Roger Pielke on the Stern Review and the IPCC4

I’ve been casually picking my way through Roger Pielke, Jr.’s The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming. His general take is mine also: global warming is happening, but the the “official consensus” misstates and overstates important facts. Here’s an excerpt from Pielke (from pp.181-3) dealing with reporting on the issue of storm-related damages over time. It’s long been known that one of the major drivers of increasing storm costs is simply increasing urbanization. For example, if a hurricane hits a lightly uninhabited coast or island, the economic costs are low; if the same storm hits a heavily inhabited place, the costs are high. The question is how much of the increasing costs are driven by that, and how much are driven by increasing storm frequency and strength as a consequence of warming. That’s a legitimate question, but that’s no guarantee that the answer will be legitimate. Pielke’s research, and that of others (Muir-Wood the World Meterological Association, and others), demonstrates that urbanizing is the dominant factor–holding that constant, storm losses show no increasing trend line. So how has that research been used by others?

Remarkably, not only did the Stern Review ignore the growing peer-reviewed literature on disasters and climate change, but within the Muir-Wood analysis selectively used the shorter time frame to generate an estimate of escalating damages due to greenhouse gas emissions. In early 2010 Muir-Wood was scathing in his criticism of the Stern Review for misusing his research, saying it went “far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence.”

The full report from our Hohenkammer workshiop as well as the workshop’s consensus statements (signed onto by Muir-Wood) directly contradicted the Stern Review’s analysis; however, neither were cited in the review. Motivated by this obvious misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change, I examined the Stern Review in depth and found several additional and significant errors in its treatment of disasters and climate change, including an apparent uncaught typo in the economic effect of hurricane damages that inflated them by an order of magnitude. The effects of various errors and mistakes in the review’s total estimate of the economic damage from human-caused climate change add up to as much as 40 percent of the review’s total estimated losses from all of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions…

The following year, in 2007, the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report, and it also relied on the Muir-Wood study from our Hohenkammer workshop as the “one study” to highlight in its summary review of disasters and climate change. Ignoring the longer period looked at by Muir-Wood as well as the analyses we did of the entire twentieth century, the IPCC selectively concluded that “once losses are normalized for exposure, there still remains an underlying rising trend.” Even worse, the IPCC included in its supplementary material a graph that plotted temperatures alongside disaster losses, smoothing the data and scaling the axes in such a way as to suggest a relationship, despite the fact that none had been shown in the peer-reviewed literature. The figure is cited indicating that the Muir-Wood study from our workshop is the basis for the graph, although no such analysis appears in that paper. In early 2010 Muir-Wood revealed that the IPCC knowingly miscited the graph…

Furthermore, the IPCC somehow neglected to mention the many other peer-reviewed studies examining a wide range of places and time periods that found no signal of anthropogenic climate change after adjusting for societal factors, and while it cited our workshop report, it failed to report its conclusions about the present impossibility of attributing disaster losses to greenhouse gases. Either the IPCC was very sloppy, or it went to great lengths to suggest in a misleading manner a connection between rising temperatures and increasing disaster losses–or both.

It turns out that several reviewers of the IPCC report had in fact raised questions about its treatment of the issue of disaster losses. One reviewer questioned the IPCC’s suggestion that our normalization work had been superseded by events, and asked the IPCC directly, “What does Pielke think about this?” The IPCC responded on my behalf, explaining, “I believe Pielke agrees that adding 2004 and 2005 has the potential to change his earlier conclusions–at least about the absence of a trend in US Cat[astrophe] losses.” The problem with the IPCC response to the reviewer was that it was a complete fabrication. Just two months before I had published a paper…showing clearly that the events of 2004 and 2005 did not change the overall picture at all. The IPCC included misleading information in its report and then fabricated a response to a reviewer, who identified the misleading information, to justify keeping that material in its report.

Mr. Heath keeps chiding me, most recently at Dispatches, for not being well-grounded in the climate change literature. But if the literature contains such serious scientific misrepresentations, even outright fraudulent claims, on what basis can Mr. Heath be so certain of the truth of what he is reading? And as a pre-emptive strike, I must say that I’m not going to be impressed by any responses that take either of the following tacks: a) Despite those errors, these reports have to be accepted in their overall claims; or b) well, ok, those may be in error, but everything else is trustworthy.

Advertisements

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
This entry was posted in Climate Clusterfuck. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Roger Pielke on the Stern Review and the IPCC4

  1. Michael Heath says:

    James,

    Are you claiming that your Pielke Jr.’s cite is representative of the output by the climate science community? If so why use a WG2 example rather than something from the WG1? Prior to my asking this question were you aware of the differences and why this is arguably relevant? Are you aware of how greenwashers and denialists repeatedly find mistakes in parts of the AR4 which they then falsely or disingenuously portray as coming from the climate science community? E.g., Himalayan glacier melt, sea level rises in Scandinavia.

    Your framing in your lead has you appearing to portray the state of the climate scientific community’s predictions extend beyond the evidence, i.e., your:

    global warming is happening, but the the “official consensus” misstates and overstates important facts.

    .
    You then use this Pielke Jr. quote about a WG2 to illustrate your point. Do you understand why these are arguably unrelated when it comes to what you describe with scare quotes as the “official consensus”? Did you bother to even do a perfunctory review of the current state of understanding extreme weather events and climate change prior to taking a position? You demonstrate very little cognizance of what the climate science community bases its predictions upon; why would you even publish an opinion without first understanding that which you critique? Especially since there is such a strong movement to misrepresent their understanding.

    Please consider an analogy. If a particular non-automotive manufacturer decided to start manufacturing cars where a fraction of their total output wouldn’t start at the dealer; can we therefore conclude that the entire industry can’t reliably manufacture cars including those manufacturers who’ve been at it for decades and only manufacture cars? From my perspective your argument has you finding some cars from this new manufacturer which didn’t start to claim Toyota and Ford can’t be depended upon to build reliable cars. [Hint, the fields of expertise producing that which Pielke Jr. quotes and the section where it was published are imperative to understanding this analogy and relating it back to your original assertion which appears to claim that climate science’s predictions extend beyond the evidence rather than what most people literate of the science observe – that their predictions have been consistently understated.)

    Have you considered the entire set of recently (say over the past 11 years) discredited findings in the climate science community? Given the current state of peer-review and considering what’s recently been discredited; is there a trend where we now find past predictions were under-stated or over-stated where our current status’ confidence and precision have increased? Is your blog post here representative of that trend?

    Roger Pielke Jr. repeatedly demonstrates an inability to represent other scientists work who work in fields beyond his expertise and accurately represent the state of science on a particular topic. So I have no idea if he’s accurately captured this topic accurately. What’s particularly concerning is he’s repeatedly caught doing this outside the peer-reviewed literature (cites upon request, and there are many). Assuming he has accurately reported this instance as a defect, is it illustrative of how the theory’s modifications are trending or is it a mere outlier existing contra the trend?

  2. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    Your comment is very predictable. It’s just so much squirming around trying to pretend this doesn’t matter at all. We’re talking about scientists misrepresenting others’ work. That’s a serious issue, but you wave your hands and wish it all away.

    Your only direct response is, “I don’t know if I can trust Pielke.” But you implicitly and wholly trust any scientist who says the things about global warming that you want to believe. If the authors of the Stern Report and IPCC4 misrepresented other researchers’ work then they are the ones about whom you should be asking whether you can trust them. At the very least, if you were approaching this issue as an honest and thoughtful person instead of a narrow-minded ideologue, you would accept that maybe there’s reason to have some doubt about the integrity of those documents.

    But noticeably you can’t even consider that, and you try to reshift the focus to other issues to avoid actually dealing with this question.

    And of course Pielke is not a denialist, so your reference to denialists in your comment about him is pathetic. An attempt to smear him by association. I would have thought you were above that, but apparently for you nothing is out of bounds when it comes to the global warming issue. You have become pure righteous ideologue pretending that your side is above all questioning, above all reproach, and attacking anyone who might dare to question anything your side claims.

    You are not approaching this issue as an intelligent and thoughtful person. You are approaching it as a religious fundamentalist.

  3. Michael Heath says:

    James stated:

    Your comment is very predictable.

    As is your blog post. What’s concerning is that you continue to avoid the heart of my criticism in spite of the fact I’ve easily validated your facts/context are wrong/defective.

    James stated:

    It’s just so much squirming around trying to pretend this doesn’t matter at all.

    No squirming, I’m repeatedly pointing out that your framework is fatally flawed because you lack context and lack the proper citations to even validate the narrow point you are attempting to make.

    James stated:

    Your only direct response is, “I don’t know if I can trust Pielke.”

    No, I’m making a far larger point. That you lack the ability to be a credible critic. You’ve demonstrated this repeatedly in your related blog posts and here:
    1) You use another disreputable source, Anthony Watts, to misrepresent James Hansen’s position by falsely quote-mining him.
    2) In another example you claim Dr. Hansen is falsely presenting the science in an alarmist example when in fact he’s well within the bounds of the consensus based on empirical findings (sea level rise).
    3) You ridicule Paul Krugman for an assertion long-observed and conceded by those informed of healthcare finance economics.

    In this case you stake out a position that the scientific consensus on AGW extends beyond the science, you provide no evidence of your position nor have you ever done so in the past, and then you provide an unvalidated anecdotal claim supporting your point by a disreputable source of an article published by people who are not climate scientists publishing in a section of AR4 not completely controlled representative of the climate science community like the WG1 is.

    James:

    If the authors of the Stern Report and IPCC4 misrepresented other researchers’ work then they are the ones about whom you should be asking whether you can trust them.

    They have done so, you appear oblivious to this fact. Here’s one example regarding the specific point you make which does not reconcile with Pielke Jr.’s portrayal: http://goo.gl/cJE7

    James:

    At the very least, if you were approaching this issue as an honest and thoughtful person instead of a narrow-minded ideologue, you would accept that maybe there’s reason to have some doubt about the integrity of those documents.

    I would argue this reveals deep projection on your part James. In all four instances above we observe consistent behavior on both our parts. You seek out a way to discredit an expert where you have not made the effort to first understand the consensus view. In this case you continue with the idea we should doubt the integrity of the climate science community’s findings while failing to even directly confront the climate science community’s findings but instead misrepresent what you quote as the climate science community’s findings when it is not. You also don’t even bother to provide a cite that Pielke’s criticism is in fact accepted as true.

    In addition the results of scientific methodology remains a largely driven human process. Of course it will produce defects. We need to first properly describe the defect, put it in context of all related defects and successes, and reveal the root cause before we can make any conclusions about the larger context, i.e., the validity of the consensus view. You’ve failed miserably on all three counts and yet I assume still hold that your anecdote is illustrative of your conclusion. The glaring defect here is your approach to critiquing consensus theory, that is a far larger point which is central to my motivation for commenting in this blog post.

    James:

    But noticeably you can’t even consider that, and you try to reshift the focus to other issues to avoid actually dealing with this question.

    I am trying to reshift the focus because you are out of focus. You lead off your blockpost claiming that the consensus view is beyond the evidence, you provide zero evidence in support of your position, and then you provide a mere illustration from non-climate scientists from a discredited critic whose position is not accepted as representative of this supposed defect. So no, I didn’t follow you down the rabbit hole; I instead am trying to point out that you continually go down rabbit holes and how you go down rabbit holes.

    James:

    But you implicitly and wholly trust any scientist who says the things about global warming that you want to believe.

    This is simply not true. I trust the consensus perspective knowing with certainty that parts of it are defective. Unlike you I also know the essential weaknesses that the general pattern of defects is that the theory understates its predictions. That’s based not on critiques outside the climate science community but instead empirical findings that aren’t well enough understood to model within the precise times of the climate models and/or not well understood to make predictions with the precision of other findings which are in the models, e.g., sea level rise beyond this century.

    I also don’t throw the baby with the bathwater; I expect mistakes to be made. Given the volume of denialism and greenwashing, those who are uninformed and misinformed greatly misconstrue the state of the theory of AGW because trivial outlier defects taken out of context to the general trend of all defects are amplified where the audience is unaware of all the defects and successes and therefore are incapable of properly framing the anecdotes presented to them. This is exactly the pattern you deploy here.

    You claim to love process as I do James and yet you repeatedly violate the most basic elementary principles of process optimization. In all four instances where I’ve noted you are horribly wrong some common elements emerge:
    1) You are not informed on the set of findings for that discipline nor appear motivated to become informed even after such embarrassing results like your Hansen blog posts.
    2) You apply principles that do not always apply and because you lack cognizance of the area you critique, can’t assess whether those principles apply in that instance (the Krugman example) or whether your finding is indicative of a trend amplifying a larger finding or an outlier result where in fact the trend is the opposite of that which you argue (which is true in this example). In the case of Hansen twice and here your examples fail to even point address the climate science community’s findings as they present them.
    3) You trust critics of the mainstream consensus who are not experts themselves and have been found to repeatedly misrepresent the scientists you critique (Watts, Pielke Jr.). You also use these sources without first verifying their claims can withstand scrutiny (the exception is the Krugman example where you relied upon yourself) and then you claim I’m the narrow ideologue who is too trusting? That’s rich James.
    4) You completely lack context with your mere anecdotal claims yet you use these claims to make a systemic conclusion of the total population. Do I really have to again point out how utterly defective it is to use one anecdote from the WG2 which was not even properly reported as evidence the theory of AGW goes beyond the science in support of your initial assertion?

    James – why are you so resistant to clinging to an uninformed position and embarrassing yourself with your critiques of experts and their results in a field (in this case your shot misses nearly the entire field) when one can easily avoid such by reading one mere book on climate science? The energy you’ve put forward in the past couple of months on the related blog posts I’ve critiqued would have you half-way through the Rahmstorf and Archer book providing some contextual understanding to put your blog posts within some workable framing.

    James:

    And of course Pielke is not a denialist, so your reference to denialists in your comment about him is pathetic. An attempt to smear him by association.

    I didn’t claim he was a denialist. I reported that he uses a type of disingenuous criticism which often is found to misrepresent the scientists he cites, tactic which is commonly used by both denialists and greenwashers. I find Pielke Jr.’s approach more in common with greenwasher Bjorn Lomborg than a denialist like Anthony Watts. Unlike you James I actually do closely study the progress of this discipline and its critics.

    I also offered cites to validate my claim that he is not a trustworthy critic. I encounter him frequently because he’s a commenter at RealClimate. So I know that some of his arguments are worthy of consideration while also recognizing that the media loves him because he appears to be an unbiased critic capable of commenting on the climate science community. Much of his criticism is well-taken and in fact is far better argued within the community though it doesn’t garner the media attention Pielke Jr. solicits and enjoys. RealClimate in particular does an excellent job of reporting on peer-reviewed results which will not survive and why. However like Mr. Lomborg, Pielke Jr. demonstrates a type of disingenuous argument which is attractive to denialists and greenwashers so his misrepresentative criticisms, or those which are pedantically valid but wildly divergent from any proper context, frequently are used by denialists and greenwashers to muddy the water regarding the state of the evidence. Your post here is indicative of both.

    Here’s an example of his incompetence: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/05/nature_climate_blog_off_to_roc.php

    James:

    You have become pure righteous ideologue pretending that your side is above all questioning, above all reproach, and attacking anyone who might dare to question anything your side claims.

    This is not representative of my arguments in your blog post here. I am critiquing your approach as fatally flawed, I’m not nor have I ever claimed that the climate science is above all reproach. I also observe your argument as pure projection since I’m not making an ideological case but instead criticizing your process as fatally defective. Ideological to any theory would be an idiotic position given the dependence on human transactions that is required of scientific methodology. Any process expert knows that humans err, a lot.

    Your assertion towards me is also an outright lie; I have instead argued your criticisms haven’t dented the armor nor could they ever unless you improve both your cognizance of the topic and your approach to be a worthy critic. You should ask yourself why you have to continually misrepresent my position and others to make your point.

    James – this is not fun for me, especially since what I find to be my valid criticisms of your defective approach are outright rejected. After the Krugman post I decided not to comment here anymore. The motivation in this blog post was merely because you referred to me in this blog post. Obviously my criticism isn’t even being considered by you given your replies in all four related blog posts (the two Hansen blog posts, your Krugman post, and this one). So at the threat of becoming an unwelcome guest of your venue here, which is probably already the case, I’ll restrict my comments to you Ed Brayton’s forum. I get that blogging should be enjoyable and I can’t imagine your enjoying my commenting here in spite of my motivation being to help you; help which appears to be perceived by you as inapplicable.

  4. James Hanley says:

    Michal Heath,

    You make three errors here.

    First, you seem to equate critique of specific elements of specific researchers with denialism, or at least as being completely illegitimate, either of which are quite ridiculous. No matter how correct the science is overall, if researchers misuse other scholars’ research, it’s legitimate to point that out. Were you thinking more like a scholar and less like an ideologue you would respond differently.

    Second, you revert back to your essential claim that nothing can legitimately be said about this issue unless one has read (and presumably accepted as scripture) all the latest science of climate change. But this, of course, is false. There are elements of this issue that are wholly independent of the actual science of climate change, including how people involved play very typical roles seen in many other policy issues, and–of importance here–the illegitimacy of misusing another scholar’s research. Let me emphasize and clarify that: Regardless of the underlying science, it is legitimate to talk about the illegitimacy of misrepresenting another scholar’s research. Your whole commentary here seems to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to obscure that.

    Third, your attempt to trash Pielke’s claim is illogical and juvenile. At best it’s a tu quoque argument. “But Pielke’s made errors, too!!!” But worse than that, to counter Pielke’s claim that researchers misrepresented his (and other’s) research in scholarly publications you present a blogger’s claim that Pielke made an error in a blog post. Assuming Lambert’s criticism is correct, your comparing an error in a blog post to misrepresentation of other scholars’ research in serious scholarly works. There’s no comparison, Mr. Heath. And whatever errors Mr. Pielke may have made in no way reduce the importance of others’ misrepresenting his work in their own work.

    As to the link you claim shows Pielke’s “incompetence,” did you happen to see his comment in response, where he admits he said “temperature” when he meant “zone,” and then the discussion that followed? Or did you just find a blog that claimed he made an error and automatically accept that as true? And while you’re busy critiquing Pielke as incompetent to speak outside his area, did you happen to note that the blogger who made the claim of Pielke’s error is a computer scientist? Somehow you just accept a computer scientist’s claims outside his area of expertise, but…well, I think the double-standard is fairly evident.

    I’m sorry you’ve decided not to comment here anymore, for the most part, but not sad you won’t be commenting about this issue, since on this one issue you wholly abandon the thoughtful approach that has won you so much well-deserved praise at Dispatches.

    As to your frustration that I’m not paying attention to your criticism of my approach, there’s a very simple reason I’m not. On both these climate change posts and the Krugman post, your criticism was that I was not talking about the particular issue that you thought I should be talking about. With Krugman, you were demanding that I talk about the whole healthcare policy, but that wasn’t the topic. And on this issue you insist that I write about the underlying science, when I want to write about something else (and try to claim I can’t legitimately write about those other things unless I read the underlying science, which as I note above is illogical).

    It’s real simple, Mr. Heath–when your criticism is that I’m writing about those aspects of things that I’m interested in, and not the aspects you’re interested in, then your criticism is nothing less than an effort to tell me what I should write about and how I should say it. That’s not a conversation, which is why I write this blog. If you could be content to discuss the things I write about, instead of trying to force things to your own purposes, you’re more than welcome to stay. But if you really find it necessary to insist that I write about things the way you want me to write about them, then I have badly misunderstood the kind of person you are. I’d regret that to be true, but perhaps it is.

  5. Lance says:

    Let’s see.

    Bombastic and turgid post misrepresenting the current state of climate science. Check.

    Links to alarmist websites. Check.

    Personal insults. Check.

    Claims of projection. Check.

    Condescending references to “educating” while actually demeaning. Check.

    Indignant and triumphal “declaration of victory” parting shot while taking ball and going home. Check.

    Must be a post from Michael Heath on climate change.

  6. ppnl says:

    I can’t help but think that you both would benefit if you shortened your replies to each other to six or eight sentences. Limit yourselves to a few declarative sentences and there is less room to talk past each other. Framing and projection becomes irrelevant as it should be.

    At the very least it would waste less of my time trying to figure out what either of you were saying.

  7. Lance says:

    Oops,

    Didn’t mean to sound like I was piling on Michael Heath.

    I didn’t realize that James was posting at the same time.

    My post looks mean spirited when coming after James Hanley’s.

    Sorry Michael.

    However, you should consider that each post on climate change is not a battle to the death that must be won or the planet will be reduced to a black cinder. And that people that disagree with your strident views on the topic are not going to be swayed by viscous and condescending diatribe.

  8. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    I can’t help but think that you both would benefit if you shortened your replies to each other to six or eight sentences. Limit yourselves to a few declarative sentences and there is less room to talk past each other. Framing and projection becomes irrelevant as it should be.

    I have made this suggestion over and over to Michael Heath in our past discussions on this topic. I have even tried to make it a condition of further participation on my part.

    Sadly, he has never complied with these requests.

  9. Lance says:

    I meant “vicious” not “viscous” in my post to Michael Heath.

    Actually, viscous applies to his rants as well.

  10. James Hanley says:

    Ugh, I didn’t actually bother to read Michael Heath’s post in its entirety, and now I just noticed this:

    my motivation being to help you

    I can be pretty condescending, but I’m not sure I’ve even written anything as dripping with condescension as that. How does a person even respond to such a comment?

    All I can say, I guess, is that when it comes to getting help in understanding science I don’t normally turn to businessmen, but to scientists. On the flip side, when I need help understanding business, I turn to businessmen instead of scientists. I have in fact learned some things from Mr. Heath in that realm, where his expertise is real and valuable.

  11. James Hanley says:

    Here’s one example regarding the specific point you make which does not reconcile with Pielke Jr.’s portrayal: http://goo.gl/cJE7

    Actually, this doesn’t reconcile with your portrayal. The blog post author just dismisses the claim, and when Pielke claims he made an error, the author’s response is dismissive and avoids the issue. Two further commenters note that they’d like to see a substantive response to Pielke’s question, but none was forthcoming.

    That you would see this as clearly demonstrating Pielke’s error shows that you’re either reading very selectively or you’re just not actually reading what you’re linking to as alleged evidence.

  12. ppnl says:

    The blog post author just dismisses the claim, and when Pielke claims he made an error, the author’s response is dismissive and avoids the issue.

    What specific claim do you see as being dismissed and avoided?

  13. James Hanley says:

    The claim that Muir-Wood’s research was misrepresented.

  14. ppnl says:

    The claim that Muir-Wood’s research was misrepresented.

    So you are not arguing that Muir-Wood was or was not misrepresented. You are only arguing that it was dismissed and avoided in the linked blog post?

    So What does Robert Muir-Wood have to say about all of this? It would seem that he is the go to person to settle this issue.

  15. James Hanley says:

    Pielke is claiming that Muir-Wood was misrepresented, and I am arguing that when he raised that issue in his comment to that blog post the author of the post first simply dismissed his concern then failed to address it when two other commenters requested that he actually address it.

    According to Pielke, who has collaborated with Muir-Wood, Muir-Wood think his work was poorly used. See paragraph 3 in the blockquote in my original post above.

  16. ppnl says:

    Pielke is claiming that Muir-Wood was misrepresented, and I am arguing that when he raised that issue in his comment to that blog post the author of the post first simply dismissed his concern then failed to address it when two other commenters requested that he actually address it.

    I have yet to search 13 pages of comments for where Pielke raised the issue. But then I’m not sure much of a criticism can be made for failure to address the issue in the comments section of a blog. Still, I agree that it would have been nice to see that discussion.

    According to Pielke, who has collaborated with Muir-Wood, Muir-Wood think his work was poorly used. See paragraph 3 in the blockquote in my original post above.

    Well first this is hearsay. If Muir-Wood thinks his work was misrepresented then he has a moral duty to stand and say so.

    Second the wording here has changed from “misrepresented” to “poorly used”. “Misrepresent” seems to imply some kind of dishonesty while “poorly used” may be nothing more than a difference of opinion over implications.

    I did find a FAQ put out by RMS — pdf link:

    http://www.rms.com/Publications/2010_FAQ_IPCC.pdf

    According to that FAQ:

    RMS believes the IPCC fairly referenced its paper, with suitable caveats around the results, highlighting the factors influencing the relationship that had been discovered between time and increased catastrophe costs. We believe it was appropriate to include the RMS paper in the report because, at that time, it was the only paper addressing global multi-peril catastrophe losses over time that had been normalized for changes in the values and exposure at risk.

    But to goes on to say:

    A graph showing averaged global temperature and averaged catastrophe loss since 1970 was included in supplementary material rather than the IPCC report itself and was not itself published. RMS believes that the graph could be misinterpreted and should not have been included in these materials.

    The inclusion of this graph seems to be the only basis of any legitimate complaint about the use of Muir-Wood’s work. It is a fair criticism. But as evidence of systemic bias it seems kind of thin.

    The whole issue seems kind of trivial to me. A misused graph about a subject that is only peripherally connected to the science of global warming anyway? And it was only published in supplementary material? As I said this is kind of thin.

  17. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    “But as evidence of systemic bias it seems kind of thin.”

    These kind of remarks get old after a while.

    If you just want to “believe” that’s your prerogative, but dismissing the pattern of misrepresentation by major players in the IPCC is a rather a tiresome affair.

    “Climate gate is just bad personal behavior by a few scientists.”

    “The Hockey Stick doesn’t matter because other (incestuous) paleo-climate studies say the same thing.”

    “The misstatements about Amazon rain forests and Himalayan glaciers in the most recent report are minor compared to the over all science.”

    Yadda yadda yadda.

  18. ppnl says:

    Dude,

    The subject is the misrepresentation of Muir-Wood’s work. One subject at a time or we will start arguing about framing issues and I will have to shoot myself. It might hurt.

    Again the only issue seems to be the inclusion of a graph in supplementary material of the IPCC report. You can claim that it was included for its rhetorical and political impact rather than its scientific value if you want and I wouldn’t even bother to argue with you. I’m only saying that this issue is an incredibly small one. If they are trying to be biased they are doing it wrong.

    You can also argue that it is only one thing in a pattern of behavior. Well maybe but the fact that we are talking about such a small issue does not give me confidence.

  19. Lance says:

    Dude,

    The graph is just emblematic of the issue. Did you read the entire post?

    The IPCC, not to mention the Stern Report, was anxious to show that weather related disasters had gone up. The evidence didn’t show that they had. So the IPCC decided to include a graph that appeared to show a correlation between increasing CO2 levels and dollars of storm damage along with misrepresenting the peer reviewed science on the entire issue.

    You seem to be focusing on the rather narrow issue of the graph not the entirety of the science that shows no statistical correlation between increased CO2 and weather related disasters.

    Calling these criticisms “kind of thin” is dismissing a very large and egregious misrepresentation of the science as no big deal.

    As a scientist I am getting very tired of these kind of defenses of very poor scientific practices at the least and outright political whoring of the science at the worst, “dude”.

  20. ppnl says:

    The graph is just emblematic of the issue.

    Yeah, I think Michael Heath was trying to make the same kind of argument in the other direction. You can each choose the set of emblematic issues you want to obsess over. I don’t care.

    You seem to be focusing on the rather narrow issue of the graph not the entirety of the science that shows no statistical correlation between increased CO2 and weather related disasters.

    And I will continue to focus on narrow issues.

    I don’t think there is any question that the Muir-Wood paper did not find any significant increases in the cost of weather related disasters. I think the IPCC report accurately represented this fact.

    Again the only issue is the inclusion of the graph in supplementary material. I agree with the RMS FAQ that this should not have been done. I agree that the graph out of context could easily be misunderstood. Was there a nefarious motive for doing it? Maybe. But in a large and complex work like the IPCC report it is almost inconceivable that there will not be examples of poor judgment. A more important issue than the graph itself is how the IPCC authors react to the criticism.

    Also the Muir-Wood paper does not show that there is no correlation between global warming and weather related disasters. What the Muir-Wood paper tells me is that there would have to be a huge effect in order for it to be seen by the methods used. It turns out that clean up cost is a very very poor proxy for storm severity.

    I don’t even think that climate scientists should pay much attention to this kind of thing. You don’t need a proxy for storm intensity since you can measure that directly. Currently I don’t think there is very good evidence that storm intensity is changing so it isn’t a surprise that Muir-Wood didn’t find anything with a horrible proxy.

    Even the prediction of an increase in storm intensity is not on firm ground. Some models show it and it is something to watch for. As far as I can tell the idea is that while warming may increase the amount of energy available for storms putting a blanket over the earth reduces temperature differences that cause storms to form. That means we will have fewer but more powerful storms. But the real world is a complex place that can confound our simple narratives and even our complex models.

    And finally even if global warming does cause increased storm intensity I don’t care. Yes storms have a human cost but then so does the measures needed to counter warming. If storms were the only effect then the best policy would be to suck it up and deal with them. By a huge margin.

  21. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    First, let me say that I appreciate the way you are approaching this, making your points vigorously and thoughtfully, but without going into moralistic mode.

    The graph in question should not have been used, that seems clear.

    The full set of years used by Pielke et al., in the storm study was not used by those who referenced his work; instead they used a redacted set with a later starting point that, by virtue of the starting point, suggested greater effect than Pielke, et. al. It’s extremely easy to manipulate the presentation of data by carefully selecting beginning and end points, so that’s a very suspicious action.

    My point is not to say that this all proves they’re lying about global warming. But there does seem to be a pattern of small, “around the edges” kind of things like this that shape the presentation of the issue, and of course how it then gets reported by a scientifically illiterate media.

    What’s crucial in the Pielke, et. al, study is that it demonstrates that we–in the U.S., I think was their only subject country–aren’t experiencing greater human/economic costs from increased storm intensity as a consequence of AGW. Remember Pielke doesn’t deny AGW, but there’s a lot of popular mythology out there–every hurricane season now–that storms are getting worse and causing more damage because of AGW. Pielke et. al’s extensive study (of course assuming it’s correct) refutes that. By choosing a subset of his data, that refutation is lost and the popular mythology is reinforced.

    It’s those marginal things that make me suspicious.

    I don’t even think that climate scientists should pay much attention to this kind of thing. You don’t need a proxy for storm intensity since you can measure that directly.

    Pielke says exactly what you say in your second sentence. But his real focus wasn’t on whether AGW was increasing storm intensity, but the human cost that might be resulting from it. That is an important issue in itself. In fact to my way of thinking, it’s more important than the evidence for AGW itself, because if warming were to happen and cause absolutely no human costs, it would be little more than a curiosity. The crucial questions–to policy guys like Pielke and me, anyway–are “how does this affect humanity?” You may be right that climate scientists per se shouldn’t pay much attention to that–they’re not policy guys, and it’s not at all necessary that they be policy guys (which is not to they can’t be if they want, although most non-policy people tend to do policy stuff badly).

    I will continue to focus on narrow issues.

    Thank you! It’s exceptionally frustrating to try to write about a narrow issue and get an irate response telling me I have to focus on the very big issue. Whether or not we disagree on that narrow issue doesn’t particularly worry me, as long as we’re actually talking about the same thing.

  22. Lance says:

    Sorry if I went into a “moralistic tone”.

    ppnl’s last response was measured and wholly rational.

    I probably read to much into his first post’s “kind of thin” remark.

  23. ppnl says:

    The full set of years used by Pielke et al., in the storm study was not used by those who referenced his work; instead they used a redacted set with a later starting point that, by virtue of the starting point, suggested greater effect than Pielke, et. al. It’s extremely easy to manipulate the presentation of data by carefully selecting beginning and end points, so that’s a very suspicious action.

    Well yes I agree that this is troubling. I can see why the graph would be generated. After all you graph data every way you can to try to see what it is trying to tell you. Then you throw most of it away. Releasing this graph free of context was very poor judgment. It looks very bad.

    My point is not to say that this all proves they’re lying about global warming. But there does seem to be a pattern of small, “around the edges” kind of things like this that shape the presentation of the issue, and of course how it then gets reported by a scientifically illiterate media.

    As I said this seems kind of thin. What were they trying to accomplish? And didn’t it backfire? As you say there is a lot of popular mythology out there about AGW and storms but can it really be said that this graph contributed to it? I suspect that it has had the opposite effect.

    It is reasonable to question the motives and I think it is reasonable to think that some level of bias contributed to the poor judgment. But first these things happen any time humans do anything. And second it is just as reasonable to question the motives of those who insist on seeing patterns and agendas in ordinary misjudgments. Nobody is really agendaless anyway.

    Neither group should be judged by past mistakes anyway. Mistakes always happen. Judgment should be based on how they react to criticism. That is how science progresses.

  24. James Hanley says:

    What were they trying to accomplish?

    I’d hesitate to imply motive here. I don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy–I think there are just fallible humans. We all know that the value of science is that it’s a process that over time corrects for human fallibility. The key is not just “corrects for human fallibility” but “over time.” At any given moment there are scientists all over the world making mistakes, as a consequence of misunderstanding, bad luck in drawing random samples, inattention, sloppy lab procedures, and internal biases (only rarely is there intentional fraud); “over time” is what corrects those errors.

    The global warming issue is tailor made for mistakes made via bias because it is an issue that has so much emotional and political impact. It’s naive, I think, to believe that someone researching an issue that he believes could threaten the very existence of the human race would be free from any influence from that concern. It can unconsciously shape a researcher’s selection of data points, or analysis of the data, or the explanation of what it means/it’s import.

    And second it is just as reasonable to question the motives of those who insist on seeing patterns and agendas in ordinary misjudgments.

    If I have given the impression of implying nefarious motives and agenda, then I have not written clearly. I think it’s about judgement. I don’t think James Hansen, for example, is lying to people, or that he has an agenda of supporting greater government control over our lives, etc., etc. I think he has demonstrated poor judgment at times, driven not by what can be said with certainty from the research but by his internal biases.

    But of course we can question the motives, or at the least the judgment, of their critics as well. I don’t want to hold Pielke up as a demigod, but one of the reasons I take him seriously is that he is in agreement that AGW is happening–he’s not a denialist–but he’s more cautious in his pronouncements about research findings, and he’s willing to critique climate research, whereas most of those responding to and commenting on climate research findings just accept each report as gospel truth and damn anyone who questions it.

    Judgment should be based on how they react to criticism. That is how science progresses.

    I fully agree, but as far as I can tell the reaction to criticism is always to damn the messenger and refuse to consider the possibility of error. Look at how Michael Heath, normally one of the calmest and most thoughtful of commenters, changes tone on this issue. Look at how anyone who critiques is instantly labeled a denialist. I’ve seen multiple people condemning Roger Pielke as a denialist despite his frequent statements that AGW is real. It’s just easier to find a simple stereotype that enables one to dismiss critics than it is to look inside oneself and see if maybe we have committed an error.

    That’s the pattern I think I see. A bias driven by the emotional and political impact of the issue that leads, not to falsification, but almost systematic misjudgment at the margins that leads to overstatement of claims and perhaps judgment errors in selecting and interpreting data. And when any (potential) errors are pointed out, a vicious condemnation of any who dare question the judgment of SCIENTISTS.

  25. ppnl says:

    I’d hesitate to imply motive here. I don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy–I think there are just fallible humans.

    This is always true everywhere.

    The global warming issue is tailor made for mistakes made via bias because it is an issue that has so much emotional and political impact.

    I disagree. Scientists gravitate toward issues they care very deeply about. A cancer researcher really wants his latest drug trials to work out for many reasons. Professional, financial, humanitarian there many different causes for bias. One of the worst failures of science recently was the whole autism vaccination link thing. That appears to have been at least partly fueled by the fact that Andrew Wakefield had a financial interest in an alternate vaccine. This was a clusterfuck that blows any claim of bad science in AGW away. Political passions are not special. It is just that when political passions are involved the most visible debate is usually dominated by people who think Bush personally planted bombs in the world trade center or that Obama is a secret Muslim communist. Usually these people aren’t scientists and the scientific community can’t be held responsible for them.

    Judgment should be based on how they react to criticism. That is how science progresses.

    I fully agree, but as far as I can tell the reaction to criticism is always to damn the messenger and refuse to consider the possibility of error.

    Is anyone claiming that the inclusion of the graph was a good thing? It seems to me that there is universal agreement that dropping the graph into the complimentary material without context was a bad thing. It isn’t clear what else you want.

    Look at how Michael Heath, normally one of the calmest and most thoughtful of commenters, changes tone on this issue.

    I agree that he seems to lose perspective sometimes. People do. But the response of some people in the public debate isn’t the way to judge the response of the climate science community.

    That’s the pattern I think I see. A bias driven by the emotional and political impact of the issue that leads, not to falsification, but almost systematic misjudgment at the margins that leads to overstatement of claims and perhaps judgment errors in selecting and interpreting data. And when any (potential) errors are pointed out, a vicious condemnation of any who dare question the judgment of SCIENTISTS.

    What I see is a single troubling but in the scheme of things common kind of misjudgment that has achieved a heated level of public debate far beyond its scientific importance because of political passions. Almost by definition there can be nothing systemic in a single incident.

    Michael Heath seems to believe that an essentially random set of issues are being exploited by some to sell a conspiracy theory for political purposes. Probably financed by the Koch brothers. Lance appears to believe that in a conspiracy of a small number of scientists to pervert the scientific process for political purposes.

    What I see in this single issue is a bog standard misjudgment being given an importance far beyond what it deserves by a broken political process. There is no scientific controversy in this issue. No disagreement that the out of context graph was a bad thing. No evidence that the scientific process was corrupted by it. The only bad effect seems to be less trust in climate science which is an opposite effect from what any biased scientist (intentional or unintentional) would have wanted. If anything this result supports Michael Heath’s position more than Lance’s. But drawing a conclusion from a single incident would be silly.

  26. James Hanley says:

    ppnl,

    By definition a single anecdote cannot be proof of systematic problems. But this blog post wasn’t trying to “prove” systematic problems. It was pointing out one–or I would say, yet another–example.

    Pointing to the LA cops beating of Rodney King back in the ’90s, for example, by itself didn’t prove there were systematic problems in the LA police force. But it also couldn’t simply be dismissed as not being evidence for anything. Other incidents were known about and discussed. Other incidents in the AGW debate have been known about as well.

    As to whether hot political topics are particularly likely to promote unintended bias, I maintain that they are. The examples you give, particularly about financial incentives, are more likely to be caught and corrected by others.

  27. ppnl says:

    By definition a single anecdote cannot be proof of systematic problems. But this blog post wasn’t trying to “prove” systematic problems. It was pointing out one–or I would say, yet another–example.

    Well as I have said I don’t find this example very convincing. To settle the matter you need to look at multiple examples. I think Lance posted a short list above. Maybe you could do a blog post on them.

    As to whether hot political topics are particularly likely to promote unintended bias, I maintain that they are.

    I didn’t say that it was not likely to produce unintended bias. I just don’t see that it is more likely to produce bias than the other mechanisms. What political passions does is cause a disconnect between what is happening in the scientific discussion and what is happening in the public political discussion. Creationism is the prime example of this disconnect.

    The examples you give, particularly about financial incentives, are more likely to be caught and corrected by others.

    Well the graph was pretty quickly caught. The same political passions can as easily drive the corrections as the bias itself so I can’t agree. It is only in the public political discourse that things tend to never get resolved. The Andrew Wakefield paper is a prime example. It took the science community a long time to work through paper-bad methodology-not reproducible-financial conflict of interest-falsified data-dangerous medical procedures. But they did work through it to the point of taking Wakefield medical license. But the public political controversy may never end.

  28. Lance says:

    ppnl,

    Lance appears to believe that in a conspiracy of a small number of scientists to pervert the scientific process for political purposes.

    While the way things “appear” to you is not something I can address, I can say that I don’t claim or believe there is a conspiracy of any number of scientists, small or large, to “pervert the scientific process” for political or any other purpose.

    The problem is one of confirmation bias and conflating policy advocacy with dispassionate inquiry.

    Scientists are of course human, at least according to most of the data, and when a scientist vests his time and reputation in a theory it is all too easy to interpret evidence in a way that comports with that theory and difficult to recognize the significance of evidence that contradicts it. As you say this is not unique to climate science. What is unique to climate science is the fact that any research that were to minimize the apparent impacts of anthropogenic CO2 would also minimize the chance for further funding of climate research, for if there is no impending doom from anthropogenic CO2 then we’re just talking about the weather.

    It becomes even more difficult to walk back from a position when you make claims that the fate of civilization, and the very planet are at stake. Many of these scientists have become celebrities and the hero of environmental groups.

    Please don’t mistake this for a claim of intentional fraud. I make no such claim, but if you status, income and prestige are dependent on a certain view of the evidence and you have become a passionate advocate wed to one side of a national political debate it is quite unlikely that you are going to devote much effort to helping your critics or investigating competing theories.

    Even a casual reading of the “climategate” emails reveals this to be true.

  29. ppnl says:

    The problem is that once you accept that large numbers of very intelligent and highly educated people can so completely fool themselves and hijack an entire field you have to face the possibility that it is you who have fooled yourself. If minds are so untrustworthy even in large numbers then on what logical basis can you trust your own mind? It seems that the best you can conclude is that there is a 50% chance that you are right and they are wrong.

