jong Hun PRK € 170,000
32 Shaibu Amodu NGR € 125,000

26 June 2010

Putting the World in the Cup

Today's NYT has this interesting graphic which shows the globalization of the World Cup, in terms of the teams that are represented.

25 June 2010

Don't Tread on Me

Levi Gets the Last Word on PNAS

Writing at Slate, Michael Levi cogently summarizes the broader issues associated with the PNAS paper.
The evidence that we are running dangerous risks with the climate is overwhelming. In their zeal to convince the public of this fact, environmental advocates sometimes hype sensational studies and predictions that rest on weak or ambiguous logic. Every time they do, their opponents have a field day.

This week the greens have played right into that trap. . . .

he paper, entitled "Expert credibility in climate change," was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Within hours, a host of progressive and environmentalist groups were loudly touting its conclusions, and sympathetic articles appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, and Time. On Wednesday morning, the White House drove the message home with an official tweet: "Scientists agree on climate change...the few that don't? not cream of crop." . . .

All of this would be academic quibbling if it wasn't so consequential. The authors of the paper are right that the world is running dangerous risks with the climate system. They are right to be angry at those who claim that climate change is a hoax, and at those in the media who give them a platform to confuse the public. But the way to confront those skeptics is to show that they're wrong—as many dedicated climate scientists have done, again and again. Hyping this paper, instead, simply reinforces the dangerous perception that climate activists will credulously push any news that might further their case. For those who care about this issue, that's tragic.
What is more damaging to efforts to implement policies to accelerate decarbonization of the global economy, climate skeptics, or the clumsy efforts to delegitimze them?

Levi is right on the mark when he writes:
. . . the advocates have used bad social science to show that the science of climate change is sound.
And that is a fitting last word on PNAS, at least for this blog. But feel free to continue the discussion in the comments if you'd like. I'm returning to more important topics, like energy policy and soccer ;-)

Peter Webster on PNAS Paper: "Very Likely Disgusted"

Peter Webster, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, weighs in on the PNAS paper that segregates scientists into two categories, good guys and bad guys. Webster is listed as one of the "good guys" on the PNAS list:
All of this is new to me as I have just returned from Asia where I was happily oblivious to the PNAS paper and, forgive me, engaged in science. It has come something of a shock to find myself pigeon-holed, classified and lined up!

I do require one clarification and perhaps you can help. Which is the black list: those who agree with the IPCC as defined by PNAS, or the skeptics? By the PNAS classification, I ended up as a supporter of the IPCC, since I signed the Bali 2007 document. I am trying to remember why I did so. That was 3 years ago and I had not thought too much about IPCC and etc. and it was before the latest assessment. Since then I have become more involved with climate change research and more critical of process and perhaps more questioning of the attribution of warming simply because the IPCC performed poorly in distinguishing between natural variability and anthropogenic effects or hardly considered the issue at all.

Sorry PNAS, but I have evolved, since 2007! But at least my view of the science is not determined by orthodoxy. I imagine Roger Sr. feels the same way.

Re the PNAS paper, it is rather louche. What is the point of this paper? Are the arguments so old and stale that it has to rely on past statements to substantiate a point of view? Death rattle come to mind. Perhaps we are seeing the death throes of the old guard. Perhaps out of these ashes will emerge a more solid scientific view on climate and global change, free of orthodoxy and invigorated by debate.

Finally, in case the PNAS paper comes out in a second edition. I should state my position on attribution. Very Likely? Likely? Well maybe!

Actually, I would like to form a new subgroup, “very likely disgusted.” I suspect its membership may be rather large.

A Reminder That Serious Engagement at Real Climate is Impossible

Will I never learn?

24 June 2010

Is it Science or Is it Politics?

Real Climate offers a rather muddled take on the controversial PNAS paper published earlier this week, which helps to shed some light on the thinking behind the paper, and how questions of science are conflated with questions of politics.

Real Climate describes the question that the PNAS was focused on as follows:
So, do the climate scientists who have publicly declared that they are ‘convinced of the evidence’ that emission policies are required have more credentials and expertise than the signers of statements declaring the opposite?
By contrast the PNAS paper describes their methodology as one focused on views on the science of climate change:
We provide a broad assessment of the relative credibility of researchers convinced by the evidence (CE) of ACC [anthropogenic climate change] and those unconvinced by the evidence (UE) of ACC. . . We defined CE researchers as those who signed statements broadly agreeing with or directly endorsing the primary tenets of the IPCC Fourth Assessmentthat it is “very likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature in the second half of the 20th century . . .
So is it science or politics? We can explore this with a short focus the paper's methodology. The IPCC statement that the PNAS paper uses as its mechanism for distinguishing scientists views was published in 2007. Consider that seven (maybe eight) of the sources used to identify people who disagree with the 2007 IPCC statement were written before the IPCC statement even existed, one as long ago as 1992. As a matter of social science methodology, unless the authors of the pre-2007 statements had access to a time machine, it is improper to use those statements to say anything about how the authors would view a document written years later. (This flaw alone would render such a paper unpublishable in any self-respecting social science journal.)

But maybe the paper really isn't about scientific views on climate change, but political views. Real Climate would seem to agree (emphasis in original):
. . . as tests of political preferences, these [sign-on] letters are probably valid indicators.
I would not even go that far, as I have documented, the world's most authoritative "skeptical" climate scientist (RPSr) argues strongly for a human influence on climate and the need for action, including on emissions. But for purposes of discussion, lets say that the PNAS paper has perfectly segregated two camps according to their views on climate science as it claims to have done.

There is a major problem that results.

It is the idea that acceptance of the "tenets of the IPCC" equates with a particular political view on emissions reductions. Jim Prall, responsible for developing the lists, says this explicitly on the methodology page linked from the paper:
I claim it is only reasonable to place IPCC authors in the "mainstream" and to recognize that the IPCC reports incorporate a strong call for action on greenhouse gas reductions.
This is simply factually wrong insofar as the IPCC is concerned. The IPCC goes to great lengths to characterize itself as "policy neutral" -- a stance that is formalized in its terms of reference, explaining (PDF):
IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy.
It cannot be both ways. Either the IPCC is a politicized body consisting only of people with a single political view on emissions, or it is policy neutral with no implications of being a contributor for a particular political agenda. If the former then the IPCC is deeply compromised and biased and if the latter then the PNAS paper is built on a flawed assumption. Is the PNAS list about views on science or politics? I don't think that even Real Climate would go so far as to say that one's views of climate science dictate one's views on climate politics, given the diversity of opinion on both.

This gets to the nub of the problem of blog and media wars over climate science. These debates are in fact entirely political (if you actually want to debate science there is a peer-reviewed literature for that). These debates are about what we should do on climate change and who should have authority to speak and decide. But in democratic politics you get to participate no matter how many papers you have written, how stupid your views are and how inane your policy recommendations (e.g., they even let cap-and-trade advocates participate, but I digress;-).

The problem with the PNAS black list is that it seeks to use a metric of scientific credibility to establish authority in political debates and thus to delegitimize a group of people in political and public debate. In the real world, action on climate change will occur via compromise via traditional democratic processes. It will not occur because some small group of elites have been judged to be the wisest men (and women) of all and the others relegated to irrelevancy. Such efforts to delegitimize will inevitably flounder on the realities of democracy.

In politics, climate scientists have no special authority in making policy judgments. They are no more special than economists, sociologists, engineers, technologists, philosophers, priests, rabbis and other experts and specialists. In fact, they have no special authority beyond non-specialists like Marc Morano or Joe Romm. They are experts, who have knowledge that is useful and even necessary in policy making, but this confers no special authority in the political process. Military historians or tacticians don't get to decide how wars are fought and academic economists don't decide economic policy -- they are important to consult of course. Now, it is true that politicians and the public sometimes act like scientists have a special authority (and often for selfish reasons, like avoiding accountability), and of course some scientists like to act that way as well. Many activist scientists won't like to hear this.

In conclusion, Real Climate says this:
the basic consensus is almost universally accepted. That is, the planet is warming, that human activities are contributing to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (chiefly, but not exclusively CO2), that these changes are playing a big role in the current warming, and thus, further increases in the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere are very likely to cause further warming which could have serious impacts. You can go to any standard meeting or workshop, browse the abstracts, look at any assessment, ask any of the National Academies etc. and receive the same answer. There are certainly disputes about more detailed or specific issues (as there is in any scientific field), and lots of research continues to improve our quantitative understanding of the system, but the basic issues (as outlined above) are very widely (though not universally) accepted.
They are right. And I would bet that many on the PNAS black list would also agree with this point of view. Had the PNAS paper been about science, it might have actually tested this proposition. But why would it? There is little need to test scientific opinion because there is such a broad consensus on exactly these questions. In fact, most of the US and global public also agrees with this point of view. As I have argued, insofar as climate policy is concerned the science debate is over. Does this mean that everyone agrees on everything or that we won't make new discoveries in the future? No, of course not. What it does mean is that further public debates over climate science offer precious little to advancing climate policies, but do offer great potential for harm within the scientific community.

