Finally, Roger Pielke admits he supports policies that will take us to 5-7°C warming or more

Roger Pielke, Jr. is usually very hard to pin down. But at least it is now plain for everyone to see that his climate policies are no different from Bjorn Lomborg’s, or George Bush’s for that matter (see Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah”). Following Pielke’s “specific policies” would inevitably result in the self-destruction of humanity as we know it. So something useful has come out of our back-and-forth.

I posted yesterday that Pielke’s primary if not sole criticism of John Holdren is that he was a scientist who dared to advance “political views” and push “political outcomes” — views and outcomes which consist almost entirely of Holdren’s use of the phrase “early and deep cuts in US greenhouse-gas emissions” as the climate policy we need based on his understanding of the science.

Pielke published what he says is a “setting the record straight” piece, but he never actually disputes my criticism. The bottom line for Pielke, like Tierney and CEI — if you are a climate scientist who calls for “early and deep cuts in US GHGs” then you must be attacked for politicizing science. You must be told to shut up.

Pielke does (try to) dispute one of my claims — but in so doing reveals that in fact I was right:

As his fit winds up, Romm shows that he is either willfully misinformed or just lying to support his ad hom’s when he writes (bold in original):

Pielke absolutely refuses to detail the specific policies he would embrace to stabilize at concentrations he says are needed

Geez Joe, how’d you miss those peer-reviewed papers, op-eds, Congressional testimony, and five years of blogging on climate policy? Luckily, I just assembled some of my various writings on mitigation policy here.

Okay — I challenge anyone to go here and find the specific policies Pielke would embrace to stabilize at concentrations he says are needed. Now remember, Pielke himself wrote on my blog:

The IPCC SPM WG III writes, “The range of stabilization levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialised in coming decades.” Assessed stabilization ranges include 450 ppm CO2eq (or about 400 CO2).

2. We define “acceptable levels” in our Nature paper as 500 ppm (the level focused on by IPCC WG III) and 450 ppm (the level focused on by the EU and implicitly in the FCCC).

Now I think you’ll agree that stabilizing at 450 to 500 ppm requires a whole lot of very specific policies and a high price for carbon starting pretty damn soon.

Indeed, as I just blogged, the Hadley Center makes the rather obvious argument that if you want stabilization at those levels, you would need “early and rapid decline” in emissions and “Action starts in 2010” (see Hadley Center study warns of “catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path). Even the staid International Energy Agency makes the same painfully obvious point, that global emissions must peak by 2020 and that the price for CO2 in 2030 might hit $180 a ton (see “Must-read IEA report explains what must be done to avoid 6°C warming“).

Now you’d think given how often Pielke himself has attacked me for underestimating (!) how many wedges are needed to stabilize at 450 ppm — I say 12 to 14 in this post — you’d think Pielke’s “specific policies” would be far more aggressive than mine. You would be wrong.

Pielke does claim at his famous “writings on mitigation policy here” post that “If we’ve underestimated the size of the challenge we have also underestimated the costs, perhaps by a lot from a baseline that is already very large.” In fact the IEA (and I) have not underestimated the size or the cost, but if Pielke is right and we’re wrong, then does Pielke propose a higher price for CO2 than the IEA or I do?

No. While rejecting a cap-and-trade system entirely, he writes:

Instead of cap and trade, Chris Green and I have suggested that we should instead focus on a low price on carbon, a tax, to raise revenue to invest in technology. Dan Sarewitz and I have argued that innovation must be at the core of mitigation policy (PDF).

If you click on the first link, you will have to click yet again to find his actual specific recommendations:

We believe that soon-to-be-president Obama’s proposal to spend $150 billion over the next 10 years on developing carbon-free energy technologies and infrastructure is the right first step….

We do not pretend that any fiscal solution will be politically easy, but we would note that a $5 charge on each ton of carbon dioxide produced in the use of fossil fuel energy would raise $30 billion a year. This is more than enough to finance the Obama plan twice over.

How much is $5 per ton from the perspective of U.S. consumers? Not that much. It would add less than 5 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas and would increase the average cost of electricity in the United States by a fraction of a cent per kilowatt hour.

Critics of our proposal will no doubt be quick to dismiss it because the impact of $5 per ton on consumer behavior is exceedingly small, and they wish to see large effects right away….

The problem with the climate debate has been that too much focus has been on how to solve the problem, and not on how to start solving the problem. We believe that the Obama energy proposal is the right place to start, and a low price on carbon will ensure that it can be financed with minimal impact on the economy.