    This is the same kind of thing claimed by groups as diverse as creationists, antivaxers, truthers and birthers. Somehow they take a position different from the consensus and believe that the majority is somehow mind blind to the obvious truth. Evolutionary biologists are blinded by liberal brain washing, doctors are blinded by the money in vaccination and the medical industrial establishment and 9/11 was obviously an attempt to st up a one word government financed by the Koch brothers.

    I’m not trying to say you are as crazy as these people. But there is a repeating theme of being able to see an obvious truth that the majority somehow is mind blind to. It is very seductive probably because of how we value the individual. However logically it is a very dangerous position to take.

    Even a casual reading of the “climategate” emails reveals this to be true.

    Of course! I see it now, how could I have been so blind! Now all we have to do is get all the climate scientists to read these emails! Who knew that the solution would be so simple…

  30. Lance says:

    And you were seeming so reasonable for a while there.

    The problem is that once you accept that large numbers of very intelligent and highly educated people can so completely fool themselves and hijack an entire field you have to face the possibility that it is you who have fooled yourself.

    I made no such claims. No one, certainly not me, questions whether the small percentage of CO2 contributed to the atmosphere by human activities has had some effect. The question is whether we face catastrophic consequences that are worth the cost of massive restructuring of the world’s energy infrastructure.

    Advocacy of such actions is inconsistent with the evidence and scientists that engage in such advocacy are either ignoring the empirical evidence or selectively misrepresenting the dangers that are evident as was the subject of this thread before you started comparing me with creationists and truthers.

    If minds are so untrustworthy even in large numbers then on what logical basis can you trust your own mind? It seems that the best you can conclude is that there is a 50% chance that you are right and they are wrong.

    Yeah, right. If I point out that the data for sea level rise doesn’t support alarmist claims or that there is no data that supports claims of increased droughts, floods, hurricanes etc. I have to agree that I have lost all hope of telling up from down or “wrong from right”. Please.

    This is the same kind of thing claimed by groups as diverse as creationists, antivaxers, truthers and birthers. Somehow they take a position different from the consensus and believe that the majority is somehow mind blind to the obvious truth.

    You forgot the Flat Earth Society.

    I’m not trying to say you are as crazy as these people. But…

    Gosh thanks!

    Of course! I see it now, how could I have been so blind! Now all we have to do is get all the climate scientists to read these emails! Who knew that the solution would be so simple…

    What those emails show is a core group of climate scientists evading freedom of information requests for the actual data that backs up their research. It shows them actively suppressing data that contradicts their studies. It shows them working to exclude the views of scientists that disagree with their views of the science from being published in the peer reviewed literature.

    But I guess just dismissing these issues with mockery and claiming that challenging the “consensus” is evidence of lunacy is you response.

    Let me know if and when you want to have a serious discussion based on verifiable evidence and not face making and fart noises.

  31. James Hanley says:

    I know we’re all supposed to recognize now that the climategate emails didn’t reveal anything nefarious at all, but I remain unpersuaded. Do they show that global warming isn’t real? Of course not. Do they show scientists behaving in an unscientific manner that we don’t see with most issues? Yes. I was particularly disturbed by the “we need to change the peer review process” email. Did they actually manage to change the peer review process? No, and they probably didn’t even really try, fortunately. But they’re not simply the innocent victims they paint themselves to be.

  32. ppnl says:

    Sorry, been busy but there are a few things I wanted to comment on in case anyone is still interested.

    Lance,

    My point again isn’t that you are as crazy as creationists. I don’t mean that as snark. My point is if you use the “politically mind blind” argument you will have to defend yourself from the same argument. You don’t get to say “Its obvious” about hacked emails or anything else. Even if you are convinced that the opposition is politically biased that does not relieve you of the responsibility of actually making an argument. Political bias is a charge best left unmade even when true because it simply shuts down debate.

    James,

    Jeez you went from a not very good example to a really really bad one. How does one go about changing the peer review process? Do you petition the peer review king? Get the peer review Parliament to pass a law? Sorry for the snark but I don’t understand what you are thinking.

    Anyway I think the correct quote is not:

    “we need to change the peer review process”

    but:

    “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

    That is if we are talking about the same thing. Anyway the email can be seen here:

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=419

    The basic dispute is over two papers that were published where the peer review seems to have been horribly flawed. The flaws were so bad that half the editorial staff of the journal “Climate Research” resigned in protest. Phil Jones wanted to keep these out of the IPCC because they were so flawed. That didn’t happen.

    If I want to make arguments about political motives I would start here:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11022

    Notice that in this Cato page they have a different spin on things. No mention of the controversy over the papers. Notice also that they attribute the quote to Phil Jones. That is correct. But the original Cato page attributed the quote to Michael Mann. That’s Michael Mann of hockey stick fame. It is possible that they made an honest mistake and confused the “From” and “To” fields in the email. But why did they simply change the page without issuing a retraction and apology? Did they do it because Michael Mann was a bigger target than Phil Jones? Is this acceptable practice? Would you do it? Anyway the original form can be found here:

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/node/143011

    Also Cato repeated the charge using Mann’s name some weeks later here:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11089

    But they just said “Mann is reported to have said… “. Yeah, that is true. But they are the ones who reported him as saying…

    I think you can make a case for political shenanigans here. But the more important point is who the hell cares? If you learn about global warming from either Cato or Al Gore then you are beyond hope. The only thing worse is getting your information from the Rorschach test that is a decades worth of stolen private emails. If you want to form an opinion about the two disputed papers and the peer review process maybe you could try reading the papers. Then read the commentary on the paper by people qualified to comment on it. And read the opinion of those who resigned from the editorial board.

    Political bias? Sure, people have political biases. But if you obsess over the politics to the point of never addressing a logical or scientific point then all is lost. All truth simply becomes a social construct. Postmodernism made real at least until reality bites you in the ass.

Comments are closed.