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Pielke Jr and McIntyre Assist Christy's Extreme Weather Obfuscation

Posted on 9 August 2012 by Albatross, dana1981

On August 1st 2012, John Christy once again testified before the US Congress in a Senate hearing on climate issues.  His written testimony is here and his verbal testimony is here.  Christy's latest testimony consisted entirely of five climate myths, four of which we debunked in a previous post.  In this post we will examine Christy's comments regarding the link between climate change and extreme weather.

Soon after Christy's testimony, Roger Pielke Jr. and Steve McIntyre weighed in by attacking the largely correct testimony from Christopher Field, while turning blind eye to Christy's grossly misleading testimony that contained myths regarding extreme weather events.  Unfortunately, this sort of behavior by Pielke Jr. is not uncommon and several climate scientists have been the victim of similar efforts (for example, Coumou and Rahmstorf, James Hansen and others). To this end, Pielke Jr. uses an oft-repeated strategy that involves misdirection, bait and switch and knocking down strawmen arguments that he has constructed.

Christy's Extreme Weather  Obfuscation

Christy spent much of his testimony denying that global warming is causing more extreme weather events, claiming that the extremes we have recently experienced are simply "Mother Nature".  Christy also referenced a couple of record local cold and snow events in his verbal testimony.  This is of course a misleading strawman argument; global warming does not eliminate either cold or snowfall records.

There are numerous examples of increased extreme weather frequency already being attributed to humans in the published peer-reviewed scientific literature.  For example, Pall et al. (2011):

"Here we present a multi-step, physically based ‘probabilistic event attribution’ framework showing that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000"

Min et al. (2011):

"Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas."

Dai et al. (2011):

"All the four forms of the PDSI show widespread drying over Africa, East and South Asia, and other areas from 1950 to 2008, and most of this drying is due to recent warming. The global percentage of dry areas has increased by about 1.74% (of global land area) per decade from 1950 to 2008."

Zwiers et al. (2011):

"Therefore, it is concluded that the influence of anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on extreme temperatures that have impacts on human society and natural systems at global and regional scales"

Coumou & Rahmstorf (2012):

"Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme — notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes — there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase."

The key point is hiding behind Christy's attempts to obfuscate by focusing solely on convincing Congress that recent extreme weather events are consistent with Mother Nature. While it is very difficult to attribute individual weather events to global warming, we do know that climate change will 'load the dice' and result in more frequent extreme weather events.

Pielke Jr. Bait and Switch Misdirection

Roger Pielke Jr. has also joined Christy's obfuscation on extreme weather by attacking the testimony from Christoper Field on the subject, which he accomplished through a bait and switch misdirection strategy, misrepresenting what Field actually said and then attacking his built-up strawman.

For example, as Field noted,

"the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear."

Pielke's response to this correct point by Field is a perfect example of his misdirection.  The information discussed by Field comes from the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), on which Field was a Co-Chair.  When Field accurately describes the SREX findings about extreme weather hazards, Pielke Jr. misrepresents it as a claim about financial losses, for example responding to Field's quote above about the link between climate change and extreme weather with this quote (emphasis added):

"There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change"

In reality, Field has accurately described the conclusions of the SREX.  For example, the SREX says:

"It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures at the global scale. There is medium confidence that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme coastal high water due to an increase in mean sea level."

and

"Extreme weather and climate events, interacting with exposed and vulnerable human and natural systems, can lead to disasters."

These quotes quite clearly support Field's comments.  In the most absurd case of Pielke misdirection, Field accurately reports the SREX findings on extreme precipitation events, which Pielke Jr. purports is a misrepresentation because of something that report said about flood losses.  Put simply, the distinction between precipitation and floods is not a hard one to make, nor is the distinction between flood events and associated losses.  In fact these are fundamental distinctions for Pielke Jr.'s area of expertise.

On hurricanes, Pielke ridicules Field for saying that "For several of these categories of disasters, the strength of any linkage to climate change, if there is one, is not known...The evidence on hurricanes is mixed".  In fact, Field uses almost the exact same language as page 159 of SREX (emphasis added):

"Different methods for estimating undercounts in the earlier part of the North Atlantic tropical cyclone record provide mixed conclusions"

Pielke again uses a sleight of hand claiming that (emphasis added) "IPCC was unable to attribute any trend in tropical cyclone disasters to climate change".  But Field was specifically talking about "linkages to climate change", a subtle but important difference to what Pielke is saying.  As for how tropical cyclone activity will respond to a warming planet, the literature is as Field notes "mixed".  Pielke also makes an assertion about disasters based on an SREX quote dealing with impacts (emphasis added):

"The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados"

An increased frequency of disasters will not necessarily lead to an increase in impacts, for example if technology improves to offset the losses caused by disasters.  Therefore Pielke has not even demonstrated a lack of attribution in cyclone disasters, and has certainly not disproven Field's claim about a linkage between cyclones and climate change.

On drought, Field quoted almost verbatim from the SREX summary for policymakers, noting:

"The report identified some areas where droughts have become longer and more intense (including southern Europe and West Africa), but others where droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter."

Here is the associated quote from the SREX:

"There is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia."

Pielke Jr. suggests that Field misrepresented what the SREX said by pulling a quote from a different section on the report and noting that it is not the same - no kidding.  This is undoubtedly an honest mistake from Pielke, but when accusing someone of "misleading US Congress" as Pielke Jr. has accused Field of doing, one should really be sure that the accusation is accuate.  It took all of a 30-second word search for us to find the section Field quotes in the SREX.

Pielke also says that "Field conveniently neglected in his testimony to mention that one place where droughts have gotten less frequent, less intense or shorter is ... the United States" ("central North America" in the quote above).  However, Pielke conveniently neglects to share the SREX conclusions regarding future drought changes:

"There is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in the 21st century in some seasons and areas, due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration. This applies to regions including...central North America".

This conclusion is supported by Dai (2010), for example:

"Regions like the United States have avoided prolonged droughts during the last 50 years due to natural climate variations, but might see persistent droughts in the next 20–50 years"

In the comments on his post, Pielke Jr. argued that droughts are not disasters.  That of course depends on your definition of "disaster", but just this year,

"more than half of all U.S. counties - 1,584 in 32 states - have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that's considered the worst in decades."

In addition, there are the impacts to the poor as food becomes more expensive as crops are damaged by drought.

Steve McIntyre Joins the Obfuscation Party

Sadly, Steve McIntyre tripled down on these myths by both repeating Pielke's strawman attacks on Field and by inventing a new conspiracy theory that the draft IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is "hiding" discussions of past mega-droughts.  We cannot address this conspiracy in detail since the AR5 is still in draft form.  However, suffice it to say that the latest draft version actually has more information about North American mega-droughts than the previous version, including Figure 5.12 which now depicts the severity duration and frequency of droughts in North America. 

Selective Skepticism

The real irony here is that Pielke Jr. and McIntyre falsely accuse Field of misleading Congress while completely ignoring that John Christy actually did mislead Congress in the very same hearing.  In fact, Pielke and McIntyre double and triple down on Christy's myth that human activities are not contributing to extreme weather events, which is really just a distraction from the fact that human-caused climate change will certainly cause many types of extreme weather to occur more frequently in the future.  This series of events illustrates that Pielke Jr. and Steve McIntyre do not seem willing to apply their 'skepticism' and 'auditing' to climate contrarians.

There is a silver lining in this cloud of obfuscation - climate contrarians appear to be retreating more and more away from the "it's not happening" and "it's not us" myths, toward the "it's not bad" fallback position. 

However, this means we must be increasingly vigilant when faced with misleading arguments like Christy's and Pielke's that climate change is nothing to worry about.  It has taken decades to transition away from the former two myths - we cannot afford to allow the contrarian obfuscation regarding the consequences of climate change to be as efffective in delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  We simply don't have the time for this nonsense anymore.

Note: this post has been adapted into the Intermediate rebuttal to the myth 'extreme weather isn't caused by global warming'.

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Comments 101 to 142 out of 142:

  1. Logically, it would seem that if there is a clear link between climate change and an increase in certain kinds of disasters (e.g. heat waves) and a clear link between disasters of those kinds and economic impacts (e.g. loss of crops) then surely there must be a link between climate change and increased economic losses from those kinds of disasters... we just can't precisely differentiate between increased losses due to climate change and increased losses due to growing population and wealth.

    Whether climate change as a whole, rather than just in reference to specific kinds of disasters it is known to exacerbate, has had a positive or negative effect on economics thus far is even more difficult to sort out.

    From my reading, Field limited his testimony to issues which are scientifically supportable... climate change is increasing the severity of certain kinds of disasters and those disasters have economic impacts. He did not say that we can determine how much of the economic impact from those events is due to climate change vs other factors nor that we can determine what the net economic impact of climate change overall has been thus far.

    RogerPielkeJr's position thus appears to me a radical interpretation of the text. The contention that because Field mentioned economic impacts in the same sentence where he first mentions disasters must mean that the 'frequent' (actually only about a dozen times total) subsequent uses of the word must all be taken to be in the context of economics is unsupportable. Field's testimony was not some sort of legal contract where he was 'defining' how the word "disasters" would be used subsequently in the text as Pielke claims. Rather, Field was using plain English and each of his uses of "disasters" should be evaluated within the context of the sentence where it appears.
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  2. -100-Tom Curtis

    While I assume that much of your comment will be taken away by the moderators, let me respond to the science. Neumayer and Barthel write of their study:

    "What the results tell us is that, based on historical data, there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

    Discussed here:
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-peer-reviewed-paper-on-global.html

    The word "hazards" does not appear in Field's testimony.

    Thanks!
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  3. Roger #99 - can I clarify, which part of 3 do you object to? Is it that 'climate change leads to changes in the risks of extreme events' or that 'such extreme events can lead to disasters'?

    Also can I remind you that your case is that "What Field says the IPCC says is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong. It is one thing to disagree about scientific questions, but it is altogether different to fundamentally misrepresent an IPCC report to the US Congress. Below are five instances in which Field's testimony today completely and unambiguously misrepresented IPCC findings to the Senate." Is this the case you are resting?
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  4. Let me try that again, looks like my comment disappeared.

    On Neumayer and Barthel, they conclude:

    "What the results tell us is that, based on historical data, there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."
    Discussed here:
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-peer-reviewed-paper-on-global.html

    On the claim that Field references "hazards" not ""disasters" -- the word "hazards" does not appear in his testimony, "disaster(s)" appears 12 times.

    Thanks!
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  5. -103-OPatrick

    My objections are summarized in #72 above and detailed in my original blog post. Rather that replow plowed ground I simply point you there.

    I note that in -101-CBDunkerson is now making the opposite case from OPatrick and several others -- specifically that Field was indeed linking climate change and disasters ($$) and such a linkage is supportable. Here we are in agreement on how to interpret Field's testimony.

    Thanks!
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  6. RogerPielkeJr wrote: "I note that in -101-CBDunkerson is now making the ... case ... that Field was indeed linking climate change and disasters ($$) and such a linkage is supportable. Here we are in agreement on how to interpret Field's testimony."

    Ummmmm... that is not what I said and I specifically stated that I did not agree with your interpretation of Field's testimony.

    Seriously. When you can read something and come to a conclusion exactly the opposite of what the author stated it is time to take a step back and examine what has gone wrong in your thinking... and that applies equally to your 'reading' of Field's testimony.
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  7. -106-CBDunkerson

    Apologies, let me be more precise. You wrote:

    "From my reading, Field limited his testimony to issues which are scientifically supportable... climate change is increasing the severity of certain kinds of disasters and those disasters have economic impacts."

    I agree with your interpretation of what Field testified to. I disagree that it is scientifically supportable. I hope this is more clear. Thanks.
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  8. Roger #109 - I can't see that either your comment #72 or your original blog post give a clear answer to my question. In your comment #72 the closest I can see is "I critiqued Field's testimony on 5 points:

    1. Linking human-caused climate change to economic disasters via extremes
    ...
    3. Citing the NOAA billion-dollar disasters....
    ", but these criticisms refer to supposed over-statements about the influence of climate change on currently observed 'disasters', whereas Field's point 3 is about increasing risk of extreme events, which can then lead to disasters - this seems to be more about future projections.

    In your blog post you say "Field's assertion that the link between climate change and disasters "is clear,"" - and it is clear, but that clarity comes from his moderation of the link via the words "...kinds of extremes that lead to...".
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  9. (my last comment now currently refers to #105, not #109)
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  10. -108-OPatrick

    Thanks, if you believe that (a) Field was not linking climate change to disasters that have occurred in the past (only into the future), or (b) that he was not linking climate change to disasters at all, then clearly we will disagree on his statements.

    I do note that Field clarifies the phenomena that he is referring to explicitly in his testimony:

    "The 2011 disasters included a blizzard, tornadoes, floods, severe weather, a hurricane, a tropical storm, drought and heat wave, and wildfires. . . For several of these categories of disasters, the strength of any linkage to climate change, if there is one, is not known . . . For other categories of climate and weather extremes, the pattern is increasingly clear."

    He then goes on to discuss several of these "categories of disasters" in detail. I don't see much ambiguity, but accept that others read it differently. Fine.

    Seeing as we are well into the area of textual exegesis I do not see any point in further repetition, and we simply accept that we agree to disagree. That is OK by me, I appreciate the chance to present my views and your listening to them.

    Thanks!
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  11. Pielke Jr @104 pretends to ignorance of the basic terminology of his own field as a debate tactic.

    The term "hazard" is a standard technical term in disaster management, and is defined by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as follows:

    "Hazard

    A dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

    Comment: The hazards of concern to disaster risk reduction as stated in footnote 3 of the Hyogo Framework are “… hazards of natural origin and related environmental and technological hazards and risks.” Such hazards arise from a variety of geological, meteorological, hydrological, oceanic, biological, and technological sources, sometimes acting in combination. In technical settings, hazards are described quantitatively by the likely frequency of occurrence of different intensities for different areas, as determined from historical data or scientific analysis.

    See other hazard-related terms in the Terminology: Biological hazard; Geological hazard; Hydrometeorological hazard; Natural hazard; Socio-natural hazard; Technological hazard.
    30 Aug 2007"


    A "natural hazard" is further defined as:

    "Natural hazard

    Natural process or phenomenon that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

    Comment: Natural hazards are a sub-set of all hazards. The term is used to describe actual hazard events as well as the latent hazard conditions that may give rise to future events. Natural hazard events can be characterized by their magnitude or intensity, speed of onset, duration, and area of extent. For example, earthquakes have short durations and usually affect a relatively small region, whereas droughts are slow to develop and fade away and often affect large regions. In some cases hazards may be coupled, as in the flood caused by a hurricane or the tsunami that is created by an earthquake.
    30 Aug 2007"


    A "Disaster" is defined as:

    "Disaster

    A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.

    Comment: Disasters are often described as a result of the combination of: the exposure to a hazard; the conditions of vulnerability that are present; and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce or cope with the potential negative consequences. Disaster impacts may include loss of life, injury, disease and other negative effects on human physical, mental and social well-being, together with damage to property, destruction of assets, loss of services, social and economic disruption and environmental degradation.
    30 Aug 2007"


    Following this terminology, a hurricane is a hazard. If it remains at sea, far from any shipping, it is a hazard, but will not cause a disaster because nobody is exposed to it. That introduces the new important term, "exposure":

    "Exposure

    People, property, systems, or other elements present in hazard zones that are thereby subject to potential losses.

    Comment: Measures of exposure can include the number of people or types of assets in an area. These can be combined with the specific vulnerability of the exposed elements to any particular hazard to estimate the quantitative risks associated with that hazard in the area of interest.
    23 Jan 2009"


    Should that hurricane strike the shore near a settlement, it may still not cause a disaster even though people are now exposed to the hazard. That is because their houses may be robust enough, and their sea walls high enough to protect them from wind and storm surge. They would not be vulnerable:

    "Vulnerability

    The characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard.

    Comment: There are many aspects of vulnerability, arising from various physical, social, economic, and environmental factors. Examples may include poor design and construction of buildings, inadequate protection of assets, lack of public information and awareness, limited official recognition of risks and preparedness measures, and disregard for wise environmental management. Vulnerability varies significantly within a community and over time. This definition identifies vulnerability as a characteristic of the element of interest (community, system or asset) which is independent of its exposure. However, in common use the word is often used more broadly to include the element’s exposure.
    30 Aug 2007"


    If, however, the people have poor building standards, or live in low lying areas. When people who are vulnerable are exposed to a hazard, then you have a disaster.