[Pause for laughter to die down.]

[I still hear a few chuckles.]

Yes, Roger Pielke, Jr.’s “specific policies” to stabilize at 450 to 500 ppm are a $5 per ton of CO2 charge used to fund clean tech development and deployment.

You might as well bring a squirt gun to a firestorm.

Anyway, if you think that qualifies as “specific policies” that would stabilize us as 450 to 500 ppm, then that would make me a liar. Since they don’t, well….

Technology development and deployment is terrific. We should spend a lot more on it as I have been arguing for decades. But it definitely won’t shut down existing coal plants and probably won’t even stop hundreds of gigawatts of new coal plants from being built

If this is your policy then you are not a Delayer-equivalent, you are a flat out “I want 10°F warming” delayer or delayer10F. Frankly, you are also someone who is in such denial about the urgent need for immediate GHG reductions that you are equivalent of a global warming denier.

So yes, Pielke would seem to be a Denier-eq, since he has the same precise policy recommendations — much more R&D&D&D — than Denier-eq Lomborg has, the same precise policy recommendations that Denier Bush and Chency have.

Here’s a quiz. Who said:

We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation.

Not Pielke, of course. It’s GOP strategist Frank Luntz, in his infamous memo advising conservatives on how they can sound like they care about the climate without actually doing anything.

Another quiz. Who said:

Indeed, the whole idea of mandated national emissions reductions reflects an insensitivity to the highly decentralized, historically contingent, uneven manner in which new technologies emerge and diffuse.

That is Pielke! In one of the papers he says lays out his “specific policies” for stabilizing at 450 to 500 ppm.

One last quiz. Who said:

It’s important not to get distracted by chasing short-term reductions in greenhouse emissions. The real payoff is in long-term technological breakthroughs.

No, it’s not Roger Pielke, Jr., though it sounds just like him.

It is President Bush’s Science advisor, John H. Marburger, III summing up the “technology, technology, blah, blah” strategy of Luntz/Bush in 2006. Don’t get distracted by actions to save the climate from destruction. The real payoff is in long, long, long-term investment.

Yes, it is Marburger that is apparently the science adviser who shares Pielke’s views.

Anyway, it is finally clear in black and white that Pielke is just a denier-eq in sheep’s clothing and that his “specific policies” to stabilize at 450 ppm to 500 ppm are indistinguishable from the policies that will lead to 1000 ppm or more and 5-7°C.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to ignore him more in the future — which I’m sure will make many of you happy. But I do something useful has come out of our back-and-forth.


12 Responses to Finally, Roger Pielke admits he supports policies that will take us to 5-7°C warming or more

  1. Johnny Rook says:

    Excellent post, Joe. Pielke deserves nothing more than to be ignored. From the quotes you provide, it is clear that he suffers from the same malady that affects so many denialist/delayers: an inability to face facts and undertake solutions that conflict with their ideology of minimalist government and the unique ability of the “free market” to solve problems. (You know, like the way things worked so perfectly in the financial markets after deregulation.)

    Blogging for the future at Climaticide Chronicles

  2. ken levenson says:

    I sincerely hope that Pielke will be practically irrelevant as of January 20th – and may he be thereafter ignored in these debates…
    (Although I’ll readily admit a guilty pleasure in the jousting.)

  3. Joe, you are one strange fellow. You’ve been accurately pegged here:

    I do look forward to when you will ignore me, that would at least stop the smears. but you can’t seem to resist can you?

    [JR: Gosh, who would have guessed? You cite a post written by a group you work with that also pushes long-term technology over real action as the “solution.”

    But since you’ve not actually pointed out a single smear, let alone many, and since you apparently can’t rebut my direct citations of your work — which be hard to do without rebutting yourself — perhaps we can both move on.]

  4. Come on Joe, go ahead and let my response through.

    [JR: Actually not certain why your post got caught in a spam filter. This one and your earlier one didn’t.]

  5. Eli Rabett says:

    You just figured this out? A lot of it, of course, is that Roger used to own the policy debate, and he still has a large chunk of it in the main stream media.

  6. Sylvain says:


    You realize that people like you are those that delay action from being taken.

    You want the grand slam instead of scoring one point at a time. In doing so, like most professional baseball players who try for the fence you get struck out by a smarter pitcher. In your case, I guess it is not hard to outsmart you.

    [JR: Yeah, people who listen to me are the reason we haven’t taken action. I’m afraid you’ve mistaken Earth for the Bizarro World. I’d settle for even trying to get someone on base. Pielke wants to concede the game before it even begins to study the rules for a couple more decades. Guess he and you are really playing for the other side.]

  7. Teryn Norris says:

    Joe has mischaracterized the positions of the Breakthrough Institute. For those readers who would like to understand where we stand, Jesse Jenkins wrote a very clarifying piece here:

    [JR: I am deleting the rest of this comment because my post was decidedly not any aimed at B.I. It was a direct response to Pielke. He appears to have some different positions from B.I. People can go to your link if they want to, but Pielke has provided links to his own “specific policies” and that is what is relevant for the discussion here.]

  8. Aaron d says:

    Great post Joe. Americans are highly resistant to change. Sometimes I believe only a hard slap across the face will get anything done to reduce GHG emissions in this country. A 5c a gallon tax, isn’t exactly the hard slap I feel is needed to change the behavior in this country (like you said, what if anything does this do to make the largest GHG polluters change their ways. eg coal power plants).
    Thankfully we’ll have the right people in office next month to give it our best shot.

  9. Aaron d says:

    Sorry, misread the $5 a ton CO2 tax. Still, is this really going encourage companies to change their ways, or just lower their profit margins slightly?

  10. Steve Bloom says:

    Recalling Oscar Wilde’s remark that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, please do stick to that resolution, Joe.

  11. “Result in the self-destruction of humanity as we know it.” Right on jromm, except for the “as we know it” part. Which temperature scale were you using? The paleontology department has determined that 6 degrees centigrade is the EXTINCTION point, as I thought I had posted here before:

    Global Warming can lead to Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming out of
    the oceans. Hydrogen Sulfide gas will Kill all people. Homo
    Sap will go EXTINCT unless drastic action is taken NOW.

    October 2006 Scientific American

    Impact from the Deep
    Strangling heat and gases emanating from the earth and sea, not asteroids, most likely caused several ancient mass extinctions. Could the same killer-greenhouse conditions build once again?
    By Peter D. Ward
    downloaded from:

    ………………..Most of the article omitted………………….
    But with atmospheric carbon climbing at an annual rate of 2 ppm and expected to accelerate to 3 ppm, levels could approach 900 ppm by the end of the next century, and conditions that bring about the beginnings of ocean anoxia may be in place. How soon after that could there be a new greenhouse extinction? That is something our society should never find out.”

    Press Release
    Pennsylvania State University
    Monday, Nov. 3, 2003
    downloaded from:

    “In the end-Permian, as the levels of atmospheric oxygen fell and the levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide rose, the upper levels of the oceans could have become rich in hydrogen sulfide catastrophically. This would kill most of the oceanic plants and animals. The hydrogen sulfide dispersing in the atmosphere would kill most terrestrial life.” is a NASA web zine. See:

    These articles agree with the first 2. They all say 6 degrees C or 1000 parts per million CO2 is the extinction point.

    The global warming is already 1.3 degree Farenheit. 11 degrees Farenheit is about 6 degrees Celsius. The book “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas agrees. If the global warming is 6 degrees centigrade, we humans go extinct. See:

    “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., 2007. Paleontologist discusses mass extinctions of the past and the one we are doing to ourselves.

    We have to convert to plug-in hybrid cars so that electricity made by low-CO2 methods powers most of our driving. Nuclear power produces the least CO2 of ANY source of electricity.
    32 countries have nuclear power plants. Only 9 have the bomb. The top 4 producers of CO2 all have nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants and nuclear bombs. They are the USA, China, India and Russia. Reducing CO2 production by 90% by 2050 requires drastic action in the USA, China, India and Russia. Coal, oil shale and tar sands must be left untouched in the ground.

    I have no connection to the nuclear power industry.

  12. “The destruction of humanity as we know it” would indeed be the result if you meant 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 2.8 to 3.9 degrees centigrade. The paleontologists have told us that only 1 [or 1 more] degree centigrade of global warming is enough to convert Nebraska, etc. into a desert of blowing sand. The Midwest has been a desert before and can easily be a desert again. The desert extended far into Canada. As has happened to a few dozen previous civilizations, the result is an end to our civilization. Since you are reading this, you will be among the casualties. The casualty rate is typically 99.99%. Modern Western civilization is not immune. The difference this time is that the fall will be global. Whether or not we prevail, the burning of coal to make electricity will stop. If we fail, it will be because civilization itself will end. If we succeed, it will be because coal fired power plants will be illegal. I strongly prefer the latter.

    Reference books: “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas, “Collapse” by Jared Diamond and “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan.