Pielke Writes the Book on Climate and Disasters

Roger Pielke, Jr. has written the book on the relationship between climate change and weather disasters. Literally. His new book – Disasters & Climate Change – became available last week. The slim text (114 pages) is the best, clearest exposition yet of why the claims that particular weather events – droughts, floods, Superstorm Sandy and the snowmageddon that hit Buffalo, N.Y., this week – are evidence of climate change are, to borrow from the Magliozzi brothers, b-o-g-u-s.

Pielke’s book is the latest in a series of useful books from Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes published under the rubric of “The Rightful Place of Science.” Pielke is a political scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has long studied weather disasters and found no empirical link between them and the changing climate. None. Zero. Nada.

For this, Pielke has been branded by climate zealots as a “denier,” a nasty sobriquet designed to imply that he, among others, is linked to those who deny the Nazi holocaust that killed six million Jews (along with gypsies, homosexuals, and others). The term is repulsive as are many who wield it.

Pielke does not argue, like a large component of the Republican Party, that global warming is a hoax. He does not say that measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not needed.

What he does say is that there is no evidence that extreme weather events have increased as a result of climate change or that the costs of extreme events have increased. In making these statements, he is in complete accord with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s a fact that many climate change acolytes ignore or deny. Here is one of the conclusions the IPCC has reached: “Some authors suggest that a (natural or anthropogenic) climate change signal can be found in the records of disaster losses (e.g. Mills, 2005; Hoppe and Grimm, 2009), but their work is in the nature of reviews and commentary rather than empirical research.”

Nevertheless, those advocating major and immediate action on reducing greenhouse gases persist in linking extreme weather events – including the recent snow in Buffalo, according to the online magazine Slate – and global warming. Pielke gives this a name coined by political science Aynsley Kellow: “noble cause” corruption. More commonly, that’s the doctrine that the ends justify the means. Advocates of heavy measures to combat global warming are using scare tactics to try to move policy (and it isn’t working).

Pielke was the victim of that mindset when he was purged from writing for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight online site after a rather anodyne recital of the lack of an evidentiary link between climate change and extreme weather. It caused an uproar and Pielke stopped writing for the site.

Unfortunately, as Pielke carefully describes, the need to boost support for policies reducing greenhouse gas emissions that might be unpopular has even infected the highest levels of the U.S. government, particularly through the work of Obama White House science advisor John Holdren. In May, for example, Obama rolled out his climate action agenda, hanging it on weather extremes, including increasing floods and droughts. Yet, says Pielke, “the scientific assessment which the White House produced and then relied on to make these claims says that they have not.”

When a reporter questioned Holdren about why the public should take these apocalyptic claims more seriously than short-term issues such as jobs and the economy, the science advisor (long a crony of population bomb catastrophist Paul Ehrlich) replied, “I think you are going to see the polls change.” He was wrong, as he has often been in the past, and the Democrats got snowed under in this month’s elections.

Pielke stresses that the politics of global warming are governed by a formulation offered by Japanese scientist Yoichi Kaya in the 1980s: Emissions=GDP * Technology. That shows that the universal desire for increasing gross domestic product (except among some “economically comfortable academics in post university towns across the richer parts of the world,” he writes) inexorably drives up emissions unless there is a technology counterweight.

Pielke also offers a devastating critique of the carbon tax nostrum that many economists and policy analysts proffer. Regardless of theory, he writes, “the model has repeatedly failed the most basic of real-world political tests.” That is, publics reject it. “Calls for a price high enough to actually motivate profound change are so unrealistic as to be laughable,” says Pielke.

This is a clear and documented book that those who are skeptical of the current dogma about the climate and what to do about it and those whose hearts take them in the opposition direction should read with close attention.

Pielke, Jr., R. 2014, The Righfull Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change, Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes.