59 Responses to Foreign Policy’s “Guide to Climate Skeptics” includes Roger Pielke, Jr.
Warning: Please put your head in a vise before reading further.
Andy Revkin has just written the most illogical climate post on Earth. Or maybe he’s written the most logical climate post on the Bizarro World Htrae.
Revkin asserts (here) that a key litmus test of whether the IPCC is serious about restoring its credibility and good name is if it puts Roger Pielke, Jr. (!!!) on the author team of a special panel report, “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.”
Revkin sheds his reporter’s hat in the piece to campaign for Pielke, his long-time Rolodex BFF, since he manages to omit every single reason why that would be a uber-low priority for the IPCC as it goes about making a few needed improvements and defending its good name. Revkin fails to interview or even link to all but one of the dozens of scientists and science bloggers and others who have debunked Pielke in recent years. Of course, being consistently wrong is no impediment to being an IPCC author, as John Christy can attest.
Guess who the one person Revkin links to is?
On the one hand, Pielke is identified by Revkin as “a researcher at the University of Colorado with a long publication record” who deserves to be an IPCC author — indeed, who must be an IPCC author to restore the organization’s credibility. On the other hand, here’s how I’m identified:
Here’s the test. Roger A. Pielke Jr., a researcher at the University of Colorado with a long publication record on climate and disaster trends was one of the 31 experts nominated by the United States to be an author of that study, but was not among the 13 chosen. While he has been an aggressive critic of the panel’s practices on his blog, and a frequent target of energy and climate campaigners, Dr. Pielke’s research record in this particular field stands on its own.
Yes, I’m “energy and climate campaigners.” Well, at least I’m plural!
Anyway, welcome, Andy Revkin, to the ranks of “energy and climate campaigners.” I’m glad to see you lobbying hard to make your guy an IPCC author, insisting that is somehow a litmus test of the new IPCC.
Roger Pielke, Jr. is the single most disputed and debunked person in the entire realm of people who publish regularly on disasters and climate change. He trashes the reputation of any scientist who even suggests that there is the tiniest link whatsoever between climate change and extreme weather “” even though he himself has stated such a link exists (click here, reposted below).
Consider Pielke’s knee-jerk response to Sen. Inhofe’s recent McCarthyite tactics to criminalize science, documented by climate whistleblower Rick Piltz here.
The science blog Rabett Run had pointed out:
This is indeed a Sister Soljah moment for the Pielkes…. Has Inhofe gone so far that even they will acknowledge and denounce his Climate McCarthy act, or not? Will they hide their ethics in the sand and do their Sgt. Schultz act?
But Pielke wrote his post on the subject merely calling Inhofe’s despicable move “a bit of clown-like bluffing” — and then he goes about attacking Rick Piltz. Rick Piltz! He says Piltz “focuses on the Inhofe report to … use these scientists for his own partisan purposes.” To Pielke, defending scientists from Inhofe’s ‘Climate McCarthy act’ is using them for “partisan purposes.” Seriously.
Foreign Policy’s “Guide to Climate Skeptics.
Pielke was just included on Foreign Policy‘s “Guide to Climate Skeptics.” He disputed that, of course, but then, that’s what he does. At least Foreign Policy didn’t back down, as Alternet did — see ClimateChangePsychology’s post, “AlterNet.org censors Buffalo Beast article on climate villains — deletes Roger Pielke, Jr., under pressure.” Indeed, if you want to know how Pielke and company operate, you must read the science blog Rabett Run (click here) which noted, “It sure looks like the Climate McCarthy’s won here…. The Buffalo Beast and AlterNet editors blew it” by backing down in the face of pressure from “Pielke and friends.”).
As an aside, the term “climate skeptic” is meaningless, since all real scientists are skeptics. What is most telling about the Foreign Policy piece isn’t their inclusion of Pielke, it’s the quote from Pielke about John Christy, who was also included as a climate skeptic:
“I respect him,” Pielke says. “I disagree with him, but I respect him.”
Now Christy has made far more egregious scientific blunders than most people Pielke regularly attacks, ones that just happened to all be in the direction of Christy’s skeptical views (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?“) But that doesn’t stop Christy from trying to smear scientists who haven’t made such mistakes (see here). See also “Earth to John Christy: Misleading for free is wrong, too.” In the Vermont case on the state’s effort to embrace California’s tailpipe GHG emissions standards, the car companies brought in Christy as an expert witness to rebut Hansen (see here). In one footnote on the sea level rise issue, the judge noted, “it appears that the bulk of scientific opinion opposes Christy’s position.” The little respect that Christy shows the facts or other scientists is is reason enough not to respect him.
