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The Strange Case of Dr. Pielke and Mr. Hidebound on delaying climate action

By Joe Romm on May 21, 2008 at 12:43 pm

"The Strange Case of Dr. Pielke and Mr. Hidebound on delaying climate action"

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jekyll.jpgRoger Pielke has jumped the shark.

The ultraconservative Washington Times, in yet another media piece that misunderstands the recent Nature article on warming (see here), writes:

Roger A. Pielke, environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado, and not previously a global warming skeptic, reacted to the Nature article: “Climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global-warming policy.”

Who is this “not previously a global warming skeptic”? Let me call him Mr. Pielke, since, unlike Dr. Jekyll’s, Mr. Hyde, Dr. Pielke and Mr. Pielke look exactly the same. The friendly non-skeptical heretic Dr. Pielke explicitly said on this blog that the “acceptable level” of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide is 450 to 500 ppm (see here). The friendly Dr. Pielke has also said achieving such a target would require more than 14 wedges (see here), which is a bloody lot of effort.

But Mr. Pielke says climate models have no practical use. Yet it is climate models that tell us that if we don’t stabilize near 450 ppm, the consequences for the climate and humanity will be an unmitigated catastrophe. If climate models are of no practical use, then why go to all that effort mitigating? Why not do nothing — as the Washington Times prefers — and just go to 1000 ppm?

That’s why Mr. Pielke is the go-to guy for quotes on not mitigating …


… as in the L.A. Times story which said Pielke’s “research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it” or as in his Senate testimony, “if a policy goal is to reduce the future impacts of climate on society, then energy policies are insufficient, and perhaps largely irrelevant, to achieving that goal.” Mr. Pielke seems hidebound on reaching 1000 ppm, which, of course, would be suicidal for humanity (see here).

Lots of scientists are engaged with Pielke in debate (see James Annan at “Putting Roger out of his misery” or William Connolley here). But that is pointless, because just when you think you have Mr. Pielke cornered, he drinks his magic potion and becomes Dr. Pielke, and has no memory whatsoever of anything he has said or done while he was Mr. Pielke. Dr. Pielke wants to stabilize at acceptable levels, but Mr. Pielke spends all of his time trying to convince people how that makes little or no sense because it would be too difficult and costly or because adaptation is a better strategy or even because maybe we’re not really warming after all.

[If only there were some advanced technology that kept, oh, I don't know, a digital record of what people said before, so you could actually point out their repeated transformation into someone completely different. Guess we'll have to wait for a technology breakthrough.]

In a recent post, “The Politicization of Climate Science” — the title tells you this one was written by Mr. Pielke — he strangely misinterprets a recent semi-humorous post of mine “Breaking News: The Great Ice Age of 2008 is finally over — next stop Venus!” I’d normally rebut this but

  1. Someone named Jon in the comments section of his blog does a better job than I could have — his exchange with the humorless Mr. Pielke and the witty Dr. Pielke is priceless!
  2. Having realized that debating the Pielkes is pointless, I’m going to try to stop doing so — although that won’t stop me from commenting on his/their words from time to time, since Mr. Pielke, at least, does a lot of damage to the stabilization effort that Dr. Pielke embraces.

[UPDATE: Pielke has had 3 days now to explain on his blog how his quote was taken out of context or whatever explanation he can come up with for how a denier newspaper managed to get him on the record with a statement that gives great comfort and support to the denier/delayer crowd -- but he has chosen not to, which I think that speaks for itself. Pielke is endeavoring to post a reply to this here, and I'm sure once he figures out how to do that (and relevantly so), it will appear. I made a serious mistake earlier when I blindly accepted his (Dr. Pielke's) claim that he supported stabilizing at around 450-500 ppm without getting an answer to the central question, If you were running national and global climate policy, what level of global CO2 concentrations would be your goal and how would you achieve it? I can find no discussion by him anywhere as to how he would achieve anywhere near 500 ppm, although he calls my plan "fantastically delusional." In fact, he says we need more wedges. And so we have Dr. Pielke the stabilizer and Mr. Pielke -- who is much more important because he's always quoted in the media and he does most of the blogging -- who is to do everything he can to undercut the rationale for action.

I assert that until Mr. Pielke explains what policies he would adopt to get us to anywhere near 450 or 500 ppm, that in fact he is really on the side of the do-no-serious mitigation, 1000-ppm-is-fine crowd. And I'll save him some time -- if the answer is "breakthrough technologies," then you've joined the delayer-1000 crowd.]

I end with the near-final words of Dr. Jekyll:

I find it in my heart to pity him.

It is useless, and the time awfully fails me, to prolong this description; no one has ever suffered such torments, let that suffice; and yet even to these, habit brought–no, not alleviation–but a certain callousness of soul, a certain acquiescence of despair; and my punishment might have gone on for years, but for the last calamity which has now fallen, and which has finally severed me from my own face and nature. My provision of the salt, which had never been renewed since the date of the first experiment, began to run low. I sent out for a fresh supply, and mixed the draught; the ebullition followed, and the first change of colour, not the second; I drank it and it was without efficiency. You will learn from Poole how I have had London ransacked; it was in vain; and I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught.