Equating science with politics in an effort to give a small set of scientists an upper hand in political debates will do far more to politicize science than to usher in an era of authoritarian policy making on climate change by a few scientists. Sorry guys, but that's politics.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the ETS

Australia has a new prime minister. The Economist reports that an important aspect of Kevin Rudd's fall was his willingness to dump the proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) after riding the issue of climate change into office:
The trigger was Mr Rudd’s decision in late April to defer a planned emissions-trading scheme (ETS) until at least 2013. Legislation for it is stuck in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, where Labor lacks a majority. Mr Rudd had made attacking climate change a defining pledge of his platform. His apparent decision to abandon it dismayed voters and damaged his credibility on other issues.
It is important to understand that the fall in public support for Rudd was not climate cahnge policy per se, but a perceived difference between rhetoric and reality. Rudd lost credibility.

Early indications suggest that Gillard is not about to repeat that mistake. She has offered only rather tepid support for reviving a carbon price and does not appear to have offered any explicit support for the ETS as it has been presented, from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she is in no hurry to start emissions trading, resisting pressure from green groups to take faster action on climate change.

Labor's decision in April to delay emissions trading until at least 2013 contributed to a dramatic dive in the standing of the government and former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Ms Gillard indicated it would be business as usual on emissions trading under her watch, because there wasn't a community consensus on the need for a price on carbon.

Her words on climate change are worth parsing:

"First, we will need to establish a community consensus for action," Ms Gillard told reporters today, shortly after her election as Labor leader.

"If elected as prime minister [at the next election], I will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price at home and abroad."

She would pursue that argument "as long as I need to" to win over the community.

What is that "community"? It could be the international community, giving her ample room to defer pursuing any form of ETS in the face of a lack of international agreement. She has deftly put off the issue to beyond the next election, which exactly what Kevin Rudd was aiming to do. Politicians know which way the wind blows.

Reminder: KGNU/BBC Event Tonite in Boulder

KGNU Independent Community Radio and the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) will present a panel discussion on climate change on June 24 at Unity of Boulder. Jon Stewart, host of BBC’s Science in Action, which airs as part of KGNU’s Science Program, will moderate a panel of researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) who will talk about how the world has dealt with climate change in the wake of last year’s Copenhagen conference.

The panel will feature prominent climate change experts Peter Backlund, Caspar Ammann and Lawrence Buka from NCAR and Roger Pielke Jr. from the University of Colorado. Journalist Leslie Dodson from KGNU’s program How On Earth will join them to discuss the science behind climate change and the importance of conveying its urgency to governments and the public at large. The panel will also take questions from the audience.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. at Unity of Boulder, located at 2455 Folsom St. Admission is free. Call KGNU’s Denver studio at 303-825- 5468 for more information.

23 June 2010

Half Way to Completed Knock Out

And then there were two. At the top of RogersBlogGroup with half the knock out round set are:

SeanB24 5

Nice work!

PS. A candidate for best soccer blog (and yes, it is a soccer blog) is Dirty Tackle, it is hilarious.

Win and In

Rudd on His Way Out?

Breaking news in Australia has Prime Minister Kevin Rudd facing a leadership challenge from Julia Gillard (both pictured above). Rudd could be out as soon as tomorrow (this afternoon if you are in my part of the world).

A big part of this story is the disfavor that Rudd generated by first hyping then delaying the Australian emissions trading scheme. Sky News reports:
The change in fortunes for Mr Rudd has happened with alarming speed.

After a lengthy honeymoon with the electorate, the public mood started to turn following a run of problems and backflips, including the botched home insulation scheme and a suspension in processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

But it was the ETS that dragged Mr Rudd's popularity down.Without a power base in caucus, once Mr Rudd began to lose public support, his backing within the parliamentary party began to ebb away.
This of course will mean that I have to once again update my paper on Australia's emissions reductions policies. The timing is good (Thanks Labour Party!) as my paper was just sent back from the journal I submitted it to as being not of sufficient interest to consider for publication. The ETS is important enough to bring down a political leader, but not relevant to environmental policy discussions in academia? But I digress . . .

Rudd raised expectations with the ETS and then found himself in a bad situation, as the policy was a bad one but because expectations had been raised, simply postponing it was always going to have political repercussions. I laid out some of this in an op-ed last March at ABC News (Australia).

If she becomes prime minister, it would be quite easy for Gillard to repeat the exact same mistake with the ETS. Let's hope that she is paying attention to those pesky academics with minds of their own.