No, I’m not comparing Pielke to Christy. It’s easy to tell where Christy stands, but impossible to tell where Pielke stands. He asserts that he accepts the basic IPCC conclusions and in particular that he supports very strong emissions concentration targets — but then he trashes any scientist who actually proposes a plausible plan as “politicizing science” while only offering the mildest of policy proposals himself (see Finally, Roger Pielke admits he supports policies that will take us to 5-7°C warming or more). That allows him to be quoted as a “contrarian” by the media (at least those who aren’t paying attention) — someone who supposedly believes in the science but is critical of scientists.
Revkin says his litmus test for the IPCC’s credibility is a target of “energy and climate campaigners.” But in fact he is far, far more a target of scientists and science bloggers. Climate scientist Ken Caldeira was so shocked at Pielke’s remarks on IPCC chief Pachauri, he wrote me (click here) an email titled, “I can’t believe the New York Times has done it again “¦” that reads in its entirety:
Does Roger Pielke Jr really believe that Pachauri is exaggerating the climate change problem in order to obtain more funds for his nonprofit research center?
If Pielke is going to make insinuations in the New York Times about the ethics of Dr Pachauri, he owes it to us to make his beliefs clear. He should state clearly which of the following two statements he believes:
(a) Dr Rajendra Pachauri is exaggerating the climate change problem in order to obtain more funds for his nonprofit research center.
(b) Dr Rajendra Pachauri is not exaggerating the climate change problem in order to obtain more funds for his nonprofit research center.
For a man with a $49,000 salary, donating all of his consulting fees to nonprofit organizations would ordinarily be seen as a sign of professional integrity and dedication. It is outrageous that Pielke attempts to turn this around and use it to insinuate an ethical lapse. It makes one wonder about Pielke’s motives.
PS. You can quote this if you would like”¦.
Revkin only links to one post I did criticizing Pielke, and not even a technical critique, and yet 0n matters of technical accuracy, Roger Pielke, Jr., is probably the most debunked person in the science blogosphere.
Here’s just a selection from Tim Lambert (Deltoid) at Science Blogs:
- Pielke Pity Party: Roger Pielke Jr has attempted to trash me using innuendo, fabrication and outright misrepresentation. I correct the record.
- Another Pielke train wreck: Roger Pielke Jr has greatly miscounted the number of news stories about a new climate study, leading him to make spurious charges of bias.
- Pielke Jr vs drafts: Roger Pielke Jr has been abusing draft documents to score points again.
- Pielke train wreck continues: More carriages have come off the rails in the Roger Pielke Jr train wreck. Pielke finally does a hypothesis test. Trouble is, it’s an unpaired t-test, which would only make sense if GISS and HADCRU were independent of each other….
- Pielke train wreck: If you haven’t been watching the Roger Pielke Jr train come off the rails and the carriages smashing into each other and exploding, I suggest you look at this post from James Annan: Roger Pielke has been saying some truly….
And then you can start on James Annan’s blog, with
- The consistently wrong chronicles…. Roger Pielke has been saying some truly bizarre and nonsensical things recently.
But this isn’t just about being consistently wrong, which, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, “science” and “facts” being relative as we all know they are. It is Pielke’s anti-fact nature, though, that you seem blind to, Andy, which is why he is the last person who should be a litmus test for the IPCC’s effort to restore its good name as an organization that is “just the facts, ma’am.” Read those posts. Interview the authors.
Here’s James Annan again:
Of course being the political scientist that he is, RPJnr is dropping the crucial rider and simply presenting the claim that the trend has a high bias. That transforms the claim from irrelevant to wrong….
UPDATE: This is getting rather surreal, which unfortunately seems to be a feature of many exchanges with RPJnr.
After Berkeley economist Brad DeLong posted an email from someone pointing out that Pielke (Jr) is “dishonest and wrong,” came this must-read email exchange where DeLong notes Roger “appears to go completely off the rails in email.” Do read the comments for the many links to various debunkings of Pielke from various science bloggers, like this one:
Roger Pielke Jr. has written that Jim Hansen supported open-air carbon capture and sequestration. Actually, Hansen supports biomass power-generation with point source carbon capture and sequestration. That’s a very big stretch to use Hansen as supportive of Roger’s quest for continuing the practice of sticking CO2 in the air and catching it later.
Also, Roger listed Hansen as supporting deep-ocean sequestration of captured CO2, a less-safe but possibly less-expensive form of sequestration (compared to other sequestration possibilities) that would be helpful for Roger’s interest. Actually, Hansen supported geological underground sequestration that is also under the ocean, the safest but most-expensive sequestration option.
Then there’s the climate scientists at RealClimate. Here’s a classic debunking of Pielke from 2008, “RealClimate: Model-data-comparison, Lesson 2.” And here’s Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf after one recent comment by Pielke (emphasis added):
… we’re discussing Supplementary Material and a response to one of those 90,000 review comments now, not even the report itself. You’ve been working hard to scandalize your personal quibbles with IPCC here – how consistent is this with your self-proclaimed role as “honest broker”? Stefan
I know that Revkin wants to make this about me vs. Roger, but I ain’t the one who framed Roger, he did it to himself.
Sure the blogosphere is a rough place, and I get into my fair share of tiffs, mainly with the hardcore disinformers — but then again I’m not running to be on some IPCC panel, let alone the savior of the IPCC’s credibility, with you as campaign manager. I might add that I am certainly qualified to be one on a few of the chapters in the Working Group III Report “Mitigation of Climate Change,” but I can only imagine how Roger would go ballistic if I were named as an author, and how you would quote him gleefully saying how that only serves to undermine the independence and credibility of the IPCC (and I seriously doubt you would call him an energy and climate campaigner).
Pielke wrote on my blog that
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, 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″³ (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“).
But Pielke’s primary proposal is “a $5 charge on each ton of carbon dioxide” and then use the money to develop clean tech technologies and infrastructure!!! You might as well bring a squirt gun to a firestorm.
But God forbid a climate scientist actually proposes even a moderate set of policies to get to 450 ppm, as Pielke will immediately come down hard attacking that scientist as politicizing science.
Indeed, while I have focused in this post on what countless climate scientists and science bloggers have said about Pielke — since my critiques can be so easily dismissed by you as that of a “campaigner” — let’s look at what Pielke says. Let me go through once again how, in Dr. Rahmstorf’s words, Pielke works hard to scandalize personal quibbles.
[Regular readers can skip the rest of this. Apologies for the length of this post, but I’m trying to do the reporting that Andy left out. Feel free to add your own links in the comments.]
Scandalizing Personal Quibbles
Last June, Pielke launched one of the most absurd attacks in his career “” on a few innocuous sentences in the terrific new NOAA-led report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Pielke launched the strongest possible accusation on his blog — “misrepresenting science in a government report” — on the basis of four sentences in this 196-page, 13-agency report:
While economic and demographic factors have no doubt contributed to observed increases in losses, these factors do not fully explain the upward trend in costs or numbers of events.[344,347] For example, during the time period covered in the figure to the right, population increased by a factor of 1.3 while losses increased by a factor of 15 to 20 in inflation-corrected dollars. Analyses asserting little or no role of climate change in increasing the risk of losses tend to focus on a highly limited set of hazards and locations. They also often fail to account for the vagaries of natural cycles and inflation adjustments, or to normalize for countervailing factors such as improved pre- and post-event loss prevention (such as dikes, building codes, and early warning systems).[348,349]
You will note that these sentences don’t actually make any strong scientific statement about the link between climate change and increased insurance-industry losses from weather-related disasters. Indeed, this paragraph is immediately followed by:
What is known with far greater certainty is that future increases in losses will be attributable to climate change as it increases the frequency and intensity of many types of extreme weather, such as severe thunderstorms and heat waves.
So it is impossible to suggest, as Pielke does, that the authors are stating or even implying that there is a high certainty of a very large connection between climate change and insurance losses. Now what is particularly laughable about Pielke’s attack is that he himself told Nature in 2006:
Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has shaped the disaster loss record.
Yes, that is what Pielke said. You can look it up yourself (see Pielke in Nature: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change “¦ has shaped the disaster loss record”).
Can anybody (other than Pielke) tell me how Pielke’s 2006 statement is consistent with his harsh assault on the credibility of the climate report and the integrity of the authors? Can anybody tell me who but the most uninformed journalists would rely on anything Pielke says about real science or real scientists?
Pielke isn’t a “skeptic.” He is a disinformer. He disinforms every debate he enters. After his smear of Mills, no other word fits him.
In fact, here’s an extended excerpt from the 2006 Nature story, “Insurers’ disaster files suggest climate is culprit” (PDF here):
Insurance companies, acutely aware of the dramatic increase in losses caused by natural disasters in recent decades, have been convinced that global warming is partly to blame. Now their data seem to be persuading scientists, too. At a recent meeting of climate and insurance experts, delegates reached a cautious consensus: climate change is helping to drive the upward trend in catastrophes.
The meeting, held near Munich on 25-26 May, was jointly organized by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, and the University of Colorado in Boulder. It brought together climate, atmosphere and weather researchers with economists and insurance experts to discuss what could be behind recent disaster losses, both economic and human”¦.
Delegates seem to have found the record persuasive. Their consensus statement, to be released on 8 June, says there is “evidence that changing patterns of extreme events are drivers for recent increases in global losses””¦.