About a week has passed, and I am now finishing this statement under the influence of the last of the old powders. This, then, is the last time, short of a miracle, that Henry Jekyll can think his own thoughts or see his own face (now how sadly altered!) in the glass. Nor must I delay too long to bring my writing to an end; for if my narrative has hitherto escaped destruction, it has been by a combination of great prudence and great good luck. Should the throes of change take me in the act of writing it, Hyde will tear it in pieces; but if some time shall have elapsed after I have laid it by, his wonderful selfishness and Circumscription to the moment will probably save it once again from the action of his ape-like spite. And indeed the doom that is closing on us both, has already changed and crushed him.

Half an hour from now, when I shall again and for ever re-indue that hated personality, I know how I shall sit shuddering and weeping in my chair, or continue, with the most strained and fear-struck ecstasy of listening, to pace up and down this room (my last earthly refuge) and give ear to every sound of menace…..

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42 Responses to The Strange Case of Dr. Pielke and Mr. Hidebound on delaying climate action

  1. tidal says:

    And from the original article, this just in from Richard Rahn/Cato: Global warming hysteria directly responsible for dramatic increase in price of oil!

    rotflmao!

  2. John McCormick says:

    So, enviros carrying on about global warming; hysterical to the point of increasing world oil prices.

    Well, I say: Dey do Rahn, Rahn.

    Now, Cato has another trohpy catch in its think tank.

    John McCormick

  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Joe- You’ve now posted two comments since I first replied, but not mine. Please post my response. In fairness, shouldn’t I have a chance to reply?

  4. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Without url tags this time

    Joe are you not letting my response through? This is my second try after seeing the first deleted (by accident?).

    Wow Joe, this is a cheap smear even by your standards.

    You could have emailed me to ask about the quote or any of the other
    allegations that you make about me in this post. But you did not.

    My views have remained consistent for many years, and here is how I
    summarized them before Congress in 2006:

    sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2466-2006.09.pdf

    It is possible to believe that we need to act on climate change
    (mitigation and adaptation), while at the same time having little
    faith in the ability of climate models to make skillful predictions on
    the time scales that that action needs to take place. It is also
    possible to support mitigation while realizing that adaptation is also
    of critical importance.

    And I’m not the only person who thinks a little air needs to be let of
    of the climate prediction bubble, compare a leading climate modeler,
    Tim Palmer of the UK-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather
    Forecasts who says “Politicians seem to think that the science is a
    done deal, I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts,
    especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain.”

    May 1 environment.newscientist.com

    Will you be slandering Tim Palmer here as well? Other scientists have
    expressed similar concerns.

    Your intolerance of different points of view is simply stunning. Your
    twisting of words and statement to smear speaks loudly for itself.

  5. Joe says:

    Roger — I was trying to do you a favor by not publishing an utterly irrelevant reply. I’ll put the active links back so everyone can see how irrelevant they are.

    1) Where is the smear? I have merely printed your own words.

    2) Why should I e-mail you about a quote whose meaning is obvious, when you have your own blog and have had three days to decry the quote or the article? If I had been quoted like that in the Washington Times of all places, I would have blogged on it immediately.

    3) Your quote can, has, and no doubt will be used by those who want to attack every aspect of the IPCC models and take no serious action. You did not qualify your remark and still don’t even now. I can only assume is what you mean.

    4) You have not replied in substance to any of my comments in this piece.

    5) I find nothing whatsoever in your 2006 testimony that contradicts anything I said here. If anyone can find something that does, let me know.

    6) Again, merely saying we have to mitigate to 500 ppm is meaningless if you never explain what you would do but instead spend all your time attacking those who offer mitigation strategies that would in fact work if adopted.

    7) Dr. Pielke may say “a little air needs to be let of of the climate prediction bubble” — but Mr. Pielke has trashed all IPCC models for any purpose they might be used.

    8) Sorry, the Tim Palmer quote could not be more irrelevant. You said, “Climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global-warming policy.” How is that at all similar to “Politicians seem to think that the science is a done deal, I don’t want to undermine the IPCC, but the forecasts, especially for regional climate change, are immensely uncertain”? I think his comment is mostly a yawn, except for the misleading first clause, which suggests he is in his own way a Pielke clone — using a relatively unimportant aspect of the incompleteness of the science to feed into the denier meme that the important parts of the science are not settled.

    9) Much work is being done on a regional climate change. In this country, thanks to the likes of people who quote you all the time, the Bush administration has for seven years been able to block any effort to analyze U.S. impacts. But again that you seem to be leaving the impression that climate models have not told us more than enough about the urgent need to act — well, Mr. Pielke has. I can’t really figure out what Dr. Pielke thinks.

    10) Again, please identify where you have been slandered. And I don’t mean where Dr. Pielke has been slandered — I mean where Mr. Pielke has been slandered.

    11) I can tolerate many different points of view in different people — but I do have enormous trouble tolerating different points of view in the same person. No words have been twisted.

    I repeat my assertion: Until Mr. Pielke explains what policies he would adopt to get us to anywhere near 450 or 500 ppm, that in fact he is really on the side of the do-no-serious mitigation, 1000-ppm-is-fine crowd.

  6. Joe,

    Your post is a nasty piece of work.

    Great job maintaining a civil tone to facilitate dialogue.

    Michael

    [You guys walked away from my efforts to make this a civil debate a month ago, see "Breakthrough Institute decides to go back to being VERY uncivil …" And you've kept distorting what I said -- Romm Calls for Breakthroughs - By Another Name To call for investments in deployment while railing against "the breakthrough crowd" creates a false dichotomy.