Frustration with the "Climate Deniers"

If you want to know what is wrong with the most visible element of the climate science community, you need only read this quote from Steve Schneider, a co-author on the Anderagg et al. paper discussed here and at Kloor's:
Climate scientist Stephen Schneider of Stanford, who worked on the new analysis, admits that it is born of frustration with "climate deniers," such as physicist Freeman Dyson or geologist Ian Plimer, being presented as "equally credible" to his peers and granted "equal weight" as science assessments from the IPCC or U.S. National Academy of Sciences, both of which ascribe ongoing climate change to increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activities. "We wanted to ask by objective measures, 'Who publishes the bulk of the new science in the refereed literature and gets cited the most: those who accept anthropogenic global warming or those who deny it?'" Schneider says.
The paper, which marks the ignominious introduction of the term "climate denier" as a keyword in the PNAS, represents the triumph of blog war politics into mainstream academic publishing. The blog wars over climate change are notable for appeals to authority and efforts to delegitimize. For some in the scientific community the focus is, not just as Schneider states, on the "climate deniers" but also anyone who has a slightly different scientific or political perspective.

That these wars have influenced how academics behave was revealed in the stolen/leaked East Anglia emails. The PNAS paper takes the effort to an entirely new level by taking the work of a blogger seeking to delegitimize "climate deniers" and ginning up a-fancy-looking-but-deeply-flawed- impression of social science methodology and then getting it into PNAS. We see the IPCC being used not as a summary assessment of the community's views, but rather as a narrow litmus test of allegiance. In the bizzaro world of climate science one's credibility is judged by oaths of allegiance to the IPCC rather than having the IPCC reflect a distribution of individual views.

The bottom line here is that if you want to engage in public debates over climate change, you had better get ready to wrestle in the mud (note that the image above is not a real climate scientist, but for illustrative purposes only). Avoiding the blogosphere, including efforts to delegitimize for expressing certain views, is less and less of an option because the blog wars are moving into academic discourse.

PS. Late addendum ... Note that Schneider wants to use the analysis to discredit specific individuals (Dyson, Plimer). Creating a list and then using it to discredit individuals based on the characteristics of the list is of course what it means to create a blacklist. Should individuals be judged individually?

22 June 2010

Pesky Academics With Minds of Their Own

As we've seen, debate over climate change perversely tends to bring out authoritarian calls for uniformity of perspective. Here is an example from Australia where the civil servant head of the Treasury department, himself an an economist, bemoans the fact that academic economists have a diversity of views:
THE Treasury chief, Ken Henry, has re-entered the tax debate, issuing an extraordinary call for economists and tax experts to ''put down their weapons'' and get behind proposals such as the resources super profits tax. . .

''Whenever an idea is ventured publicly by a person, whether that person is a policy adviser or whether it's a government minister, there's at least a handful of academics who will contest it,''
The horror! Henry goes on:

''I've seen it on both sides of politics - this is not a partisan comment at all. But for governments, government ministers who are seeking to get ideas legislated, it is unbelievably frustrating, incredibly frustrating.

''It is a great strength of economics as a discipline … But I think there are occasions on which economists might, at least for a period, put down their weapons and join a consensus.'' . . .

''I'm not going to comment about the resource super profits tax but I will talk about the emissions trading scheme. Most academic economists accepted, at least behind closed doors, that it was a sound policy idea. Yet there were no end of academics who wanted to say for example, it's not bad, but a carbon tax would be better. That did not increase at all the chances of a carbon tax being legislated. All it did was reduce the chance of an emissions trading scheme being legislated.

''In the way in which political debate occurs in Australia, such statements do enormous damage to the prospects of sensible reform. There are times when it would serve the national interest if economists could just call a halt to the war for a while.''

In response, Warwick McKibben, director of the Australian National University's research school of economics and member of the Australian government's Reserve Bank Board, took strong issue with the idea that academics need to get in line behind government policy proposals (emphasis added):
[McKibben] said he was stunned by a call from Mr Henry on Monday for academics to ''put down their weapons'' rather than nit-pick over government proposals such at the emissions trading scheme. ''I don't know whether Ken was fingering me but there weren't too many other people out there arguing against an ETS,'' he said.

''I have enormous respect for Ken Henry but he can't believe that you should have consensus because it is better to have bad policy that everyone agrees with than eventually get good policy that will work."

''The ETS was a flawed scheme. Had the government got it through it would be dead by now because of the financial crisis.

''I also disagreed with the scale of the stimulus package … It wasn't evidence-based policy; they panicked. The government rammed those decisions through the economy even though they were fraught with risk. No one was consulted about an alternative view and if you did say anything you were attacked by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister in public.''

I do not share McKibben's credulity. For many in the climate debate, consensus on bad policy is indeed better than trying to arrive that policies that will actually work. And leading argument seems to be that if only those pesky academics would fall in line, we could more quickly implement those bad policies. Hmmm ... if only we had a list of pesky academics, we'd know who to ignore . . .