    Now, given that we now all know the meanings of the words involved consider Field's phrase, "extreme events that can lead to disasters". Given that Field is talking about extreme events, he is not talking about disasters per se, ie, about the serious disruption of a community etc. Rather, and very clearly, he is talking about natural hazards. The type of extreme events that can lead to disasters are hazards, by definition of the term hazard.

    Now, consider Pielke's position. He purports that any talk about "the kind of extreme events that can lead to disasters" is talk about disasters only, and not about hazards at all. In defense of his claim, he points out that Field does not use the term "hazard". That argument is akin to the argument that somebody who mentions "the organ that focuses and detects light" is really only talking about light, not eyes, for he mentions light but does not mention eyes by name. Bizarrely, given his profession, Pielke is in the position of an ophtamologist who makes that argument. His position really is that stupid.
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  12. Roger #110 - on (a) I see nothing in Field's testimony that contradicts the point that we cannot yet with strong confidence link the disasters referenced directly to climate change (which is not, of course, the same as saying there is no link between them). On (b) clearly he was making such a link, though moderated appropriately as I noted.

    I note in your quote from Field that your ellipses have the effect of disguising the distinction between 'disasters' and 'climate and weather extremes'. The second set of ...'s includes a paragraph break, which I think is significant when reading his testimony.

    I don't see how you can realistically expect us to "agree to disagree" when you have made such strong statements as "What Field says the IPCC says is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong" and "Field's testimony today completely and unambiguously misrepresented IPCC findings to the Senate". If you are prepared to moderate this language and accept that it was unjustified then I might be prepared to agree to disagree.
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  13. Roger wrote: "I agree with your interpretation of what Field testified to. I disagree that it is scientifically supportable."

    Which part do you believe isn't scientifically supportable?

    "climate change is increasing the severity of certain kinds of disasters"

    or

    "disasters have economic impacts"?

    I have not previously seen you deny the first, and the second falls under the category of blindingly obvious. Are you really saying that a scientific case cannot be made for climate change having caused an increased incidence of heat waves (for example)? Or, in the even less plausible alternative, that heat waves have no economic impact?
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  14. At this point I think we've established that Pielke's problem is with Field even mentioning the word "disaster" in his testimony. So let's look at the context of each example and see if there is any ambiguity:

    1) "As the US copes with the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking series of 14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters and this year’s massive wildfires and storms, it is critical to understand that the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear."

    I don't see any problems here. Clearly the types of disasters being discussed (e.g. hurricanes) are climate-related, and there is indeed a link between climate change and many types of extreme weather.

    2) "The US experienced 14 billion-dollar disasters in 2011...The 2011 disasters included a blizzard, tornadoes...."

    That's obviously correct.

    3) "For several of these categories of disasters, the strength of any linkage to climate change, if there is one, is not known."

    I know Pielke wouldn't have a problem with that statement.

    4) "The evidence pointing to the driving force behind the extra risk (either the climate change of the excess speed) can be strong, but it is still difficult to predict exactly when and where disaster might occur."

    No issues there I presume. Climate change is certainly one driving force behind extreme weather-related risk.

    5) "And just as many factors influence the risk of a car accident, the risk of a weather-related disaster is strongly influenced by disaster preparations, early warning, and the integrity of local infrastructure like buildings, roads, and the electricity grid."

    That's certainly true - a point Tom Curtis has made here.

    6) "There is also no doubt that a changing climate changes the risk of extremes, including extremes that can lead to disaster."

    Very clearly and accurately stated.

    That's it. I'm left concluding that Pielke thinks that even mentioning the word "disaster" or monetary value losses is impermissable when discussing the link between climate change and extreme weather, even if the speaker does not link disasters and losses to climate change, which Field clearly did not.
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  15. -114-dana1981

    You write: " I'm left concluding that Pielke thinks that even mentioning the word "disaster" or monetary value losses is impermissable when discussing the link between climate change and extreme weather"

    No, it is not impermissible, of course, but a responsible and not-misleading discussion actually mentions the state of the science of disasters on monetary value losses in the context of climate change, when mentioning then issues together -- as SREX did quite well. To ignore that science is to leave oneself open to charges of misleading the listener -- not good for IPCC WGII Co-Chair testifying before Congress.

    Of course, the importance of sticking to the science when it comes to economic losses is a point I am colleagues have been making for >10 years, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone with the least familiarity with my work or views.

    Thanks!
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  16. Roger @115
    "To ignore that science is to leave oneself open to charges of misleading the listener"
    Yes, you have made that quite clear by yourself charging Field with misleading the listener (though I haven't seen anyone other than you level these charges). So here's where we started, with Roger claiming:
    "What Field says the IPCC says is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong. It is one thing to disagree about scientific questions, but it is altogether different to fundamentally misrepresent an IPCC report to the US Congress."
    And now we have whittled the criticism down to Field not explicitly stating that a clear connection between climate change and monetary disaster losses has not yet been made.

    We began with the claim 'Field is blatantly wrong' and have come to 'Field wasn't quite as explicit as I would have liked'. That's quite a large evolution.
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  17. -116-dana1981

    Thanks, but I reject your characterization of my remarks. Of course, so far the discussion has only focused on 1 of the 5 issues that I raised with Field's testimony. Again, we shall agree to disagree. Thanks!
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  18. Roger, you may reject dana's 'characterizations' of your remarks, as is your wont and right: However, as someone who's been actively reading this entire thread, who's watched the video of Field's testimony at *least* 4 times now, I can see *no* other interpretation/characterization of your words 'at variance' with dana's et al exegesis of them. Fields did not say what you infer he did say.

    You declaim the process of exegesis of a given scientist's recorded words, but when rigorous, well-documented exegesis of your own (and I'll go on record here) MIScharacterizations of Field's testimony, all you seem to be able to offer is...."let's agree to disagree."

    At this point, the only disagreement I can see extant is your outright rejection of commonly- and widely-held norms of scientific grammar, intent and sentence structure, *all* of which shows Field did ~not~ 'grossly misrepresnt SREX, or the IPCC. You may, at your convenience, reject my characterizations, however.

    Perhaps if you feel this strongly that Fields "...is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong.", then might it be to your best interests, professionally, to do a peer-reviewed rebuttal to his testimony?

    I had hoped that Fields himself might weigh in on this thread, too.

    Thanks!
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  19. Tom,

    Good posts at 88 and 111. I found reading all those definitions particularly useful. I notice they differ in, some respects, to the IPCC definitions although the IPCC is specifically referring to Climate Change.

    Does expenditure on reducing vulnerability get factored in when calculating economic costs? What about environmental losses how are they accounted for? And what about the social impacts?

    It seems to me that approaching this issue from an economic perspective makes it very difficult to draw any definitive conclusion. There is also the danger of ignoring many other critical issues relating to disasters.
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  20. All, my travel schedule that provided a bit of time to participate here has come to and end, so if I am unresponse from here on, please understand why. I do appreciate the opportunity to interact and now have a sense of SkS, which I was only vaguely aware of. Good luck with your future efforts, perhaps we will cross paths again .. RP
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  21. FWIW the problem with determining whether economic damages from storms and the like have increased is that building construction is much improved, so if economic damages are constant, then the storm frequency and/or intensity has increased. Hurricane straps, satellite observation and evacuation orders strongly limit damages and deaths.

    If anyone is telling you that because direct economic losses have stayed the same there is no proof that storms have gotten worse, they are simply being extremely economical with the truth.

    The EPA had something to say about this

    -------------------
    Regarding weather-related damages such as flooding, we note the conclusions of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) (2008i) which state that “Numerous studies indicate that both the climate and the socioeconomic vulnerability to weather and climate extremes are changing (Brooks and Doswell, 2001; Pielke et al., 2008; Downton et al., 2005), although these factors’ relative contributions to observed increases in disaster costs are subject to debate. For example, it is not easy to quantify the extent to which increases in coastal building damage is due to increasing wealth and population growth in vulnerable locations versus an increase in storm intensity. Some authors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008) divide damage costs by a wealth factor in order to ‘normalize’ the damage costs. However, other factors such as changes in building codes, emergency response, warning systems, etc. also need to be taken into account.
    ---------------------

    A while ago Eli was reminiscing how he and Nils Simon had shown that Ethons source of little liver treats had made a living by omitting a whole lot of important things from his discussion of hurricane damage, and as is clear from this exchange other things.

    First, it is obvious even to a stuffed animal that the costs of flood control and surge barriers to limit damage from storms has increased substantially over the last fifty years. If such expenditures have not been included in the storm cost estimates, and the trend without them is flat, the trend with such costs must increase substantially. Any estimate that neglects these costs must be stated as a lower limit. Neither Eli or Nils can find any such statement, not just from Roger Pielke. Therefore in true "Honest Broker" form, Rabett Run concludes that (OK, draw your own conclusions from what Roger calls others who mis-state something)

    Second, and this is Nils' insight, not to include such costs or deal with their effect when you are aware of them, is either dishonest or a statement that such adaptation has no effect. Since we have been adapting to increased storm damage like crazy. Pielke is in Zugzwang.

    The Birdie or the Birdie

    Roger can choose door A, storm cost has been increasing mightily in the past century or door B, adaptation has no effect. Ethon is standing behind both doors. Which of his policy principles does he want to feed to the birdie?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] All-caps converted to bold.
  22. Hyperactive Hydrologist @119, no, the expenditure on decreasing vulnerability does not get factored in to the costs of disasters. Environmental costs, deaths and injuries may be converted to monetary value in some studies. In the Munich Re figures which are used by Neumayer and Barthel, some deaths and injuries are monetized in insured losses in the form of successful insurance claims - but other than that they are not SFAIK.

    Contrary to Eli, I don't think the costs of reducing vulnerability can reasonably be included in these studies, and inlcuding the costs of environmental damage and human injuries and/or deaths will always be controversial. It is better, IMO, to stick with more reliable information, but to keep in mind the limitations of the studies, as Neumayer and Barthel, and the SREX do, but Pielke Jr does not.

    Nor is Eli's final dilemma accurate. At least one study (Neumayer and Barthel) shows a declining normalized cost over time. It is possible that the decline represents the benefit of decreased vulnerability, which does come at a cost. But it is not possible a priori to conclude that the decline due to decreasing vulnerability is greater than the decline in normalized losses, as Eli's door A assumes.

    Never-the-less, by insisting that a lack of significant trend in normalized losses from meteorological disasters shows that hazards have not increased, Pielke Jr is assuming that efforts to reduce vulnerability have been ineffective so that they do not qualify the data. His assumption is completely unwarranted. I will further note that the issue of increasing hazards is only irrelevant to policy makers if decreasing vulnerability is a cost free exercise, which is of course completely false. In a world of increasing natural hazards, there are costs for humans. The question is only whether we will reduce those costs by decreasing vulnerability and exposure, or take them in large tragic doses as natural disasters.
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  23. Hyperactive Hydrologist @119 re definitions,

    I wondered about the appropriateness of using the UNISDR definitions. However, they are standard definitions of the terms, and the SREX says:

    "The concepts and definitions presented in this chapter and employed throughout the Special Report take into account a number of existing sources (IPCC, 2007c; UNISDR, 2009d; ISO, 2009) but also reflect the fact that concepts and definitions evolve as knowledge, needs, and contexts vary. Disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change are dynamic fields, and have in the past exhibited and will necessarily continue in the future to exhibit such evolution."

    (My emphasis)

    UNISDR 2009d is in fact the UNISDR webpage from which I quoted. However, for accuracy, Hazard is defined in the SREX as follows:

    "When extreme and non-extreme physical events, such as tropical cyclones, floods, and drought, can affect elements of human systems in an adverse manner, they assume the characteristic of a hazard. Hazard is defined here as the potential occurrence of a natural or human induced physical event that may cause loss of life, injury, or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, service provision, and environmental resources. Physical events become hazards where social elements (or environmental resources that support human welfare and security) are exposed to their potentially adverse impacts and exist under conditions that could predispose them to such effects. Thus, hazard is used in this study to denote a threat or potential for adverse effects, not the physical event itself (Cardona, 1986, 1996, 2011; Smith, 1996; Tobin and Montz, 1997; Lavell, 2003; Hewitt, 2007; Wisner et al., 2004)."

    (Original emphasis)

    Under this definition, a Hurricane is not a hazard until it interacts with exposed humans or economic resources that are vulnerable. The distinction is still made between the adverse affects of the Hurricane (the disaster) and the Hurricane itself (the hazard), but under this definition not all Hurricane's are hazards. This may be one reason for Field's circumlocution of "the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters"; although I suspect he would have used that circumlocution because the accurate and equivalent phrase (under the UNISDR definition, but not the SREX definition) "meteorological or climatological hazards" would have required time wasting definition.

    In any event, throughout this discussion I have used the term "hazard" in accordance with the UNISDR definition. It is also used according to that definition in its single occurrence in the original article.
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  24. Tom, that costs decline due to decreased vulnerability is a sunk cost and you have to discount it, which means that there is going to have to be a huge decrease in normalized losses to make up for it, and the data, such as it is pretty much shows that costs have increased slightly or held even.

    People and governments don't arbitrarily increase adaptive measures, they do so to match losses.
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  25. So the nearest we have of Roger Pielke Jr clarifying his understanding of the distinction between extreme events and disaster losses is his acknowledgement in #115 that SREX dealt with the state of the science quite well. That's vague, and far from what I was looking for from my earlier question, but better than nothing. Can we take from this comment, that Dr Pielke accepts the SREX position on the anthropogenic origin of changes in temperature, precipitation and sea level, as quoted in the post above? I hope so.

    If Pielke accepts that the SREX is correct on the anthropogenic change of certain meteorological events, we are left wondering how he disagrees with Field - because the SREX agrees with Field that the link between climate change and these kinds of extremes [temperature, precipitation, sea level] is clear.

    So does that mean Pielke disagrees with the other part of the statement? Does Dr Pielke think that these "kinds of extremes" [of temperature, precipitation and sea level] cannot "lead to disasters"? Ludicrous!

    This is not a position on which it is acceptable to merely "agree to disagree", as Pielke wants. He has made rather serious claims about Field's testimony, which he has been utterly unable to support or justify with evidence. When pressed on these matters, Pielke prefers to 'agree to disagree', muddying the issue, rather than considering that he might be in error. Consider me unimpressed by Dr Pielke on this issue.
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  26. I think we all (even Pielke) agree that climate change has been linked to many types of extreme weather, which in turn can cause disasters, which in turn can cause economic losses.

    Taking the step from extreme weather to disasters/losses is difficult because as has been discussed here, there are other factors which come in to play, like improving technology - basically people adapting to extreme weather.

    So I think we're all generally in agreement about the science, and then the question becomes whether Field accurately presented the scientific literature in his testimony. I think my comment @114 showed that it did - Field never said climate change is linked to increasing economic losses. All he did was say there have been associated economic losses, so it's important to examine the role climate change has played. Then he talked about how climate change has impacted various types of extreme weather events.

    So as I noted @116, we're left with Field at worst not explicitly stating that the link between climate change and economic losses from disasters is complicated and unclear, despite the fact that climate change has been linked to an increase in extreme weather events. I think that's an exceptionally nitpicky criticism, especially when during the same hearing John Christy repeated a bunch of flat-out wrong climate myths without a peep of criticism from Pielke.

    Moreover I think we've clearly established that Pielke's assertion that Field's testimony was 180 degrees wrong is completely unfounded. Pielke still disgrees, but has failed to explain why or provide any evidence that his original criticism is valid. Pielke complains that we're only focusing on 1 of his 5 points, but the other 4 are very similar, an in fact some are even weaker criticisms (i.e. the drought criticism).

    So bottom line, Field's testimony was consistent with the scientific literature, did not mislead Congress, and at worst was not as explicit about links to economic losses as Pielke would have liked.
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  27. What disturbs me most about this episode, and so many more like it, is the way that genuine valid criticism gets swamped by hyperbole.

    As Dana notes above it may be arguable, for example, that Field was not as explicit about economic losses as he could, or should, have been. However when Roger Pielke starts his post with claims that Field was 180 degrees wrong and fundamentally and unambiguously misrepresenting the IPCC it is inevitable that he will attract criticism for these claims.

    Certain commentators will then focus on the way that Pielke was 'attacked' and the impression will be given that anything critical of the consensus position is once again being dismissed out of hand.