    You don't want dialogue. You want confrontation with would-be allies rather than obvious enemies. You always have.]

  7. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Joe-

    First reply to your comments. On the quote that you reproduce.

    I don’t read the Washington Times. I commented on and corrected the op-ed on our blog when I saw it linked at Grist. I also emailed the author at the same time. But coincidentally, before I even saw that op-ed I criticized Pat Michaels at our blog for making the exact same leap of illogic – that short-term cooling removes the need for a long-term response.

    But, since you haven’t asked, where in fact did that quote of mine come from in the Washington Times? Was it accurate? Don’t you think it important to know before going of on someone?

    It came from a blog post of mine, not an interview. Here is the quote used by the Washington Times:

    “Climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global-warming policy.”

    Here is the context it was found in (which you did not provide for your readers):

    “Now a paper in Nature today suggests that cooling in the world’s oceans, according to Richard Woods who comments on the paper in the same issue, “temporarily offsets the longer-term warming trend from increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere”, and this would not be inconsistent with predictions of longer-term global warming.

    I am sure that this is an excellent paper by world class scientists. But when I look at the broader significance of the paper what I see is that there is in fact nothing that can be observed in the climate system that would be inconsistent with climate model predictions. If global cooling over the next few decades is consistent with model predictions, then so too is pretty much anything and everything under the sun.

    This means that from a practical standpoint climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global climate policy. I am sure that some model somewhere has foretold how the next 20 years will evolve (and please ask me in 20 years which one!). And if none get it right, it won’t mean that any were actually wrong. If there is no future over the next few decades that models rule out, then anything is possible. And of course, no one needed a model to know that.

    Don’t get me wrong, models are great tools for probing our understanding and exploring various assumptions about how nature works. But scientists think they know with certainty that carbon dioxide leads to bad outcomes for the planet, so future modeling will only refine that fact. I am focused on the predictive value of the models, which appears to be nil. So models have plenty of scientific value left in them, but tools to use in planning or policy? Forget about it.

    Now I stand by these statements and think they are correct, which is also why I shared with you the Tim Palmer quote. It is quite a different context than implied by you or the guy in the Washington Times. I have written to him to ask for a correction and I am writing to you to ask the same thing. You may disagree and think that models have short term skill, and if so, please make that case on the merits of the subject.

    I have focused on predictions in decision making for many years and even wrote a book on the subject, and the role of predictions in decision making is one I have written on often. I believe that action on climate policy will take place long before the skill of the predictions is known. You may disagree. Fair enough. But please respond to the argument not the person.

    Bottom line — It would have been a simple professional courtesy to email me to ask me about the quote before starting your tirade, in order to understand where it came from and its context.

    More replies will follow in a subsequent post.

  8. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Joe-

    Second reply on the policies that I think make sense.

    Do note that my email is public – pielke@colorado.edu — feel free to use it whenever you have a question on what I think, I can guarantee it will be a better approach than whatever it is you are now doing to gather information.

    I recently wrote up a post on the elements of any successful climate policy, which you can find here:

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/001418elements_of_any_succ.html

    If you have specific questions about that post, or my various congressional testimonies, or my various articles on climate research and policy, please feel free to ask.

    Do I have all of the answers? Good lord no. But have I spent 15 years working on various aspects of this issue seeking actions? Yes. Have I consistently called for action? Yes. Do I expect everyone to agree with everything I say? No.

    But when you say things like:

    do everything he can to undercut the rationale for action . . .he is really on the side of the do-no-serious mitigation, 1000-ppm-is-fine crowd . . .

    Those are slander Joe, because they are lies and you know better. If calling names and demagoguing people with whom you disagree with is how you want to do things then it is your right, but I can’t imagine how you think that will advance your substantive arguments or somehow diminish mine.

  9. Joe says:

    Roger: I see the Times author changed a word, which is why when I googled your quote, there was no link to your site. That said, I’m afraid that your quote isn’t really taken out of context and I think it needs to be retracted.

    You may think you meant one thing when you wrote it, but in fact you have wildly overreached in the quote, and, as it stands, can and obviously will be used by those seeking to discredit the entire IPCC effort. Again, I simply don’t see the connection between your sweeping quote and Palmer’s narrow quote.

    Stabilizing at 500 or less requires immediate action to implement 14 wedges. Who cares if the IPCC can’t say for sure whether 20 years from now will be 0.2°C warmer or 0.3°C warmer or 0.4°C warmer?

    Third, you should retract the post headline, “Global Cooling Consistent With Global Warming.” That isn’t what the Nature article said as I have explained at great length (here). The Nature article actually predicts rapid warming starting in a few years.

    Finally, your post on the elements of a successful climate policy is devoid of specifics. Indeed, you say “targets and timetables should focus on the development and deployment of carbon-free energy systems” — yet you called the very specific targets and timetables for my 14 wedges “fantastically delusional” … AND then argued we actually need even more wedges!! Who’s zooming who?

    THEN you say, “Such a focus will be far more meaningful than the easily gamed, mostly symbolic, and reality-detached focus on concentration targets or, even worse, degrees Celsius.”

    So now it seems to me like you really dismiss the technology approach and the concentration-based approach, and say you doubt those strategies “can hit any target concentration within a few hundred ppm anyway.”

