Monday, July 19, 2021

Do We Really Trust Roger Pielke Jr's Advice On Climate Change Adaptation?


                         Fire truck plies flooded streets in Erfstadt,  Germany.

Climate change obfuscator Roger Pielke Jr.  is at it again ('The Key To Avoiding Future Climate Disasters?  Adapting',  WSJ,  p C3,  July 17-18) trying to peddle "non-reflexive" approaches to climate change.  One thing you have to grant Pielke Jr. is his uncanny, understated, reasonable -sounding ability to articulate nonsense.  But the alert, perceptive reader can catch him out, e.g. when he writes:

This past month alone, the long-term effects of greenhouse-gas emissions were said to be a key factor in the death and destruction caused by the heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest, the property damage from record floods in Japan and even the tragic condominium collapse in Miami, because of the destabilizing effect of rising sea levels.

Many scientists make such connections in order to highlight the urgency of radically lowering emission levels

"Were said" to be a key factor?   They were a key factor, you benighted Bozo! "Radically lowering emission levels"?  How about enough just to meet the Paris Accord standard?  The words betray Pielke Jr. as your standard "agnotologist"* - one of a species of right wing types who sow deliberate  doubt to postpone critical action on climate, in favor of economic priority. It's exemplified in this 2012 headline and story in The Wall Street Journal:

 His further blather merely confirms this:

There is no doubt that climate change poses significant current and future risks, including from extreme weather events, and that human causes play a role. ...

But there’s a problem with turning so reflexively to climate change as the prime explanation for the rising human costs of disasters: It has the unfortunate tendency to push other crucial considerations out of the conversation, especially the need to devote much more of our attention and resources to adapting ourselves and our societies to the challenge of a changing climate.....   

"Turning so reflexively to climate change"  as the prime explanation for the rising costs of human disasters? It IS the prime explanation given that continued warming of the planet sets us up for a cusp catastrophe of the global system and transition to a more havoc -wreaking condition.   E.g.

But Pielke Jr. wants us to believe that adaptation to such a new planet, a hellish global unstable system, is feasible if we just make enough air conditioners available to the elderly, move people away from vulnerable coastlines, and move tens of thousands more out of their forest abodes which are too close to the dry tinder ready to explode. As he babbles:

As NOAA itself notes, the increasing cost of disasters can be attributed to many factors beyond climate. The NOAA presents its data set primarily as a measure of weather and climate trends, but it also shows, if more quietly, that the increasing cost of disasters has a lot to do with changed patterns of economic development. most important of these is the dramatic increase in U.S. wealth and population since 1980.

The story is nuanced, according to the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For instance, the incidence of heat waves and wildfires over the past century has increased in some places around the world, but not all. The U.S. has seen an increase in heat waves since the 1960s, but not to a degree beyond the “dust bowl” decade of the 1930s. Wildfires and drought have increased in the American West and Southwest, respectively, but they have not risen globally over the long term, nor have floods or tornadoes.

Such complexities underscore the importance of adaptive responses. Geophysical and weather disasters occur because an extreme event encounters a vulnerable society.

What a tool!  Of course heat waves, tornadoes, floods, droughts etc. have not increased "everywhere"  (e.g. globally).  That isn't the point.  The point is climate havoc occurs where the control parameters-variables (e.g. CO2 concentration, methane concentration)  are most unstable or metastable for that particular species of catastrophe in that geographical region. He's also oblivious to the fact there is a physical-biological limit to the extent humans can adapt to heat waves.  For example nearing the cusp of the runaway greenhouse effect - say by 2095 - no night time temperatures will be lower than 90-95 F for most of the U.S., hell most of the world - developed or not.  Given that any break down of power grids means no human bodies will be able to cool enough to perspire and avoid heat stroke- at such high ambient temperatures-  we are talking about apocalyptic death.  See, e.g.

How climate change is making some places too hot and humid to survive

Hence, his next sentence is total twaddle:

 To better prepare for future disasters, reducing our vulnerability—that is, adapting—is far more important than establishing the precise role of climate in contributing to weather and climate extremes.  Adaptation is typically a matter of technical and incremental changes at the local level—a harder banner to rally around than the campaign for radical reductions in global emissions. Contingency planning for more heat waves, for instance, requires identifying the populations most at risk and coming up with ways to limit their exposure now

ALL  populations will be at risk at the cusp of the runaway greenhouse , you blithering imbecile! But Pielke  Jr's history of being a tool precedes him.  For example, one reviewer of his book: 'The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won't Tell You About Global Warming''frames Pielke  Jr.'s effort  thusly:

 "Pielke Jr. is really astonishing in the way he almost completely denies the urgent need to mitigate climate change by greatly lowering global carbon emissions. He does it in a very slick way by masquerading as someone with real and different solutions, when in reality all he proposes is that society do next to nothing about burning fossil fuels.