    This seems a very common pattern to me.
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  28. Dana quotes Roger:

    "What Field says the IPCC says is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong. It is one thing to disagree about scientific questions, but it is altogether different to fundamentally misrepresent an IPCC report to the US Congress."

    Roger rejoins:

    "Thanks, but I reject your characterization of my remarks."

    I'm probably not the only person left scratching my head over how a direct quote can be a mischaracterization. Roger's statement stands out as an immoderate remark and doesn't require any characterization or contextual preservation for that to be obvious.

    But perhaps my impression of Roger's apparent intent to characterize Field as deceptive is wrong. If that's the case, as usual the problem lies with the communicator, not the listener.

    If there's any lesson here, it's that more blogs could benefit by employing strict rules such as are found here at SkS.

    Swerving into immoderate words myself, I must say that Dr. Pielke Jr. seems of a piece with Dr. Judith Curry, who has a reputation for letting off a wild shot or two and then leading those who object through a gyrating semantic dance.
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  29. I think Roger was objecting to my summary that when you boil it down, he's just quibbling over Field not being as explicit as Roger would have liked about the tenuous link between climate change and disaster-related economic losses. Why Roger objects to that I don't know - he didn't clarify and I think we've pretty clearly established that was the only aspect of Field's testimony that he seems to take issue with.
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  30. I think OPatrick makes a very valid point, but even more important to me is that Pielke Jr. has basically made us follow his blimp of debating the accuracy of Field, leading us away from the serious errors in Christy's testimony.

    Pielke has taken something that is barely even a molehill, and turned it into a mountain of discussion. Quoting Albatross' and dana's article:
    The real irony here is that Pielke Jr. and McIntyre falsely accuse Field of misleading Congress while completely ignoring that John Christy actually did mislead Congress in the very same hearing.

    If repetition is a key to remembering, casual readers of this thread will see lots of discussion of what Field did, but little of what Christy did.

    The fact that Pielke Jr. is completely unwilling to apply the same level of of analysis to Christy's testimony is extremely telling. Basically, what Pielke is doing is akin to creating a Sacrificial Anode - a spot to focus the discussion and divert it away from what he is really trying to protect: the inaccurate and unfounded attacks on climate science by Christy.

    If Pielke Jr. does return to this discussion, it would be beneficial to keep hammering away at this issue - asking him why he does not apply the same fine-tooth comb to Christy's testimony. There is no necessity to argue nuances of what Christy might have meant or how he should have been interpreted - Christy is just plain flat-out wrong about so much of what he said that you can drive a Mack truck through the holes. I highly suspect, however, that any further participation by Pielke Jr. will follow the same tactic of refusing to respond to direct questions or issues.

    Mr. Pielke: if you feel you are an "honest broker", as has been suggested, then please treat Christy's testimony in the same fashion as you treat others. The failure to do so is a clear indication that you have an agenda, and that there is no reason to trust you.
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  31. Bob, I suspect that Dr Pielke Jr may simply agree to disagree on the merits of Christy's testimony...
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  32. Philippe:

    ...and I'm sure he'll say "Thanks!" at the end...

    ...but the whole "we'll agree to disagree" is just one of his tactics to avoid engaging in honest discussion of the questions or issues. Again, just another indication that there is no reason to trust him.
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  33. Bob @130 - I totally agree. I've now made the point many times that while we're nitpicking about how explicit Field should have been in his testimony, Christy just repeated a bunch of long-debunked myths in his own. Pielke was hammered on this for a long time in his blog post comments, and I think the most he was willing to say was 'there are probably some aspects of Christy's testimony I agree with, and some I disagree with'.

    This is very characteristic of Pielke's strategy of trying to place himself between the 'skeptics' and 'alarmists' as the 'honest broker' in the middle. The problem is that sometimes the truth doesn't lie in the middle. Sometimes one side is right and the other is wrong. That's not to say the 'skeptics' are 100% wrong and the mainstream climate scientists are 100% right, but the truth unquestionably lies far closer to the mainstream side. Positioning yourself in the middle just makes you a little less wrong than the contrarians, and in the meantime you become a tool for delaying climate action.
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  34. Bob, Roger actually addressed this in the comments of his blog post:

    But let's be clear about one thing. Christy was cherrypicked by Republicans to deliver a certain message that they find convenient. The IPCC does not have that luxury. Field was representing climate science, Christy his personal views of the science. Field had an obligation to accurately represent the IPCC report, or alternatively to present his personal views.


    So because Field was representing real science, and is therefore important, any confusion about what he might have meant (rather than what he actually said) warrants accusations of misleading Congress, while Christy gets a free pass because he was just there because some folks are interested in his personal opinion as a regular Joe.

    The problem with this idea can be found in a few seconds on Google:

    "United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works" "john christy": about 13,400 results.

    "United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works" "christopher field": about 60 results, including Roger's critique a couple of times on the first page.

    If we use simpler terms, like "christopher field" congress, past month, we get 641 results:

    #1 is WUWT, talking about how Roger "demolishes" Field's testimony;
    #2 is Roger's blog post;
    #3 is an article about Field being caught lying to Congress by Roger;
    #4 is junkscience about "Field lying to Congress";
    #5 is climateaudit talking about Roger's blog post;
    #6 is climateaudit talking about the SREX;
    #7 is Wired actually talking about the substance of the testimony
    #8 is Field being called a liar again.

    "john christy" congress, past month, gets twice as many results.

    So Christy's "personal views" has attracted somewhere between 2x and 200x as many hits, and almost the entire first page of Field's results is taken up by Roger, people who copied Roger, or people using Roger's blog posting to say Field is a liar.

