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  • Roger Pielke Jr : “Sloppy Work”

    Posted on March 7th, 2010 Jo No comments

    Just when you thought it was safe to read The Guardian again, they only go and publish an opinion piece by none other than Roger A. Pielke Jr, justly famed for Climate Change scepticism :-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/04/ipcc-major-change-needed

    “Major change is needed if the IPCC hopes to survive : Well before the recent controversies, the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was marred by an unwillingness to listen to dissenting points of view, an inadequate system for dealing with errors, conflicts of interest, and political advocacy. The latest allegations of inaccuracies should be an impetus for sweeping reform : Roger A Pielke Jr : guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 March 2010 10.58 GMT : It has been a rough couple of months for the climate science community. Last November someone stole or released over 1,000 e-mails from the University of East Anglia. The e-mails revealed that some scientists were so entrenched in battle with their scientific and political opponents that they lost their perspective, going so far as to suggest improperly influencing the scientific process of peer review and evading legal requirements to disclose their data upon request. Climate science took another hit soon thereafter when it became apparent that the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained a number of embarrassing errors and an unacceptable amount of sloppy work, such as its erroneous prediction that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, rather than in several centuries or more. The IPCC’s handling of the allegations of errors have compounded its problems…”

    Before we analyse what could be seen to be so wrong about this piece by Pielke Jr, let us first consider what others say about him :-

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/28/the-lies-of-roger-pielke-jr/

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/10/pielke_pity_party.php

    Pielke Jr has on the whole apparently not responded adequately to his critics. On balance there is mistrust in some quarters.

    Let us analyse a little of what he writes to find out why he might be so dismissed :-

    “Major change is needed if the IPCC hopes to survive”

    Well, there’s a pseudo-authoritative claim to start right off ! I don’t really know how Pielke Jr expects us to accept his authority that the IPCC might be crumbling, or that it needs major change. This is all his own words, with no foundation.

    “…the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was marred by an unwillingness to listen to dissenting points of view…”

    Is that because they didn’t accept his work in their Assessment Reports ?

    As he says later in this article, “…I have been a strong critic of the IPCC, not least because of its improper treatment of work that I have contributed to on weather-related disasters and climate change…”

    And see here :-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/jan/26/ipcc-climate-change

    “‘Disastergate’ is an excuse for IPCC critics to dig up old academic rows : Attempts to dig up an old academic row in order to create the impression of an IPCC under siege are predictable opportunism : Bob Ward : guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 26 January 2010 :…Pielke has several times on his blog since 2006 attacked both the Stern Review and the IPCC report for referring to the work by Muir-Wood. He argues that the abstract from the workshop, which Pielke organised with the company Munich Re (which also funds research at London School of Economics and Political Science on the implications of climate change for the insurance industry), was not peer-reviewed. Therefore, Pielke insists, the reports should have relied on other papers, such as those that he has written about hurricane losses, which conclude that the upward trend can be explained away completely by economic factors and that there is no evidence for the impact of climate change. The trouble with Pielke’s argument is that the work of Muir-Wood and his colleagues was eventually published as a peer-reviewed paper in 2008 (and included as chapter 12 of the book Climate Extremes of Society) and included the same conclusion. It remains the only paper to assess global economic losses from all types of extreme weather events, not just a single source of hazard in one region…”

    Pielke Jr says in The Guardian piece, “the e-mails revealed that some scientists were so entrenched in battle with their scientific and political opponents that they lost their perspective, going so far as to suggest improperly influencing the scientific process of peer review and evading legal requirements to disclose their data upon request.”

    This summary is technically incorrect, as the matter is still undergoing inquiry; but importantly, the majority of the “scientific and political opponents” that are in a “battle” with various members of the IPCC are actually not scientists at all, just Climate Change Science Obstructers, seeking to de-rail progress.

    As for “improperly influencing the scientific process of peer review”, this is all about how scientists were attempting to have some Obstructer so-called “research” kept from contaminating the main discourse.

    A classic example of this kind of pondweed would be the paper from Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi in 2009 :-

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/08/quick-comment-on-lindzen-and-choi.html

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/01/lindzen-and-choi-unraveled/

    It’s only identifiable as pondweed if you’re up to speed on Climate Change Science, which is part of the problem – which people are genuine peers who can review your work adequately ?

    Pielke Jr compounds his accusations, “…the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained a number of embarrassing errors and an unacceptable amount of sloppy work…”

    Considering the number of people and the amount of time they took to review all the available science out there on the subject of Climate Change, I consider the label “sloppy work” to be an insult to the IPCC.

    As for whether it was a “number” of errors, an “unacceptable amount”, is open to discussion – many of the core findings of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 are so robust you could crack walnuts on them – so how significant are the errors that have emerged since Climategate ?

    In the rest of his article, apart from the more cynical, sceptical positioning, Pielke Jr actually makes a number of interesting, perhaps useful points, but his summary that the IPCC should disband or entirely reform is unhelpful, for a number of reasons, principally because the people we can trust on Climate Change Science are all pretty much in the IPCC process already – and we certainly don’t want the Obstructers in there.

    Something that Pielke Jr does not analyse is the effect that the Economists and the corporates have had on the IPCC reports : the Economists were drafted in to propose policy and came up with pricing Carbon in the form of Carbon Trading, knowing the banks would love it, and that the corporates would on the whole support it as a way of avoiding actually having to reduce emissions. It was not the IPCC that dictated this, but the advice of seconded experts. The IPCC cannot be blamed, although Pielke Jr does :-

    “…The IPCC also emphasized emissions trading over other policy options, largely endorsing the approach of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. With the Climate Convention in tatters after the Copenhagen meeting last December, we are now experiencing the consequences of the IPCC’s policy myopia and deviation from neutrality, as there are essentially no alternative approaches to climate policy suggested by the IPCC report. It had placed all of its eggs in one basket…”

    And in terms of technology, the corporates and Economists agreed on large, expensive, subsidised new Energy projects, and they advised the IPCC accordingly; but the IPCC recorded in Working Group 3 that we cannot wait for brave new expensive things like Carbon Capture and Storage, so even though we may not have all the technology we need already, we have to make a start with what we’ve got :-

    “…The IPCC reports, particularly Working Group III, reflect a particular policy orientation, which is decidedly not “policy neutral.” To cite one example, the IPCC has concluded that the world has all the technology that it needs to achieve low stabilization levels. However, this conclusion ignores a significant body of academic work (such as by New York University professor emeritus Martin Hoffert and colleagues) suggesting that the world does not in fact have all the technology that it needs…”

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