 He basically brushes aside climate change as if it were a trivial concern. His proposal is to tax carbon at such a low and inconsequential rate that even Exxon Mobile agrees to the tax, and then to use the proceeds to fund more research on alternative energy and other mitigation strategies. That's IT. Well almost.

 He also spends an inordinate amount of time bashing climate scientists (which he is admittedly not) for being human beings and voicing their intense concern for the future of the planet, which their research has shown is in big trouble if we do nothing or little to decrease carbon emissions in the very near future. This book is not worth reading and I regret the time I spent getting through it. If you want to learn about climate change and our options for dealing with its consequences, there are dozens of other books that really address the issue.”

 Skeptic Science has referred to Pielke Jr. as a “classic misinformer” and gives examples.  Pielke Jr. has claimed, for instance:
"Not all glaciers and ice caps are melting. While the Arctic Ice for example has been decreasing, Antarctic ice has not"
But this is refuted by Skeptic Science here: 

I also dispatched this nonsense at the time in my own blog post here:
To see a comprehensive rebuttal by Skeptic Science of many other Pielke Jr. claims - go to this link:

A article on Pielke Jr. perhaps offers some of the most trenchant observations of the guy, such as:
One remarkable feature of Pielke Jr.’s discussion is its shrillness. “Clique,” “coup,” and “plotting” are the kinds of terms usually reserved for organized crime syndicates, terrorist organizations, and other conspiracies against the public good. The repeated use of the word “activist” mobilizes a characteristic trope of right-wing ideologues. The term is typically applied to judges, who like scientists are supposed to be neutral when carrying out their duties, but all too often, on this view, betray their professional responsibilities.

Even someone who is sympathetic to the claim that political considerations sometimes find their way into climate science might shrink from Pielke Jr.’s characterization of climate science as “a fully politicized enterprise.” He makes such institutions as the National Center for Atmospheric Research sound like an outpost of the Democratic National Committee, or perhaps something even worse.

What is most troubling about Pielke Jr.’s account is its lack of balance. As we will see, the politicization of science by a handful of climate change deniers and their patrons is extremely well documented, and continues to be a major obstacle to the United States adopting effective climate policy. Yet in a 26-page chapter on the politicization of science, Pielke Jr. devotes only one paragraph to the behavior of those “opposed to action on climate change.” Their worst offense seems to be “[blowing] out of proportion papers at odds with the views of most other scientists.” If only.

As Pielke Jr's latest (WSJ essay) effort shows, he has not improved on his climate science fact base one iota.  The cataclysmic floods now occurring in Europe, for example, are directly linked to climate change given a much warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.  Hence this condition is guaranteed to cause heavier rainfall in storms across the planet in the future.  What does Pielke Jr. propose in order to "adapt" to such increasingly frequent consequences of ramped up global warming?  Move millions in western Europe from their existing homes - many of which have existed since the 15th-17th century as in Germany?  That's preposterous!  

Clearly, like sustained heat waves, there is a limit beyond which humans will be unable to adapt. There are also vast swatches of climate change -ravaged land with few or no humans to adapt, but which create formidable climate impacts.  Such is the case with Siberia, in which more than 80,000 square miles of forests and tundra have already been scorched by wildfires - fed by temperatures in the Russian Arctic as high as 100 F.  These fires are already melting the underground permafrost and so have the potential to accelerate climate change by not only releasing huge amounts of methane and CO2 but also destroying the vast boreal forests that are absorbers of CO2.  How does "adaptation" possibly factor in here?  Well, it doesn't!

This is why Richard Betts, a climate scientist at Britain's Met Office, has said (e.g. Denver Post, Sunday, p. 3A):  "We've got to adapt to the change we've already baked into the system and also avoid further change by reducing our emissions- and reducing our influence on the climate."

Recognizing, unlike Pielke Jr.,  that adaptation to any and all future climate increases is preposterous.  Unless emissions are cut too - "radically" in Pielke Jr's parlance - we are all for the high jump in terms of what the future holds for us on this world.

See  Also:


*Agnotology, derived from the Greek 'agnosis' - the study of culturally constructed ignorance- is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made.   Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor has correctly tied it to the trend of skeptic science sown deliberately and for political or economic ends . In other words, the supporters of agnotology - whoever they may be- are all committed to one end: destroying the science to enable economic profit and hence planetary ruin. Proctor also notes these special interests are often paid handsomely to sow immense confusion on the issue

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