Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Honest Joker

In a recent thread, somewhere or other, Eli forgets, Roger Pielke Jr. asked Eli to comment on his policy studies. Now true, Ethon would like a bite, but we are ever so earnest here at Rabett Run and the policy person formerly known as #14 deserves an answer, although the Rabett respectfully declines the opportunity of doing it at Roger's new place. Dad Rabett taught Eli the need to control the message. From the Ragged Edge of Reality we have a pretty good description of where RPJ is coming from: There is no need for scientists to get involved in policy cause he will handle it all.

Eli has remarked on the immaturity of Roger's policy framework before, but to be fair, he went and read the "Honest Broker". It is a piece of incredibly immature twaddle, if this is policy studies then policy studies got big problems. To repeat myself (which Eli does very well), Roger's naive injection (let's be nice) of the "honest broker" into climate science policy studies has pushed discussion into a fruitless direction. As with many such things, reality shows how hollow this is. IEHO looking at what brokers do in the real world better illuminates the issue.

Brokers do not expand the scope of choices available to clients, they narrow them. Brokers make markets. Brokers make a living by matching buyers to sellers and taking a commission (You thought they do it for free? What carrot wagon you fall off of bunny?). Ethical brokers will go out on the market seeking product suited to clients and will seek clients suited to products available to them. Ethical brokers have mutual obligations to sellers and buyers, to qualify the buyers and vet the sellers, not to sell every piece of nuclear waste to every rube with a cell phone.

Good brokers know what is available for purchase and what their buyer's needs are. They select the best matches (with allowance for the front and back end fees they are going to collect). The broker you want often tells the client NO, don't do that. Where the client insists on committing financial suicide the ethical broker is obligated to tell the buyer to take the business elsewhere. Contrast this with Roger's model of how the "honest broker" gives advice on how to find food

. . you might instead provide your visitor with information on all restaurants in the city, basic information on each (cost, menu, etc.) and let the visitor face the challenge of reducing the scope of choice (i.e., making a decision). Such "honest brokering" could also be strong (e.g., a comprehensive guide to all restaurants in the city) or weak (e.g., a guide to all those within a 5 minutes walk). The defining characteristic of the honest broker is an effort to expand (or at least clarify) the scope of choice for decision making.
Notice that the "honest broker" is not allowed to say that the food sucks, or that the place was closed for health violations, lest she become the dreaded "Issue Advocate" Pielke's "honest broker"slams the Yellow Pages down on the counter and leaves.

His argument is that all choices are political/personal by nature and the proper broker's role is to show all products and not advise the client based on technical knowledge and experience. At best this is postmodernism, that power determines reality. Even in the best comments section (Hi Marky!) you can always find someone who denies quantum mechanics, that tobacco smoke causes cancer, or HIV causes AIDS, or that increasing greenhouse gases will lead to increased global warming. Pielke is telling the powerful to do what they want, there is no reality beyond what they create.

Peilke's honest broker is simply a Thabo Mbeki enabler, allowing the former South African President to glom onto far out denialist science fiction on HIV as equal to the best research and expert advice available. Many people died and are dying because of that attitude. Fundamentally Pielke cannot accept that there are experts in anything who might provide educated advice. There is no better illustration of Pielke's nihilism than his description in the "Honest Broker" of the 2003 Soon, Baliunas and Robinson paper that appeared in Climate Research
It is characteristic of the science and politics of the early twenty-first century to see scientists actively engaged in political debates and particularly as related to the environment. For example, when a 2003 paper in the journal Climate Research argued that twentieth century climate variations were unexceptional in millennial perspective advocacy groups opposed to the Kyoto Protocol predictably hailed the research as “sound science”, while advocacy groups in support of the Protocol called the paper “junk science” (Regalado 2003). In this case, more troubling than the “cherry picking” of scientific results by Issue Advocates (scare capitals –ER) is that many scientists’ evaluations of the scientific merit of the Climate Research paper correlated perfectly with their public expressions of support for or opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change
There is no attempt to come to grips with whether the paper was a contribution to knowledge or a provocation (Hint), and no discussion of how the most expert editors resigned when that piece of trash was forced into the journal. Roger's assumption is that the science follows the policy, not the policy view the science.

Roger is not shy about evaluating claims by the likes of James Hansen, Kevin Trenberth or the Munich Re folk, and always finding fault with them, but he is curiously shy about doing the same for Pat Michaels, S. Fred Singer and that ilk which is a marker of what he is really about. There is no better illustration of Pielke's track record of dishonesty than his attempt to tear Evan Mills down. Mills, of course, thinks that there is evidence that cyclone damage is increasing, something that Roger Pielke Jr. disagrees with.