“Dissent over the issue is clearly waning,” says Peter H¶ppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks department, who co-chaired the workshop with Roger Pielke Jr, director of the University of Colorado’s Center of Science and Technology Policy Research. “Climate change may not be the dominant factor, but it has become clear that a relevant portion of damages can be attributed to global warming.”
Previously sceptical, Pielke says that he is now convinced that at least some of the increased losses can be blamed on climate: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change has shaped the disaster loss record.”
Now remember, the NOAA-led report did not assert climate change was the dominant factor in the recent disaster loss record. In fact, the report merely says that “Analyses asserting little or no role of climate change in increasing the risk of losses tend to focus on a highly limited set of hazards and locations.”
Ironically, Pielke then proceeds to prove this criticism correct by then focusing in his post on a very highly limited set of hazards — hurricanes. I won’t repeat all of his torturous “logic” — his entire post is the blog equivalent of waterboarding — but you can see how he cleverly leaps from quoting his narrow paper on hurricane damages to the very broad assertion, “The CCSP report however, says the opposite, that these factors do not explain the upward trend in costs or numbers of events. To support this claim they provide two citations” [Evan Mills in Science and the 2007 IPCC report].
Now what is doubly ironic about Pielke falling into the exact mistake that the USGCRP report warns against is that in a blog post three days after his post attacking the report, Pielke praises a new article, “Tropical cyclone losses in the USA and the impact of climate change “” A trend analysis based on data from a new approach to adjusting storm losses” (subs. req’d), which concludes:
In the period 1971-2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
Yes, you read that right.
Pielke says an article that concludes there is a better than 50% chance that human-emissions are contributing to increased losses from hurricanes since 1971 is “a valuable paper”
Pielke of course dismisses the two citations the USGCRP use for their very mild claim, one of which is the IPCC, that Pielke claims to believe in. The other cite is a 2005 Science paper by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Evan Mills (a report coauthor), “Insurance in a Climate of Change,” which states (PDF here with figures and citations):
Global weather-related losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non-weather-related events….
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment, climate change has played a role in the rising costs of natural disasters. As an illustration of the linkages, the distribution and frequency of lightning strikes is expected to shift under climate change, and insurers indeed observe a notable increase in losses during periods of elevated temperatures.
This is another innocuous paper, used to support a very innocuous statement in the report, but Pielke uses it to smear the entire report and the author, Evan Mills, in the most over-the-top fashion because Mills has done some consulting with the insurance industry:
Imagine if an industry-funded government contractor had a hand in writing a major federal report on climate change. And imagine if that person used his position to misrepresent the science, to cite his own non-peer reviewed work, and to ignore relevant work in the peer-reviewed literature. There would be an outrage, surely….
How can we explain how such a patently bad paragraph full of misrepresentations appeared in a U.S. government report?
… So a person responsible for misrepresenting science in a government report has ties and presumably financial interests with companies that have an interest in climate policy outcomes? No, couldn’t be. Could it?
[Pause to clean up gray matter now scattered all over the vise.]
The paragraph Pielke attacks isn’t filled with misrepresentations. It isn’t filled with a single statement that Pielke or anyone else has disproven. Indeed, the thrust of the paragraph is no different than a statement Pielke himself made in Nature, no different than the conclusion of a journal article Pielke himself has praised.
I have known Evan Mills professionally for almost two decades. He is a world-class scientist, highly regarded in his field. His remarkable resume is here. His response in Science to Pielke’s original critique of his article is here. Unlike Pielke, Mills is trained scientist who works for one of the preeminent science-based institutions in the world, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and must meet the highest ethical standards.
Many insurance companies are desperately trying to understand and respond to climate change despite the best efforts of Pielke to smear anyone who suggests there is even the tiniest link between climate change and extreme weather. Obviously, we should encourage our leading insurers to consult with our top scientists.
To Pielke, any scientist who consults with an insurance company is forever tainted.
I would add that Mills is not the first scientist Pielke has smeared on this issue of a link between climate change and extreme weather/insurance losses due to extreme weather. Pielke said that the 3000 scientists listening to Gore at the AAAS meeting were “willing silent collaborators” to “the misrepresentation of climate science” because they did nothing while Al Gore made the link, albeit with very careful wordchoice (see “Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 1“).
Merely listening to innocuous comments is enough for Pielke to slam your integrity.
In Pielke’s brand of political correctness, there simply is no word choice acceptable to even discuss the link, except of course whatever he feels like saying or blogging on, which is perfectly acceptable.
This is the guy Revkin says must be an IPCC author on a report on this very subject if the IPCC is to restore its credibility.
An exploded mind is a terrible thing to waste.
[This post has been updated.]