Sunday, May 06, 2007

Climate Feedback

As most mice know, Nature Climate has launched a new blog, Climate Feedback. Ethon having flown over for the liver and cheese lauch party, remarked that they blew it big time. If nothing else the first two posts, by Roger Pielke Jr. and von Storch and Zorita were much in the Michael Corleone mold, settling old scores and starting new fights. Pielke's was not even wrong although he is digging in as usual and has to be pryed out of his position point by point. The best comments are over at Deltoid.

Now clearly they rushed the launch, not being prepared to deal with comments on a timely basis, which has lead to some unhappiness but there is a major concept problem that, IEHO, must have started at conception. Steve Bloom is of the opinion that

I have a feeling that RP Jr. may have lobbied Nature to start this blog, which would tend to explain the presence of Kevin Vranes. Note that of the five contributors who aren't Nature editors, three are from Boulder! Does the third one (Paty Romero Lankao of NCAR) have an RP Jr. connection?
Maxine Nature disagrees, seeing Roger as a distinguished professorial type. Eli has a slightly different point of view. The Rabett suspects that the boys in Basingstoke (thanks for the geography lesson Fergus) were sitting about chewing their carrots one day, when Olive spoke up brightly and said let's have a blog. We can use it as a gateway to our Nature Reports: Climate Change. Or maybe it came from the Big Bunnies in London as part of their NLife initiative.

And one bright bunny piped up. Oh good, whom do we know who knows something about blogs. And guess whose name came up. And guess who said, I could help out, every so helpfully and I know some other honest broker blogger types. Well, that was not too hard, was it.

Suffice it to say the whole thing threatens to sink before it swims, so whither Climate Feedback.

Eli's suggestion is ditch the outsiders, and put out a call for submissions, say 500-2000 words with links and maybe even references. Have the internal people function as an editorial board with very occasional posts. When something important (or maybe just interesting) is published in Nature ask the authors to provide a thumbnail about why their work is important. Do the same for climate related news items asking the reporters to write additional material for the blog. Hire a couple of experienced climate bloggers to run the comment sections (Kevin Vranes and Michael Tobis come to mind, maybe Andrew Dessler or Coby Beck) and insist that anyone who posts has to participate in the discussion but run even those comments through the VTDB editorial filter. Pay Eli a couple of tons of carrots for these useful suggestions. He has lost his paymaster and does not know where to find him.


Green Scientist said...

If unsophisticated snark is required I’m sure I could be of help too. I keep checkings my hotmail, but nothin’ is ever there.

Anonymous said...

"submissions, say 500-2000 words with links and maybe even references."

..and preferably not self-referential like this.

By the time you get about 4 levels deep, you lose track of where you are.

... which I suppose may be the whole point.

Anonymous said...

Recursive back-patting.

Anonymous said...

Ugh...Roger Pielke Jr.'s second post on Climate Feedback is just as bad as his first. He's singing his Johnny One Note song about how global warming/hurricanes cannot be linked with damages to coastal infrastructure.

And he's flacking his latest paper on the subject. If you look at the paper, the most frequently cited author is....Roger Pielke Jr.

Complete wanking.

Plus, Pielke ignores an article that ran in Science last year and was published by Evan Mills.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

What's with this new Reid Bryson interview, it's making the rounds in the blogosphere:
He's at least a guy with some credentials and he makes some very specific claims.

Anonymous said...

Kerry Emanuel has estimated that "the wind speeds in hurricane should increase about 5% for every 1oC increase in tropical ocean temperature (Emanuel, 1987)."

It is also known that the force of the winds (and hence damage) varies approximately with the square of the wind speed, so a 1C rise in temp produces approximately a 10% increase in damage (for the larger hurricanes that have wind speeds above the damage threshold).

A doubling in CO2 is estimated to produce a 3C rise in temp, which, if Emanuel is correct, will lead to a 15% increase in wind speed and approximately a 32% increase in damages.

That is hardly inconsequential. For a storm like Katrina estimated to cost about $81 billion, that would amount to an increase of about $25 billion dollars in damages (to say nothing of increased loss of life).

Multiply that by the number of hurricanes per year that cause damage and you are talking about a not inconsequential increase in cost.

So, while I agree with Pielke that the main focus for reducing potential hurricane damage should be on reducing the amount of "building on the beach", that does not mean that no one should be using the potential increased hurricane intensity argument to call for global warming mitigation.

The latter argument simply adds more weight to an already good argument for mitigation and there is no good reason for not using it.

--Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

Agreed with the fine Horatio. I don't think that Pielke Jr. is being completely dishonest. I think his lack of honesty is his extreme focus--almost autistic like--on one aspect of the hurricane issue. And hurricanes are only one subset of extreme weather events.

I think that his conclusions that coastal development has led to most of the damage increases is pretty obvious.

Further, he fails to acknowledge that hurricanes are only one subset of extreme weather. Think rain storms, hail, drought etc... Tracking hurricane damages tells us nothing about how extreme weather will cause effects to agriculture or forestry, or losses to towns along the Mississippi or any other sector of the economy.

But Pielke keeps nattering away at the coastal building/hurricanes issue as if it's the most important issue on the planet.

That is dishonest.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mus Musculous for the reference to the Evan Mills article.

Here's the link to it

While Mills acknowledges that "Socioeconomic and demographic trends clearly play important—and likely dominant—roles in the observed upward loss trends", he also notes that "Global weather-related losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non–weather-related events (Fig. 2D)."

Anonymous said...

Probably not the most significant, but nonetheless perhaps one of the more interesting things in the Mills article is the link between lightning-related losses and temperature (showing an increase) which just underescores Mus' point above that "hurricanes are only one subset of extreme weather events.".

Anonymous said...

Here's another interesting point that Mills makes: "In any event, the consequences of future climate change will be amplified by economic development and the tendency of populations to move into harm's way."

If you assume that people are going to "build on the beach" no matter what you do (which they will in many places around th world because that's where they earn their livelihood), then every dollar spent on mitigation will have a multiplicative effect.

Pielke seems to assume that money would be better spent keeping people off the beach entirely, but that is most likely not feasible in every case.

Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

While we are on the subject of climate feedback.

I noticed Lubos Motl is plugging the following on his blog:

"The 800-year lag is one of many ways to show the anti-Gore direction of the causal relationship. Everyone who still fails to understand that the ice core data don't contain any empirical evidence for the greenhouse effect reveals his or her inadequate thinking skills."

"We have discussed this issue in detail, including some analysis of the hypothesis of a strong amplification of the initial temperature variations. Such an amplification is not only invisible in the data but it is very unlikely to be significant because it it were larger than the influence of temperature on the concentrations during the 800 years where a change of the trend could be seen, the climate would be a positive-feedback system that would have already exponentially grown out of the control in the past. The data make it much more likely that there are many negative, self-regulating feedbacks in the system."

The wording that I highlighted in bold above is more than a little f...ed up (to say the least), but it is nonetheless clear what Motl is trying to say (albeit in a distinctly "Dubya-like" way).

He is obviously under the impression that positive feedback in the case under discussion would necessarily have led to to exponential growth.

Such is not the case.

I don't pretend to know why a Harvard physicist would believe such poppy-cock, but as I see it, there are a few possibilities:

1) Motl has a poor understanding of the relationship between temperature increase and atmospheric CO2 concentration -- in particular, that each increment of CO2 added to the atmosphere increases the temperature less than the last.

2) Motl has a poor understanding of basic calculus -- in particular, of what exponential growth is all about.

3) All of the above.

EliRabett said...

Of course, there is always the lying sack option.

Anonymous said...

I have encountered engineers and scientists over the years who understood quite advanced physical and mathematical concepts without having a good grasp of some rather basic ones.

Anonymous said...

It's fine to mention Lubos, but please don't link to any of his posts. It's likely to bring him over here.

And he makes my head hurt.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

What Pielke says about the need for hurricane adaptation is both obvious and superfluous.

People will adapt no matter what.

I could at least understand his argument if he were saying that "it is an either or situation with hurricanes: Either we spend the money on hurricane mitigation efforts or we spend it on hurricane adaptation efforts".

But that is not what Pielke has argued in the Climate feedback piece. In fact, quite the opposite: he said that "this does not mean that climate stabilization policies do not make sense". This would seem to mean the we should do mitigation even though we do not do it specifically to address hurricanes.

So I am really puzzled as to precisely what he is arguing here.

Perhaps most puzzling of all in light of the other things he said is Pielke's statement that "This does not mean ...that policy makers should ignore influences of human-caused climate change on tropical cyclone behavior."


That statement came just after his claim that "Efforts to modulate tropical cyclone intensities through climate stabilization policies have extremely limited potential to reduce future losses."

If that is the case, why shouldn't policymakers policy makers simply "ignore influences of human-caused climate change on tropical cyclone behavior"?

Anonymous said...

"please don't link to any of his posts. It's likely to bring him over here."

You will note that I did not link to his site , though I'm not sure that makes much difference.

He seems to show up whenever his name is mentioned.

Actually, his first couple posts are always good for a few laughs. It's only when he hangs around (under the bridge, waiting for the billy goats to cross) that the migraine sets in.

Anonymous said...

Having several of Pielke's hurricane's/climate change/mitigation posts, I have always had one thought.

Couldn't two grad students have reached this same conclusion on a Wednesday night over pizza and a pitcher of beer?

It seems rather obvious. But it seems to be this one point that Pielke seems to have published first and he's holding onto it like a pit bull.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

You're right, it would take two people because it would be hard for most individual people to be so inconsistent.

And I really doubt that he was the first to publish the point that people should not build on the beach.

I'd bet that someone has been saying that for as long as there have been hurricanes, beaches and humans.

EliRabett said...

The chase the mice away point is don't build on the beach especially barrier islands, but the real issue is that people settled low lying areas simply because they had access to water transportation, and to say now that they gotta go, is essentially like saying resettle the earth, it ain't gonna happen.

However, to give Roger his due, land use policy and climate science do intersect strongly.

Anonymous said...

Pielke is getting razzed a bit for publishing in this skeptic journal and then continuously reciting it.

His answers seem pretty lame. "It wasn't a skeptic journal when I published in it, but I'll still cite the paper as a source."

Mus musculus anonymouse

bigcitylib said...

Bryson Reid is a retired climatologist whose greatest claim to fame was that he was the prime mover behind the "we're all headed into an ice-age theory" in the 1970s. Now he has come out and bashed the science behind global warming and is being hailed as a prophet among deniers, who had previously ridiculed his earlier work.

I've written a little more about him back home.

Anonymous said...

Eli said" to give Roger his due, land use policy and climate science do intersect strongly."

I thought that's what most of us were already doing here, "giving Roger his due". :-)

"the real issue is that people settled low lying areas simply because they had access to water transportation"

To say nothing of the fact that millions of people live near the water or in floodplains because that's where their livelihood is (they fish for a living or work in a city that sits on the water, as many of the world's largest cities do).

In many cases people simply have no choice but to "live on/near the beach" as in Bangladesh where its hard to avoid living near the water or on a floodplain.

To give Roger his due, that's precisely why I think his argument is so useless.

Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

By the way, I believe the term for referencing oneself is "self-reverence".

Anonymous said...

"to say now that they gotta go [from the beach], is essentially like saying resettle the earth, it ain't gonna happen."

How do you know?

Neil Young think's it's possible.

After all, his song "After the Gold Rush" deals with that very issue -- transporting people ( off the beaches) "to a new home in the sun".

All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun" -- Neil Young

I wonder if Pielke has ever calculated how much that little adaptation would cost.

-- Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

Of course, Neil was not talking about flying everybody, but those are just minor details that are best left to the policy wonks.


Anonymous said...

In all Sirius-ness, much as I disagree with Tobis' general approach to things Promethean, he's dead right about RC. snarkiness doesnt cut it too well in science dispute blogging. I agree the Pielke Jr. guy is basically a blog-killer, and I think basically restraint but persistence will reveal that.

Anonymous said...

I was actually quite serious, especially when I noted that "Neil was not talking about flying everybody".

Just look at New Orleans after Katrina and you can see who is going to get moved out of the danger zone -- or who is going to have his beach-front house rebuilt after it is destroyed (Trent Lott, anyone?). Even in this country, it aint going to be everyone. It's going to be the rich. Same as it ever was.

Pielke claims he is not opposed to mitigation, but you really have to look at the context of that claim.

How nice that Pielke is so concerned that people not use the hurricane/ global warming link to sell mitigation lest they undermine their already good case for mitigation. How nice.

Anonymous said...

With sincerest apologies to Neil Young (but I don't think he'd mind)

Well, I dreamed I saw the science policy-wonks coming
Sayin' something about adaptation
There were peasants singin' and drummers drumming
And Trent Lott was on vacation
There was a Cat5 blowin' in the sun
That really kicked up the breeze
Look at global warming on the run in the twenty seventies
Look at all those poor-folk on the run in the twenty seventies

I was lyin' in a blown-out basement
With a full moon in my eyes
I was hopin' for a FEMA replacement
When the sun burst through the skies
There was a Dubya-man strumin' in my head
And I felt like I was goin' to die
Thinkin' about what Roger Pielke had said,
I was hopin' it was a lie
Thinkin' about what Roger Pielke had said,
I was hopin' it was a lie

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun
There were children crying and colors flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun
Flyin' mother nature's silver seed
To a new home in the sun

C W Magee said...

" I don't think that Pielke Jr. is being completely dishonest. I think his lack of honesty is his extreme focus--almost autistic like--on one aspect of the hurricane issue. And hurricanes are only one subset of extreme weather events."

Is there any researcher on the planet who doesn't do this with his own research?

Anonymous said...

You mean Moebius referencing?

EliRabett said...

A single twisted surface?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking more in terms of "One sided and always leading back to the same place"

...but "single twisted surface" works as well in this case.

--Horatio Algeranon