    Thus, for you, air capture is the key answer. Sometimes a deus ex machina saves the day, but mainly in the movies. I, however, am quite sure the vast majority of my wedges are cheaper — and they actually exist now.

    Again, if all that you have written is really what you believe, that’s fine, but I stand by my statements.

    You keep getting quoted by articles and bloggers who are arguing that we don’t need to act now. Is it really all just a conspiracy by the media and others to willfully misinterpret what you write?

  10. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Joe-

    Wow, do you really want to debate (with me) what I actually meant when I wrote something? You must have psychic abilities;-)

    At least you admit that you went off on this rant before checking the context of what I wrote or contacting me. Attack first, understand later. That behavior speaks pretty loudly for itself.

    You ask: “Who cares if the IPCC can’t say whether 20 years from now will be 0.2°C warmer or 0.3°C warmer?” This is my point! However, instead of 0.2 to 0.3, the claims are that the IPCC models also produce 20-year cooling trends (so yes two decades of cooling is indeed claimed to be consistent with warming, see the Real Climate guys on this point which they vigorously defend). So if in the short-term the IPCC really can’t tell us what is going to happen, it is improper to oversell what the models can say. Do you disagree? It is no discrediting of the IPCC to accurately reflect their predictive skill.

    The New Scientist article I referenced also says “They [climate scientists] fear that if the IPCCs predictions turn out to be wrong it will provoke a crisis of confidence that undermines the whole climate change debate.” Can you use your psychic abilities to discern what they REALLY meant by that? Maybe by letting some air out of this bubble before it pops, it will avoid a “crisis of confidence.” Now maybe that bubble won’t pop, in which case no problem. But maybe it will, and some people who want action are concerned. Maybe not you, fine.

    And you are correct that I have not identified the silver bullet solution on climate change, of course, no one has, that is why we discuss policies with one another, like adults.

    If you are so proud that you can’t admit that it was perhaps a bit hasty to jump on a quote to attack someone’s integrity before actually knowing its origins and context, then so be it. At least your pride allows you to do such things in public where everyone can see.

  11. Joe writes:

    You don’t want dialogue. You want confrontation with would-be allies rather than obvious enemies. You always have.

    Funny coming from a guy who just botched an attack on Roger.

    Joe, face it, you screwed up. You claimed that Roger is “the go-to guy for quotes on not mitigating” when he was neither “gone to” — Rahn pulled a quote from his blog out of context — and he has been consistently pro-mitigation for 15 years.

    Acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and move on.

  12. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    I’ve probably been quoted hundreds of times, if not more over the past decade. You have 2 examples of people who have misquoted me in making the case for inaction on energy policy, both of which I have corrected. Got any more?

    I can provide many, many misquotes of you on that whole bridge collapse theory that you speculated on. Dave Roberts at Grist still gets reamed on his Nuremberg trial quote, which he retracted.

    So what? It happens to people involved in public discourse. We correct them and move on.

    People only dwell on them if they have some other motives. What is yours?

  13. Joe says:

    Sorry boys, no botched attack. The quote was not taken out of context. Pielke is trying to retroactively narrow its interpretation.

    I didn’t pull out 2 misquotes. If you say the LAT quote is wrong, fine. But the WTimes quote looks pretty in context to me. I think you need to retract the whole sentence.

    Then there is your Senate testimony — “if a policy goal is to reduce the future impacts of climate on society, then energy policies are insufficient, and perhaps largely irrelevant, to achieving that goal.”

    That is painfully consistent with the other quotes.

    Then we have headlines like “How to Make Two Decades of Cooling Consistent with Warming” — turns out that was based misrepresenting what RealClimate wrote.

    I could go on and on. But why?

    When bloggers take my stuff out of context, like the bridge stuff, they do so to attack me, not to advance the delayer agenda.

    Interestingly, I rarely get misquoted by the mainstream media. Why? There isn’t any ambiguity about where I stand. Whereas you deal in ambiguity and vagueness.

    No mistake, no apology needed — especially not to people who never apologize for real mistakes — but I agree, let’s move on.

  14. Lamont says:

    “And I’m not the only person who thinks a little air needs to be let of
    of the climate prediction bubble,”

    Unfortunately the bubble is filled not with air, but with methane from melted arctic permafrost…

  15. Robert says:

    Statements like this one just make me laugh:

    ” if we don’t stabilize near 450 ppm, the consequences for the climate and humanity will be an unmitigated catastrophe.”

    Its like jumping off a 20 storey building, and, as you plummet past the secord floor, stating that an acceptable speed at ground level will be zero feet/second. It isn’t going to happen – get used to it.

    Joe – I’m guessing that you drive a car, fly to conferences and holidays, heat and cool your house, eat food that’s travelled 1000′s of miles, and so on, yet still feel qualified to lecture the world on reducing CO2 emissions to zero within 30 years or so. Would that be Mr Romm or Dr Romm?

  16. Hmmmm says:

    The Breakthroughsometimeeventuallyinthefuturedon’trushus crowd certainly seems to have their tail feathers ruffled. I read this piece, I read the Washington Times piece. It doesn’t sound like Pielke was taken out of context by the Times or Joe.

    It also seems a bit strange to me that Pielke would reference a Cato op-ed in the Times just days before on his blog and then is without his knowledge quoted by another Cato op-ed in the Times. That’s awfully funny timing to be a coincidence.