Since his orientation is towards serving power (a well known and excellent career track for political scientists), the only thing that counts is power and appearance. In a comment at Cruel Mistress, Roger unmasks himself. Ben Hale discusses the morality of cruise ships stopping at a guarded enclave in Hati immediately after the earthquake. Roger, as usual, thinks its all about him and the only thing wrong would be getting caught in public.
There are a lot of other choices that we all make that are equally insensitive, but the don’t look bad because no one sees them. So perhaps pointing to Royal Caribbean and saying tsk tsk makes us feel a bit better about those other things.
He is quite the expert in erasing context. For example, in discussing tobacco he said
In the battle over smoking efforts to deny a link between smoking and health risks seems to have been completely a lost effort.
This is consistent with Pielke's effort to frame other issues has a huge role in getting a subject onto the "agenda" of decision making, but after that, its role is very much diminished and subsumed to other factors, such as cultural, social, and political. If this is correct, it would require some deeper understanding about the role of advocacy related to scientific issues and the efficacy of using science as a tool of advocacy.
and he continues
This begs the question -- why has anti-smoking advocacy been so successful over time? The throwaway answer that increasing scientific certainly is the key does not seem to jibe with this data.
The problem with this whole line of reasoning is that it is built upon a falsehood. The tobacco industry used advertising, public relations campaigns, Potemkin science, litigation, and any other method it could find to maintain revenues. Deaths were collateral damage. This is no secret to anyone who reads the newspapers let alone science journals. The mortality data and the data on tobacco use and its relationship to advertising both pro and con is readily available to anyone who makes the smallest effort to search. The Potemkin science allowed all of the other efforts to go forward, providing a screen against the imperative necessity of eliminating tobacco that were being uncovered by medical research. The tobacco companies were the successful ones, with all the facts against them, they delayed action for decades, but in the postmodern Pielke World, there are no facts. (Except that there has been no measureable increase in tropical cyclone intensity, that Roger reluctantly accepts as a fact)

Eli awaits Roger complaining that his specific policy proposals have not been discussed. True enough. Tomorrow comes.


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess denying reality is a lot more work than I'd thought. RPJR is needing a little love for tackling the deconstruction of science. He's asking you for a little smoochy. Or maybe this is his head shot; he's hoping Bill Gates will hire him.

Boris said...

Great post. RP2 is a piece of--wait for it--work. Typical conversation with him:

Boris: You are being a petty dick in this post.
RP, Jr: Michael Mann is a petty dick in his posts.
Boris: *!

StorageCraft said...

This joker i a real dude. He is my favorite as i like each and every word he speaks and it excites me a lot.

guthrie said...

I spy spam!

(the storage craft person. I think any company found using spam like that should be nuked off the internet)

EliRabett said...

Well it's not quite Natasha class but Eli thought he would give Roger a thrill

Arthur said...

Eli - your explanation of broker suggests to me what scientific journals do: the purpose of peer review is to narrow down the scope of the science presented in their pages to the most important, most correct etc. pieces. With different journals acting in competition with differing narrowing-rules.

When that brokering role fails (as in Soon and Baliunas, Gerlich and Tscheuschner, perhaps Lindzen and Choi) the impact can be far-reaching; the public ends up buying broken goods.

Lazar said...

advocacy groups in support of the [Kyoto] Protocol called the paper “junk science” (Regalado 2003)

Intrigued so I looked up Regalado 2003, turns out to be a report in the WSJ, "Global Warming Skeptics Are Facing Storm Clouds". It mentions not advocacy groups, nor Kyoto, nor "junk science". Rather describes the editors of the journal resigning and the publication of a peer-reviewed response by Mann et al.

Lazar said...

The citation was found in;
When scientists politicize science: making sense of controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist, R.A. Pielke Jr., Environmental Science & Policy 7 (2004) 405–417
... hosted at the Heartland Institute :-)

Lazar said...

many scientists’ evaluations of the scientific merit of the Climate Research paper correlated perfectly with their public expressions of support for or opposition to the Kyoto Protocol

Perhaps this is also bs? I can find no source. How many is "many"?

Lazar said...

many [...] correlated perfectly

... when model-data agreement is a binary :-)

Lazar said...

As the Rabett implied, which way runs causation?...

Rogers assumption is that the science follows the policy, not the policy view the science.

Neven said...

"Roger is not shy about evaluating claims by the likes of James Hanson, Kevin Trenberth or the Munich Re folk, and always finding fault with them, but he is curiously shy about doing the same for Pat Michaels, S. Fred Singer and that ilk which is a marker of what he is really about."

This is exactly my problem with Roger Pielke Jr and I've told him so not too long ago.

I would love to find a true lukewarmer, but all the self-professed lukewarmers I have investigated (Lucia Liljegren being the last) turned out to be lukewarmers with very strong sympathies for the denialist position. The same goes for RPjr IMO.

BTW, it's Hansen, not Hanson.

Phil Clarke said...

I see Her Majesty's Treasury have fixed a typo in the Stern Review, moving a decimal point in the figure for hurricane damage to give the right number of 0.13%. According to Roger ... "There is no note, no acknowledgment, nothing indicating that the estimated damage for hurricanes was modified after publication by an order of magnitude. The report was quietly changed to make the error go away."

Roger should perhaps take time to read the FAQ page on the Stern Review, esp Number 20.

" Q. You state the cost of US hurricanes at temperatures of 3°C above pre-industrial levels as 0.13% and 1.3% of US GDP in different places in the report. Which is correct?

A. The correct figure is 0.13%. There is an error in Chapter 5, pg. 139, which cites the cost as 1.3%. An Errata page will be published to cover this and any other typographical errors. "

On Planet Pielke, publishing something in the FAQs, on the internet = 'keeping it quiet'. Chopped Liver!

David B. Benson said...

Waste of blog space, even as chear as that is...

Marion Delgado said...

I still have to wonder why anyone is still demanding we take lomborg, pielke, or mcintyre seriously.

EliRabett said...

FWIW Roger omitted that EVERY OTHER REFERENCE in the fifth chapter of the Stern Report uses the 0.13%. In short the 1.3% that has his panties in a bunch was clearly a typo, which has been corrected and Roger is misleading his readers, including Ian Castles who also has donned the harumphing regalia. Count your fingers after you touch anything Roger writes.

From the Stern Report chapter 5

Key Messages: "Damage from hurricanes and typhoons will increase substantially from even small increases in storm severity, because they scale as the cube of windspeed or more. A 5 – 10% increase in hurricane windspeed is predicted to approximately double annual damages, resulting in total losses of 0.13% of GDP each year on average in the USA alone."

Box 5.3: "The study did not take full account of the impacts of extreme weather events, which could be very significant (Section 6.4). Nordhaus (2006) shows that just a small increase in hurricane intensity (5 – 10%), which several models predict will occur 2 – 3°C of warming globally, could alone double costs of storm damage to around 0.13% GDP. The risks of higher temperatures, as the latest science suggests, could bring even greater damage costs, particularly given the very non-linear relationship between temperature and hurricane destructiveness (Chapter 3)."

Pg 132 bottom: "Storms are currently the costliest weather catastrophes in the developed world and they are likely to become more powerful in the future as the oceans warm and provide more energy to fuel storms. Many of the world’s largest cities are at risk from severe windstorms - Miami alone has $900 billion worth of total capital stock at risk. Two recent studies have found that just a 5 - 10% rise in the intensity of major storms with a 3°C increase in global temperatures could approximately double the damage costs, resulting in total losses of 0.13% of GDP in the USA each year on average or insured losses of $100 – 150 billion in an extreme year (2004 prices).29 If temperatures increase by 4 or 5°C, the losses are likely to be substantially greater, because any further increase in storm intensity has an even larger impact on damage costs (convexity highlighted in Chapter 3). This effect will be magnified for the costs of extreme storms, which are expected to increase disproportionately more than the costs of an average storm. For example, Swiss Re recently estimated that in Europe the costs of a 100-year storm event could double by the 2080s with climate change ($50/€40 billion in the future compared with $25/€20 billion today), while average storm losses were estimated to increase by only 16 – 68% over the same period.30"

Dallas said...

Eli, You got spammed! A sure sign of blogging success! RPJ is a political scientist. While I will never agree with anyone with political associated with their title or profession, you have to admit that Eric Steig's totally out of context rant was humorous.

Anonymous said...

Science marches to a different drum...mer

Mankind taught how to do more with less.

seamus said...

"Lukewarmers" are just denialists trying their best to retain their credibility while they flap around leaving doubt droppings everywhere. Sure, there's plenty of outright denial and demagoguery, the stuff that tells you exactly what you should think and why: tell the big lie and tell it over and over. But then there are the reasonable-sounding lies that are full of half-truths, carefully constructed to lead the reader and make him think he came to his own conclusion: insidious propaganda.

Anonymous said...

>>"Now true, Ethon would like a bite, but we are ever so earnest here at Rabett Run and the policy person formerly known as #14 deserves an answer, although the Rabett respectfully declines the opportunity of doing it at Roger's new place."


mike roddy said...

Eli, you just wrote the best blog lead that I have read in a long, long time. I am in awe, and thank you. For once, I can't think of anything to add.

I look forward to your take on the Watts/Pielke weather station humiliation. They are writing excuses at the same time that they are figuring out how to spin the fact that their entire weather station "project" was a joke. It's kind of funny, really.

The sad thing is, you have to read a blog to find this out- MSM is silent, once again.