    A tool indeed! I wonder what they would have done without an "honest broker" there to enable their behaviour?

    One of the great ironies, of course, is that a large part of Roger's criticism is that he feels that Field went "beyond" what the IPCC SREX had concluded (although this is clearly in dispute), while ignoring the fact that Field specifically states:

    In my testimony today, I will be presenting information from a variety of sources, including the assessments from the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the IPCC, and papers in the technical scientific literature.


    In other words, Field was under the impression that he was being called as an expert to update the committee on the latest climate change science -- you know, because the hearing was actually entitled "Update on the Latest Climate Change Science and Local Adaptation Measures.” and not "A Book Reading of the IPCC SREX" -- and so he specifically stated that was his intent. Even if he had gone beyond what the SREX had concluded, it would have been fine provided he was reporting on assessments from the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the IPCC, and papers in the technical scientific literature.
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  35. On a positive note, SkS comes in at #1 if you do search for "john christy" congress, past month. :-)
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  36. JasonB - very good points. I never did understand Pielke's argument that Field's testimony was important and Christy's wasn't. I suspect it's just an excuse to avoid addressing Christy's myths.

    I should also note that at the LinkedIn discussion, MacCracken had some comments that I didn't previously see. I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him here. Remember, this is what Roger claimed (emphasis added):
    "the fact that Field's testimony is at variance with the IPCC SREX is trivial to show -- for instance, over in the Linkedin Climate Policy Group, Mike MacCracken (former head of the USGCRP) accepted this"
    This is MacCracken responding to Roger in the LinkedIn Climate Policy Group 8 days ago, before this post was published (emphasis added):
    "I did not accept that the points you are questioning were misrepresentations."
    So basically Roger has completely misrepresented MacCracken here, who specifically said that he did not agree that Field's testimony contained misrepresentations.

    Ironically Roger has accused Field of being 180 degrees wrong, while himself claiming MacCraken said exactly the opposite of what MacCracken really said. It's funny that Roger even used the exact same (but 180 degrees opposite) language as MacCracken.
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  37. JasonB: "Bob, Roger actually addressed this in the comments of his blog post"

    Well, while we're quibbling about the meaning of words, I disagree that Roger "addressed" this. I consider his statement a complete weaseling out of the responsibility of testifying before Congressional committees. The idea that anyone can be allowed to spread misinformation because it's their "person opinion", and because some congresscritter in (climate) denial likes it, is abhorrent to me.

    After all, if I were to testify in such a place that Roger Pielke Jr. is a [self-censoring snip], and it wasn't true, would Roger give me a free pass because it was just my "personal opinion" and someone on the committee had invited me because they found the message "convenient"? What a load of crap.

    It's just another example of how Roger is biased.
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  38. Now that I've cruised the entire thread of discussion here, I find it simply amazing that Roger feels free to fling bald accusations such as are quoted in comment #116, only to blithely announce that pressing concerns preclude his further participation in an extended effort to get him to take ownership of his own words.

    "Honest broker?" Hardly. He's certainly got the patronizing sneer down pat, but honesty is nowhere to be found in this schtick.

    I don't know if anybody remembers, but Roger also was one of the point men accusing Rajendra Pachauri of profiting by Pachauri's stewardship of IPCC; again, immoderate words were written by Roger and then widely quoted. When it became obvious that Roger had degraded himself by joining the baying pack of yahoos going after Pachauri, he simply refused to acknowledge his error, descending as usual into a blizzard of elliptical verbiage whirling around the actual topic: Pielke's own error.

    Pielke's got a good shelf life, though. Never seems to smell bad to journalists, etc.
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  39. Dana,
    I am shocked that Pielke would directly misrepresent another scientist when he thought that you would not be able to check the original source. Congratulations on your persistence in finding out the real story. It will be interesting to see how Pielke justifies his statements in the unlikely event that he comes back to this thread.

    It seems that one problem is that Roger claims that Field should stick to the SREX report while Field stated at the start of his testimony that he would include more recent research. As referenced in the OP and in Hansen's recent paper, extreme weather caused by AGW has been associated directly with billion dollar economic losses since SREX was written. Why should Field limit his testimony to old data?
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  40. Jason @134 and michael @139 make a good point. We've been busy determining whether Field's comments were consistent with the body of scientific literature (and showed that they were), but Roger raised another issue, claiming that Field should not have 'gone beyond' the content of the SREX because supposedly he was there purely as an IPCC SREX representative. But as you note, Field began his testimony specifically stating the many different pieces of scientific literature that he would be referencing. The more we look into his comments, the shallower Roger's position becomes.

    Coincidentally, I noticed that the LinkedIn Climate Policy Group members often use the term 'agree to disagree'. Maybe it's because they so often discuss policy, which is an area where people can have opposing but valid opinions. That's a bad habit to get into when discussing science though.
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  41. Doug wrote: "Pielke's got a good shelf life, though. Never seems to smell bad to journalists, etc."

    Keep in mind that the only 'science' he has a degree in is political science. Pielke's approach to actual science has always been from a political angle, and that of course includes knowing how to handle journalists. He's a 'professional science analyst and communicator'... a field which frankly I'd rather didn't exist. Science should speak for itself rather than being 'packaged' and 'messaged' for political purposes.
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  42. This debate is being reprised at The Conversation with an attack on the Climate Commission's Angry Summer report by the Pielke Jr associated Risk Frontiers group at Macquarie Uni. Similar bait and switch tactics being employed. The CC has issued a statement, Pielke Jr has weighed in.

    http://theconversation.edu.au/weighing-the-toll-of-our-angry-summer-against-climate-change-12793

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