  17. civil behavior says:

    This sounds to me like a cat fight among grown men.

    I’m not a scientist. I don’t “study” the weather. But I’ll be damned if in my 56 years of living I haven’t noticed a change in the overall climate since when I was a kid and spent most of my living moments outside in the country air.

    I remember visiting my home state in 1992 for part of the summer and commented to my sibling how hot it seemed to be as compared to when we were kids. Of course the remark was taken lightly and at the time I thought it was kind of strange I even felt like I did.

    You know fellas, sometimes all the statistics and study and correlations and analysis can obscure the acuity one can have in relating to the grandest mother we all will ever know.

    This ain’t about you studying the temperature.

    It’s about you not really feeling the weather.

    What truly infuriates me is knowing that, once their eyes are opened, the people who most strongly denied global warming will suddenly start blaming the problem on the people who tried the hardest to prevent it. Watch how the debate shifts over the next decade, and remember who said what and when they said it. Those who refused to believe the problem, and who worked hardest to prevent action, will deny all responsibility and refuse to be held accountable.

  18. Joe says:

    Civil — your political analysis is dead on!

  19. Finnjor says:

    Very nice. Is this Pielke some kind of a scientist? There is 1+1=2, and there is CO2 – 280 = 14 C and CO2 – 450 = 17 C, CO2 – 1000 = 20 C, but this guy thinks 1+1=1.1. What do we do with maths like this?

  20. Thom says:

    RP Jr.’s latest post at Prometheus is a classic case of cherry sauce dribbling down Pielke Jr.’s fingers.

    Note how RP Jr. delves into a recent UK report to find some bit of evidence to support his “adaptation is better than mitigation”
    song and dance.

    Unfortunately for Roger, anyone reading the Report Highlights will learn that that the recommendations for global warming are mitigation, mitigation, mitigation.

    In fact, the word “adaptation” can’t even be found.

    Keep licking those cherry stained fingers, Mr. err….Dr. er….whoever you are.

  21. Thom says:

    I think the way to handle the Pielke “misquotes” is to have Roger make a post formally retracting his statements. That would clear it all up and let us know whether Roger is now trying to backpedal.

  22. kenlevenson says:

    While I might not be able to unify General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics – I’m inspired to try with Mr. and Dr. Pielke.

    “Air Capture” – it has something for everyone….

    BTW – Have you seen this bizarre post of his over at Breakthrough? Check it out:
    http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/2008/05/elements_of_any_successful_app.shtml

    When I read it earlier this month I seriously thought he must be drunk – it’s unsound logic badly written – of course starting with adaptation (but here adaptation doesn’t mean what you think it does! Ha). I can’t believe it’s still up.

    Anyway,

    “Air Capture”

    It’s kinda like ketchup on A Prairie Home Companion – the answer to all our problems….

    Air Capture
    Air Capture
    Air Capture

  23. Robert says:

    Ken – Why do you have such problems with this Breakthrough piece? I would agree with most of it, although I take issue with section 4 (Energy Modernization – is it wise to encourage more people to join the global industrial bandwagon that is the root cause of the problem?) – and I think section 5 (Air capture) is highly speculative, but the rest of it is fairly sensible.

    The central theme is that a global carbon tax (or similar scheme) is likely to be impossible to implement for political reasons, so a more practical route is to make carbon-free energy cheap enough to become the default. This certainly is not the case at present but some serious R&D effort may change that.

  24. Mark Bahner says:

    “Why not do nothing — as the Washington Times prefers — and just go to 1000 ppm?”

    I’m curious. What is your estimate for the time frame for getting to 1000 ppm.

    For example, what would be your “50/50″ estimates for CO2 concentration in 2020, 2040, 2060, 2080, and 2100?

  25. Ric Merritt says:

    The comment from “civil behavior” (May 21, 10:18 PM) is right that this is a bit of a cat fight. I could if so inclined spend some time and on-line bytes critiquing Joe’s approach to debate, but no one will care about that in 50 years.

    Joe’s central point about Dr and Mr Pielke seems solid. I don’t read Roger Jr’s contributions constantly, so perhaps my impressions are distorted. Pielke Jr clearly has some considerable standing, readership, and influence in the discussion of climate policy. If someone can convince me that Pielke, in his writings over several years, has engaged in *clear*, *constant*, *urgent*, *insistent*, and *straightforward* advocacy for avoidance of dangerous human influence on climate, I will change my opinion of Pielke. Such advocacy would certainly have to point to a reasonable CO2 target (350 or 450 ppm? — could be adjusted for new data and science) among other intermediate and allied goals. Such advocacy would certainly include a lively discussion of technical and political strategies. Such advocacy allows for lots of interest in the undeniably fascinating scientific uncertainties, as long as the policy goal is clear. Such advocacy wouldn’t have to resemble Joe’s in style or detail, but such advocacy is the minimum standard for judging anyone with Pielke’s knowledge and influence. If he doesn’t meet the standard expressed in my *starred adjectives, Mr Pielke is a delayer-1000 in my book, in the most fundamental sense, no matter what Dr Pielke may say from time to time, and no matter the outcome of squabbles over how to interpret this or that quote.

    (I hope no one will try to give the weaselly response that Pielke is more of an analyst than an advocate. Analyze all you like, but citizens have responsibilities for policy outcomes, and influential citizens more than most.)

  26. crf says:

    [quote] However, instead of 0.2 to 0.3, the claims are that the IPCC models also produce 20-year cooling trends (so yes two decades of cooling is indeed claimed to be consistent with warming, see the Real Climate guys on this point which they vigorously defend). So if in the short-term the IPCC really can’t tell us what is going to happen, it is improper to oversell what the models can say. [/quote] — Roger Pielke, Jr, above.

    I think Roger Pielke meant that the IPCC models would be consistent with 20 year cooling trends, not that they predict it. Their level of uncertainty is such that it would not invalidate them, at a certain level of confidence in the correctness of the models, if there were, say, a 20 year cooling trend. I don’t find that unusual, because 20 years is not a long time, and there many things that occur in the earth’s climate that over the short term would be dominate over the ultimate warming that increased C02 causes, whatever degree that may be.

    Real Climate are not overselling what the models say either. Isn’t the report clear about uncertainty in the models? Why is it “overselling” to say that observations may be consistent with models, if that is the naked truth? Sometimes it is very necessary to say this, since there is a sea of commentators who like to make that the case that because it was cold this spring, and may be cold next spring, global warming is over and the climate models are all proved wrong.

    Despite the fact that the models make short term prediction frought with uncertainty, the issue is that short term increases (present day increases) in C02 will have effects on the climate for hundreds of years, because of the long time C02 stays in the atmosphere.
    So things we do in the short term will have some effect on climate in the short and long term, according to our theories, and by our models, which necessarily cannot be completely validated for many years. Why should be want our models to predict with great precision in the short term just because humans understand and plan and must make decisions in the short term?

    [quote]This means that from a practical standpoint climate models are of no practical use beyond providing some intellectual authority in the promotional battle over global climate policy[/quote]

    This is only saying that the only way to validate a model is whether its ultimate predictions match results from experiments. Climate modellers have only one subject to experment with, and so far their predictions match with results, even though those same results wouldn’t be inconsistent with irreconcilable theories. Physics, at some level, has this problem too. However, there are other ways of critically evaluating climate models in the mean time. If models do mimic known physical realities, and subprocesses can we have more confidence in their predictions?

  27. kenlevenson says:

    Robert,
    This is my take on the Peilke’s Breakthrough piece:

    1. On Adaptation Pielke says: “I don’t simply mean adaptation to the marginal impacts of human-caused climate change, as presented under the Framework Convention on Climate Change. I mean adaptation to climate, and as such, a concept much more closely related to the original notion of sustainable development.”

    So this sort of tips the hat, doesn’t it….redefining everything – nonsensically, no? to what purpose? – to clarify and help? Please – it’s a game to him.

    2. On making Carbon “Pricier”, Pielke starts with: “Unrestrained emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will no doubt have effects on the global earth system, including the oceans, atmosphere, and land surface. There is a chance that these effects could be relatively benign, but there is also a chance that the effects could be quite severe. I personally lean toward the latter view, but I recognize that there is ample scientific knowledge available for people to selectively construct any position they’d like along this spectrum.”

    Again, the first question must be is he helping or just confusing with a game of three card monte? Yes, people can selectively pick to come to any conclusion, that’s the idea of selectively picking! Help! Doesn’t he kinda loose all credibility at this point? Does it really matter what he says about carbon after this nonsensical opening? He’s undermined any thread of authority he might have had.

    But I don’t want to cut him off, Pielke then says:

    “I have little expectation that climate scientists, despite their notable work alerting the world to the risks associated with unmitigated emissions, have much prospect for accurately predicting the evolution of the global climate system (and especially its regional manifestations) on the time scale on which decisions related to mitigation and adaptation need to be made. In fact, I think there is a very good chance that some enthusiastic climate modelers will overstretch their claims and hurt their own cause. Even so, I have concluded that it is only prudent to establish some cost to emitting carbon (a global carbon tax is the theoretical ideal).”

    Nice. If I were to make an analogy I find it inescapable not to compare this sort of logic and conclusion to Republicans that hate government and taxes but begrudgingly decide that, yes taxes do play some role, perhaps, and it’s socially unacceptable not to pay taxes outright, so they say yes, I agree we should pay taxes. So yes, they agree! Great support – and fundamentally compormised.

    3. Make Clean Cheaper, Pielke says at the end: “If there are to be targets and timetables associated with international negotiations, then they should focus on the development and deployment of carbon-free energy systems in the context of ever-increasing global demand for energy. Such a focus will be far more meaningful than the easily gamed, mostly symbolic, and reality-detached focus on concentration targets or, even worse, degrees Celsius.”

    Again, his underlying disdain for the science models/concentration targets/temp rise predictions are front and center. May I ask how do governments set targets in the first place without climate models?

    Pielke sounds like a doctor stuck in a pre-Pasteaur world. That’s called a quack, I believe.

    4. Energy Modernization: you have a problem with that one already so I’ll skip it.

    5. Air Capture. Air Capture. Air Capture…..that’s all I’m say’in.

    6. Problem not only CO2 – Pielke says: “Stabilizing concentrations of carbon dioxide makes good sense, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that carbon dioxide emissions are the sole meaningful human forcing of the global earth system at local, regional, or global scales. Thus, we might with some effort successfully modernize the global energy system, and in the process decarbonizes it, but then find ourselves looking squarely at other human activities that affect the climate, and thus have human and environmental impacts.”

    Yes, okay – but who is his audience here? A bunch of two year olds? What this reminds me more than anything is a trick of an player working in bad faith, where because we’re not committing to every option any one step is meaningless, and is ultimately a mechanism for confusion and inaction rather than any sort of step-by-step approach that might actually make a difference.

    The kicker that this is a screaming act of bad faith is the straw man he immediately follows with:

    “These activities include other greenhouse gases, but also aerosol emissions, land use change, irrigation, chemical deposition, albedo effects, and others. We have entered an era where humans have a large and profound impact on the world, and to think that it is just carbon dioxide (or that carbon dioxide is all that matters) is myopic and misleading.”

    Who is he talking about, Robert? Who thinks CO2 is the only problem? What is he talking about?

    It’s bizarre almost all the way through.

    And that’s it – he closes saying he’s going to follow-up expanding on these 6 gems. Can’t wait! ;)

  28. Joe says:

    CRF — You write: “so yes two decades of cooling is indeed claimed to be consistent with warming, see the Real Climate guys on this point which they vigorously defend.”

    Actually the RealClimate guys emailed me. They NEVER said that. Quite the reverse, if one actually bothers to read the relevant posts. Two decades of cooling would falsify the IPCC’s projections at a 95% confidence level.

    Given that this decade is in the process of becoming measurably warmer than the last decade, and the next decade is certainly going to be warmer than this decade, the point is entirely moot!

  29. Pielke’s positions and stance are quite peculiar but become a little less so if you go over a read his father’s website. He seems to be defending and extending the central tenets of his father’s approach to climate:

    1) that climate models are not useful on a global scale; this seems to express a personal preference or at least a means of gaining attention in the field…a form of “product differentiation”.
    2) exploding energy demand must be stoked unstintingly; energy demand trumps climate considerations, in other words
    3) Adaptation is the “natural” human way of responding to changes in climate, at least has been in our brief history on this earth. Climate modeling will not change this “natural” human way of responding to environmental change.

    From this cursory look, Pielke pere seems to have staked out this position over the years and created a niche for himself in the “market” of climate science/policy. Interestingly his website does not allow comments on it, probably so as not to get involved in any meaningful debate about these tenets.

    Pielke the younger is trying to vindicate his father’s legacy and market it to a new generation with a few more concessions to efforts to mitigate climate change thrown into the mix. The underlying theme that I get from it is: ‘you cannot ask too much of people in the way of regulating their own energy use or in their valuation of energy (must be cheap); you can only stoke their hunger for energy with better, cleaner cheaper technology. As you don’t know when this technology is going to come along, you better adapt.’

    I believe the mistake that the Pielkes are making (and perhaps you can extend this to the Breakthrough folk) is that they are naturalizing the attitudes about (exosomatic) energy that have emerged over the last 200 years.

  30. kenlevenson says:

    The echo is eerie…

    Sr.:
    “Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide. The IPCC assessments have been too conservative in recognizing the importance of these human climate forcings as they alter regional and global climate….
    Attempts to significantly influence regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose.”
    http://climatesci.org/2008/03/31/roger-a-pielke-srs-perspective-on-the-role-of-humans-in-climate-change/

    Jr.:
    “These activities include other greenhouse gases, but also aerosol emissions, land use change, irrigation, chemical deposition, albedo effects, and others. We have entered an era where humans have a large and profound impact on the world, and to think that it is just carbon dioxide (or that carbon dioxide is all that matters) is myopic and misleading.”
    http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/2008/05/elements_of_any_successful_app.shtml

  31. kim says:

    The globe is cooling, folks, for how long even I don’t know. We will be adapting to cold climate for the next 10 to 50 years, and with any luck at the end of that time we will have figured out the true sensitivity of climate to CO2 and will be able to mitigate its effect then, if hydrocarbons are not, by then, priced out of the energy market by sustainable alternatives.

    This CO2 obsession, mistaken as it is, will soon be viewed as hampering the efforts to address real environmental problems. What is the agenda of you who make such a bogeyman of CO2? Inquiring minds want to know. It’s fast becoming as obvious that the agenda is not really the health of the Earth as it has been that it is not for the poor people of the earth. Unnecessary carbon encumbering distracts from real environmental problems and grinds the poor of the undeveloped nations even more.

    Really, why do you advocate this mistake?
    ======================

  32. John Mashey says:

    IUOUI: ignore Unsupported Opinions of Unidentifiable Individuals

    I wouldn’t ignore Peter Darbee, CEO of PGE, large utility.

    I wouldn’t ignore Burton Richter, Nobel Physicist, as in G*mbling with the Future.

    I especially wouldn’t ignore Lord Ron Oxburgh, geoscientist, and then Chairman of Shellk, who I’ve known for years.

    But then, I’ve at least met all these, and they are all very smart guys with relevant expertise. They are not “tree-hugging lefty know-nothing greenies.”

    kim: can you explain why the Chairman of Shell Oil would say he was really worried about climate change? Do you think he had some nefarious motivation to say that? Do you think he lacked access to relevant information? Do you think he was too dumb to assess it? Can you explan why we should pay any attention to your (anonymous, unsupported) opinion over these guys?

    Fortunately, if you’re affllicted by Dunning-Kruger Effect, that can be cured, if you want to.

  33. Robert says:

    ken

    Thanks for the detailed reply to my comments on the Breakthrough piece, but I think you miss the point of what he is saying to some extent. He is not dismissing the seriousness of climate change, but what he IS doing is explaining the reasons why the general will to do anything about it is so weak. He says this explicitly in section 2, where he says he personally leans towards “quite severe” in the spectrum of possible outcomes. We know from surveys that acceptance of the problem as being urgent and severe amongst the general public is low (certainly in the UK and US) but he is NOT echoing that view.

    One thing we must have learned from the last 20 years is that a global political solution to the problem of rising CO2 emissions may well prove impossible. We haven’t just failed slightly – we have utterly and completely failed. CO2 emissions just keep rising ever faster year on year.

    I therefore have some sympathy for the argument that a possible solution lies in attacking fossil fuel on price. If this can really be done then coal fired power stations will suffer the same fate as the horse drawn plough when the tractor was invented, and all without a single politician having to persuade an unwilling electorate to vote for austerity.

    This is not possible at the moment because, like it or not, renewable electricity costs more to generate than fossil fuel energy. From an economic/political standpoint is cannot be deployed on a large scale until this situation reverses. Hence the need for intensive R&D.

  34. Dano says:

    The globe is cooling, folks, for how long even I don’t know

    I call bullsh!t.

    Bullsh!t on the kim bot.

    The rate of warming may have slowed down depending upon the starting point (altho a commenter here today said 2005 was the warmest year evah).

    So the kim bot says that, say, last year was cooler than 1975. Right kim bot programmer?

    Bullsh!t.

    Evidence. Show your numbers.

    Best,

    D

  35. kim says:

    No, I say the globe is cooling, now, for how long even I don’t know. The numbers are at the UAH and RSS satellite thermometers and the Argos buoys.
    ================================

  36. Dano says:

    Right, you’re spreading bullsh!t. At the surface, where people live (they don’t live in dirigibles in the lower troposphere), the globe is not “cooling” below some unnamed baseline (so as to give further opportunities to purvey disinformation), viz.:

    o 2008 is set to be cooler globally than recent years say Met Office and University of East Anglia climate scientists, but is still forecast to be one of the top-ten warmest years. Gosh, that’s cool!

    o The Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show that the top 11 warmest years all occur in the last 13 years.

    The provisional global figure, using data from January to November, currently places 2007 as the seventh warmest on record since 1850. Brrrrr!

    o I guess, as the all-knowing (except for one thing) kim bot says for how long even I don’t know. , it’s about zero years:

    Global top 10 warmest years
    Year Difference from average (°C)
    1998 +0.52
    2005 +0.48
    2003 +0.46
    2002 +0.46
    2004 +0.43
    2006 +0.42
    2007 (Jan-Nov) +0.41
    2001 +0.40
    1997 +0.36
    1995 +0.28

    o I guess, as the all-knowing (except for one thing) kim bot says for how long even I don’t know. , it’s about zero years:

    Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City have found that 2007 tied with 1998 for Earth’s second warmest year in a century.

    Huh.

    As we predicted last year, 2007 was warmer than 2006, continuing strong warming trend of the past 30 years…>

    o Global warming stopped in 1998,” has become a recent mantra of those who wish to deny the reality of human-caused global warming. The continued rapid increase of the five-year running mean temperature exposes this assertion as nonsense.reality, global temperature jumped two standard deviations above the trend line in 1998 because the “El Niño of the century” coincided with the calendar year, but there has been no lessening of the underlying warming trend.

    Will the kim bot now know for how long we’ve been “cooling”?

    Don’t count on it, as the bot has much, much more disinformation to spread.

    Best,

    D

  37. kim says:

    I think temperature peaked 2-6 years ago and has started down. The satellite thermometers are most reliable and the Argos buoys also show the very slight decline over the last four years. Now with the flipped PDO, I expect the cooling trend to continue, perhaps even accelerate a little.

    Then, of course, as some time, it’ll bottom out and start rising again. We really ought to know the true climate sensitiviy to CO2 by that time; it’ll become increasingly important then to mitigate or adapt. For now, adapt to the cooling.
    =============================

  38. kim says:

    There is, of course, the further option of mitigating the cooling. Before we throw money at this option, perhaps it would be good to know the true sensitivity of climate to CO2. It would be a shame to encourage the burning of fossil fuels, then discover ultimately that it really didn’t warm us much.

    All those lovely hydrocarbon bonds, sacrificed in the name of ignorant climate manipulation.
    ================================

  39. kim says:

    Better hydrocarbon bonds than people, I guess, because the consequences of mitigating carbon, if in fact there is low climate sensitivity, will be frozen and starved people.

    Please, look at what you are doing and advocating, when you are truly speaking from vast ignorance.
    ==================================

  40. Dano says:

    See the kim bot reply routine tapdance and handwave while it continues to find ways to spread disinformation.

    Hahaha.

    Best,

    D

  41. kim says:

    Dano’s tarentella rattles to a climax.
    ======================

  42. kenlevenson says:

    Robert,
    I agree – we all agree on 90% of it. The political will do do what is needed is doubtful at best. Carbon tax, R&D, efficiency on and on…. But I think that the 10% we disagree on is mostly a result of Pielke and others acting in bad faith. And I think Pielke’s Breakthrough piece is a great illustration of that.