H/T Stochastic Trend

Early Standing in the World Cup Bracket Challenge

seanb24 5, S. Burrows


1 mboykoff2010 , m. boykoff

1 Scott B, S. Bracey

1 YoungWilliams9 1, G. Williams

1 ischumann 2, I. Schumann

1 rjtklein, R. Klein

1 wild guessing, R. M

1 pielke.heart, R. Pielke

1 seanb24 5, S. Burrows

If you find yourself on the list above that means that your selections are among 9 of 83 brackets to get 3 of 4 teams correct and in order to advance from Groups A and B. I thought I'd better get this up since I may not be near first for long ;-) Look for an update tomorrow after the games.

Do Climate Black Lists Matter?

Do climate black lists matter? Or are they just tribalism at worst and fun and games on the internet at best? Surely, such lists couldn't be used to affect someone's career, could they?

With this post I'll share some personal experience to explain why I think such lists matter. Here is an email that (presumably) all University of Colorado-Boulder faculty received from the Boulder Faculty Assembly (BFA) just before the summer break less than one month ago (emphasis added):
Dear Colleagues,

Attached is a copy of the BFA update, providing you with an opportunity to learn about what your faculty governance organization is concerned with. Please note the item about the Regents' guiding principles and their expressed preference for political and intellectual balance on the faculty. This is of great concern to the social sciences and humanities, but may also affect engineering and science faculties. The guideline could require a search committee to inquire about:

1. an individual faculty member's perspective on environment, energy and global warming,

2. an individual faculty member's perspective on creation and the origin of the universe,

3. an individual faculty member's perspective on evolution.

Please let me know your opinion of these . . .
What I understand this to mean is that a search committee for a new faculty hire could be required to ask about the candidates' views on "environment, energy and global warming" as a matter of obtaining their political views, which presumably would be factored into a hiring decision to achieve some sort of "political and intellectual balance." Now I can't speak for anyone else, but I find this to be stepping on a slippery slope. I will strongly object to any such "oaths of allegiance" as a condition of or factor in hiring faculty on our campus.

Let me also relate a related personal story (one of several that I could share). Several years ago I was invited by Republican staff to testify before a congressional committee. My general policy on such requests is that when I am invited by government to present my views I will do so regardless of those doing the asking, so long as I can present my views unaltered and directly. After all, my salary and research funds are from the public and I see it as my responsibility to participate in the political process whenever asked. I have in the past testified at the request of both Democrats and Republicans.

At the time I was invited a few liberal bloggers made a big deal about me having been invited by Republicans and posted on it on their blogs. Subsequently, a number of climate scientists contacted my Chancellor's office to complain that my association with the Republicans was unhelpful (because I am perceived to be credible) and asked if anything could be done about it.

A high-up university official (who will go unnamed but who sat in the direct chain of command between my chair and the Chancellor) asked me to lunch, told me about the messages that had been received by the Chancellor's office and warned me in no uncertain terms that I should think carefully about testifying for the Republicans because my career could suffer. The message that I heard was that I had better not testify or else my career might suffer. I took this as a direct threat from an official with influence on my career at the university and I said so on the spot. I was shocked to be in such a conversation. I immediately protested via email to my chair and institute director, invoking academic freedom and tenure. At that point the university official backed down and apologized, claiming a misunderstanding.

Did I actually feel threatened? Not really. I have tenure and a strong academic record. I was more angry with and disappointed in my university. Was the experience a window into how politicized the climate issue is in academia? You bet. Had I not had tenure, been earlier in my career with more decisions to come before higher-ups in my future or been a bit more sensitive to such things I can see how it would be enormously chilling to an academic to have such an experience.

So do black lists of people espousing certain views on climate science trouble me? Yes. It is easy to connect the dots between a university considering "loyalty oaths" -- black lists -- and a hyper-politicized academic environment to see what can result. Such lists are particularly troubling when they are advanced and endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, which is a quasi-government entity receiving considerable public funds, while my own university is debating an oath of allegiance on climate change as a possible condition of employment.

So, is invoking the specter of McCarthyism going too far? For me it is not.

21 June 2010

A New Black List

Little did I know it, but I am intimately associated with the world's most accomplished "climate skeptic." But he is not actually a skeptic, because he believes that humans have a profound influence on the climate system and policy action is warranted. More on that in a second.

A new paper is out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (which I'll call APHS10 after the author's initials) that segregates climate scientists into the "convinced" and the "unconvinced" -- two relatively ambiguous categories -- and then seeks to compare the credentials of the two groups. The paper is based on the tireless efforts of a climate blogger, self-described as "not an academic," who has been frustrated by those who don't share his views on climate change:
I've also grown all too familiar with the tiny minority of 'climate skeptics' or 'deniers' who try to minimize the problem, absolve humans of any major impact, or suggest there is no need to take any action. I've gotten pretty fed up with the undue weight given to the skeptics in the media and online.
What qualifies one to be on the APHS10 list of skeptics, which I'll just call the "black list"? Well, you get there for being perceived to have certain views on climate science or politics. You get on the black list if you have,
signed any of the open letters or declarations expressing skepticism of the IPCC's findings, of climate science generally, of the "consensus" on human-induced warming, and/or arguing against any need for immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, it turns out that you don't even have to sign an open letter or argue against immediate cuts for emissions. You can simply appear unwillingly on Senator James Inhofe's list. A co-author of APHS10 warns on his website (but not in the paper) of the perils of relying on the Senator's list:
I caution readers to take this with a grain of salt: a number of experts have been included despite their strong support for GHG reductions. However, the list does record a significant number of people who are outspoken critics of Kyoto or of efforts to cut GHG emissions generally.
So you can find yourself on the black list as a "climate skeptic" or "denier" simply because you express strong support for greenhouse gas reductions, but have been critical of the Kyoto approach. On the other hand, a scientist like James Hansen, who has expressed considerable disagreement with aspects of the IPCC consensus, finds himself on the list of people who are said to agree with the IPCC consensus. In fact, it appears that simply being a contributor to the IPCC qualifies one to be on the list of those who are defined to be in agreement with the IPCC consensus and/or demand immediate action on emissions reductions and support Kyoto (unless of course one doesn't qualify, in which case you are placed on the other list -- it is complicated, trust me).

So what does this new paper measure exactly? Hell if I know. But it is clear that in the climate debate there are good guys and there are bad guys, and to tell them apart, it is important to have a list. A black list.

Back to the world's most accomplished "climate skeptic." That would be my father who not only tops the black list but also would be near the top of the list of acceptable scientists based on his credentials, had he been placed there. What sort of views does my father hold that would qualify him to lead the "climate skeptics" list?

I was copied on his reply to a reporter today and can quote from that. He provides this rather ambiguous statement:
I am not a "climate skeptic".
Note to Dad, there is no better evidence of your denier credentials than denying that you are a denier. Trust me -- been there, done that. Far from being a skeptic, my father has long argued that the IPCC has underestimated the human influence on the climate system, which includes but is not limited to carbon dioxide, a view that is pretty mainstream these days, thanks in part to his work. Does he "try to minimize the problem, absolve humans of any major impact, or suggest there is no need to take any action"? Well, no.

What my father does do is ask questions, challenge preconceptions, advance hypotheses and test them with data and analysis, followed by publication of his work in the world's leading climate journals for a period of decades without much regard for whether his work supports or challenges a consensus -- in short, he does exactly the sort of thing that makes you one of the most published and most cited scientists of your generation. But in the bizarre world of climate science deviation from or challenge to orthodox views on science or politics is enough to get you on a list as the top bad guy.

APHS10, co-authored by a leading climate scientist (Steve Schneider) and appearing in the premier journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) may very well mark a new low point in the pathological politicization of climate science. But hey, at least now we have a list. A black list.

The More Things Change

Hans von Storch files a report from an IPCC meeting on seal level rise in Malaysia, indicating that not much really has changed at the intersection of climate science and climate politics (emphasis added):
Among the interesting details were introductory talks by political officials – who welcomed the presence of the conference in the capital of Malaysia, and demonstrated the importance of the topic by pointing to the evidence of climate change, which would become obvious by all kind of extreme weather, mostly related to typhoons and flooding. It seems that also in this part of the world the view has firmly be established among politicians that all extreme weather is due to anthropogenic climate change – which would imply that "stopping" Global Warming would go along with the end of weather extremes.

This was said in public in front of, say 100 climate scientists and science administrators (incl. Dr. Pachauri) , and – of course, nobody said anything. They did not take this talking seriously – assuming that the horizon for forgetting such talk would be really short. But then, one of the co-chairs of Working Group 1, which is organizing the conference, pointed bravely and explicitly to the extra challenge that the provision of valid scientific knowledge to the public and stakeholders would have to talk place in a politically charged environment.

Seemingly, this politically charged environment had just been demonstrated minutes earlier – illustrating nicely the presence of two competing knowledge claims, the media-cultural one (according to which extreme weather is due to Global Warming) and the scientific body of knowledge.
How scientists, politicians and the media treat the issue of disasters and climate change provides an interesting bellwether, simply because the science of the issue is so straightforward and misrepresentations easy to identify. All indications are that the IPCC has not learned much and is returning to business as usual.


Simon Kuper comments today on the apparent fading dominance of Western Europe in the World Cup:

It might sound hasty to proclaim the fall of Europe 10 days into the World Cup. It might even sound like the pundits who wrote off Barack Obama 10 days into his presidency. It might be that England will meet Germany in the World Cup final. So let me get in my argument quickly, before the facts jump up and bite it in the ankle in the manner of Gabriel Heinze, the Argentine left back.

Up till now, the big five European countries - Germany, England, Italy, France and Spain - have completed nine games in total. They have won one: Germany's dismantling of Australia. Other than that match, the Big Five have scored three times in eight games. They have also lost three times: Spain to Switzerland, Germany to Serbia, and France to Mexico.

These tallies are more dramatic than they sound. In the last World Cup, the only time a western European team lost to a team from another region was Switzerland's defeat by Ukraine on penalties. True, that World Cup was played in Europe, but in South Africa the climate and time zone are European.

In other words, don't blame England. Blame the region they represent. western Europe has just 5 per cent of the world's population, yet from 1966 to 2006 it won a majority of World Cups.

But as this column has argued ad nauseam, the rest of the world is catching up. Bob Bradley, the American coach, is always sniffing around Barcelona and Milan. Switzerland, never previously much interested in football, in the 1990s aped the French system of performance centres for kids. Now they can bore Spain into submission. Algeria's players have learnt dull western European tactics playing at middling western European clubs.

Expecting England to whip Algeria or the US is like expecting the return of the British empire. Yet fans expect it nonetheless. Football supporters should revise their expectations. Here's how to look at it: plucky England held the mighty US and nearly beat Algeria. Moreover, it could be worse: look at France.

In related news, Nate Silver's magical prediction formula suggests that the odds are against each of England, Germany, France and Spain to advance, as below:

18 June 2010

China's Energy Supply Conundrum

The FT BeyondBRICs blog reports that China is going to be instituting mandatory restrictions on energy use among its most intensive industries:

China is about to get tougher on energy-intensive industries, according to Xie Zhenhua, a top official responsible for the country’s climate-change policies. Xie, vice-chairman of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, sounded a note of alarm about China’s decrease in energy efficiency this year and outlined stricter policies to curb energy consumption in an interview with the People’s Daily earlier this week.

Xie said the government may cap electricity supplies in some areas, and that any subsidies provided to energy-intensive industries must end immediately. The Chinese government has set an ambitious goal of reducing China’s energy intensity-a measure of the energy consumption vis a vis GDP-by 20 per cent between 2005 and 2010.
Some are suggesting that the actions of the Chinese government reflect a seriousness about climate policies:
''It's very encouraging overall for the global climate change issues,'' said Wu Changhua, head of greater China operations at the Climate Group. Ms Wu said ''these more aggressive comments and very serious actions'' reflected leadership resolve to hit energy targets and prepare the ground to exceed China's pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
However, if you think that these polices have much to do with China's efforts to meet targets related to climate change policy, best to think again:
An official with China's economic planning agency said on Thursday that the nation's power supply would meet its general demand, though regional black-outs are likely to occur during peak hours.

Liu Tienan, deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the electricity supply in northeast and northwest China would be adequate, while electric supplies in the more developed east, south and north China would be rather tight.

The nation's power supply is complicated this summer as new problems arising from the economic recovery could have an impact upon power demands, Liu said during an industrial video conference.

China still faces grim conditions due to planned reductions in factory emissions, while the supply of coal used to generate electricity, along with unpredictable weather conditions, pose uncertainties to the power supply, Liu added.

He asked local authorities to ensure electricity remains available for people's homes, while placing a cap on the power used by power-guzzling industries.

Hospitals, schools and service industries, as well as those with low energy consumption, currently enjoy priority use of electricity.

Further, electricity should be guaranteed for the Shanghai World Expo and within the Yushu region in northwest China which was hard hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in April.
China needs all the energy that it can get and more. The government policies have far more to do with prioritized rationing of energy supply than any serious effort to accelerate decarbonization of the Chinese economy.

Deepwater Oil Exploration Realities

The FT reminds us that there is a lot of ocean out there beyond the Gulf of Mexico:

The Gulf of Mexico is still under a drilling moratorium after the BP oil spill but plans to step up deep-water exploration on the other side of the world, in the South China Sea, remain largely unchanged.

CNOOC, the Chinese state-controlled company with exclusive rights to develop China’s offshore resources, ordered safety checks on all its rigs after the BP disaster. But long-term plans still aim to step up deep-water exploration.

“Offshore and especially deep-water oil and gas discoveries have great significance for replenishing China’s and the world’s oil resources,” said Zhou ­Shouwei, CNOOC vice-president, in comments posted on the company’s website on June 10.

“We can’t cancel or stop deep-water oil and gas extraction because of the accident in the Gulf of ­Mexico.” . . .

Spot the Foul

I don't think we'll be seeing this referee again in the World Cup.

17 June 2010

KGNU/BBC Panel Discussion on Climate Change in Boulder

KGNU Independent Community Radio and the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) will present a panel discussion on climate change on June 24 at Unity of Boulder. Jon Stewart, host of BBC’s Science in Action, which airs as part of KGNU’s Science Program, will moderate a panel of researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) who will talk about how the world has dealt with climate change in the wake of last year’s Copenhagen conference.

The panel will feature prominent climate change experts Peter Backlund, Caspar Ammann and Lawrence Buka from NCAR and Roger Pielke Jr. from the University of Colorado. Journalist Leslie Dodson from KGNU’s program How On Earth will join them to discuss the science behind climate change and the importance of conveying its urgency to governments and the public at large. The panel will also take questions from the audience.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. at Unity of Boulder, located at 2455 Folsom St. Admission is free. Call KGNU’s Denver studio at 303-825- 5468 for more information.

Note: If it is recorded and online I'll follow up with a second post.

IPCC Disinformation

The slide above comes from the presentation of Hans von Storch to the InterAcademy Review of the IPCC, presented earlier this week in Montreal. The slide references the misrepresentation of the issue of disasters and climate change by the IPCC. von Storch is very clear in his views:
IPCC authors have decided to violate the mission of the IPCC, by presenting disinformation.
Not only did the IPCC misrepresent the science of disasters and climate change, but went so far as to issue a highly misleading press release to try to spin the issue and put an unprepared IPCC WG2 chair on the BBC to try to defend the undefensible. I was promised a response from the IPCC to my concerns, a response that has never been provided.

A former head of the IPCC, Robert Watson, says the following in the context of the 2035 glacier issue, but could be equally applied to the disaster issue:
To me the fundamental problem was that when the error was found it was handled in a totally and utterly atrocious manner.
The IAC Review of the IPCC is fully aware of this issue, and it will be interesting to see what their report says on the topic. Meantime, the IPCC is continuing its preparations for its next assessment in business-as-usual fashion.

16 June 2010

World Cup Commentary: Simon Kuper on Spain

In the FT yesterday, Simon Kuper has a prescient piece on Spain's chances at the World Cup:
Spain’s first problem is that everyone knows exactly how they play. They methodically weave their way down the pitch with short passes, and score. They are so confident in their style that they shun the orthodoxy of modern football, which says that the best way to score is on a fast break. . .

Spain’s biggest problem is the World Cup’s format. Pre-tournament, pundits tend to presume that the best team will win. France and Argentina, for instance, have been written off on the grounds that they aren’t the best team. Yet the pundits are confusing World Cups with leagues. In a league the best team does win, because a league lasts nine months. Over such a long period, random factors like one referee’s error or a ball on the post are rarely decisive. In a league, quality tells.

In contrast, a World Cup is decided in four games. Almost every big team will reach the second round. After that, whoever wins four times is the champion.

Most of the knockout games will be decided by one goal or penalties. A referee’s error or a random element, a ball hitting the post rather than the back of the net, therefore can – and often does – decide the World Cup.

Luck of the draw matters too: if either Spain or Brazil somehow fail to win their group, they could meet in the second round – thereby opening the way to a second-rank side such as France or Argentina.

If this tournament were simply about deciding who is the best side, the Spaniards could swing round Fifa’s offices and pick up the trophy now. Instead, to use an analogy chosen entirely at random, Spain will probably default.

What are your best sources, including blogs, for World Cup commentary? Please share in the comments and I'll compile in a future post.

Congrats to Switzerland!

Climate Change Catnip

At the Washington Post's Capitol Weather Gang, Andrew Freedman grapples with how to discuss climate change in the context of flash floods over the past few weeks:
. . . the question of whether to raise climate change in discussions of flash floods (and other extreme events) constitutes more than a quibble over semantics. The media has a responsibility to report what the science says, even in the context of a breaking news story, such as a flood event or heat wave. The science has become clearer, although by no means certain, that local precipitation extremes may be connected to climate change. Yet, to date, the mainstream media has shied away from raising climate change in extreme event coverage. This is unfortunate, because it constitutes a missed opportunity to make climate change relevant to people in the here and now, rather than an abstract concept in the distant future.
In contrast, Andy Revkin who blogs at the New York Times suggests caution in making connections between a few events and larger climatic patterns.

As the graph above shows (from data of the NWS), there is no evidence for an increase in flood disasters. In fact, there has been a marked decrease. I have also shown on numerous occasions(e.g., PDF) that there is no evidence of an increase in flood disasters in terms of economic damage either, once adjusted for growing wealth at risk.

So what is the thing for journalists to say about climate change and recent flood disasters? Easy. There is presently no evidence for a signal of climate change (human-caused or otherwise) leading to an increase in flood disasters. If there is any signal, it is far too small to see and it will take many decades for such a signal to emerge.

It seems like it would be easy and straightforward to simply say what the science shows, but making climate change connections with disasters seems to be like catnip for journalists and advocates alike.