Welcome to issue #10 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload of academic papers, and I’m paying attention.
So caveat lector!
A few things to say up front:
- If you appreciate the perspective, consider the tip jar to your right.
- Thanks to those of you who have already contributed!
- These funds continue to help me defray the costs of several trips where I have had the chance to develop and present new talks. I am unfunded on this topic.
- Contributions are much appreciated.
- If you don’t like what I write or don’t like me, then don’t read it – no big deal, I’m just a professor with a blog.
- If you’d like to engage, consider a comment, Tweet @ me (@rogerpielkejr) or send an email. I am happy to discuss or debate. I’ve had great feedback on these newsletters.
- Also, if you have a pointer or tip, please send that along as well. Anonymity guaranteed for those who want it.
- Social media warning: if you choose to call me names or lie about me, oh-so-common in discussing climate, then you will be muted or ignored.
With that . . .
Talk on “Extreme Weather and Extreme Politics”
- Earlier this month I gave a talk at the University of Minnesota.
- It was my first public talk on climate since being “investigated” by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) in 2015.
- It is also the first and only invitation I’ve received to give a public talk on climate at a US university since 2015.
- Before that I received about 2-3 invitations per month.
- Delegitimization works.
- You can see my slides from Minnesota at
- Much of what I presented (and more) will appear in the 2nd edition of Disasters and Climate Change.
- Below I document a key episode in my own experience that I have never looked back on in detail.
- The timeline is of use to me, shared here for anyone else who might be interested.
A Look Back at the Holdren-Pielke Debate of 2014
- One of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had in the climate debate was when President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, posted a weird, 6-page screed about me on the White House web site.
- Here is a reconstruction of and look back at those events, and an evaluation how they look from vantage point of 2018.
- This look back is mainly just for me, as when you are in the spin cycle it can be hard to see what has happened at the time.
- The Holdren episode ultimately led to me being investigated by a member of Congress with a major impact on my life and career.
- I’ve not taken a close look back at this episode, it’s time for me to document exactly what transpired. If you are not interested, this would be a good place to take the exit ramp.
- In July 2013, I testified before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on extreme events.
- You can see my 5 minute statement below and read my full written testimony here in PDF. That testimony was widely discussed.
- I followed that testimony up with similar testimony before the US House a few months later, in October 2013.
- I wrote a blog post explaining that the science on these issues was solid. Even so I argued that “zombie science” (to the contrary) would always be with us.
- On February 14, 2014, Holdren was quoted as saying: “We really understand a number of the reasons that global climate change is increasing the intensity and the frequency and the life of drought in drought-prone regions. This is one of the better-understood dimensions of the relationship between global climate change and extreme weather in particular regions. . . There are other, more subtle, ways climate change may be affecting the prevalence of drought; scientists are still arguing about those. The three I just described are more than enough to understand why we are seeing droughts in drought-prone regions becoming more frequent, more severe and longer.”
- Two weeks later Dr. Holdren was asked about these statements by Senator Jeff Sessions before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the same committee that I had testified before the previous July.
- The full exchange between Sessions and Holdren can be found here, but below are the key excerpts.
- After some sparring on what Dr. Holdren said or didn’t say a few week previous, Senator Sessions said:
- “Well, let me tell you what Dr. Pilkey (sic) said, who sat in that chair you are sitting in today just a few months ago, he is a climate impact expert, and he agrees that warming is partly caused by human emissions. But he testified “It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate change time scales either in the United States or globally.”
- Holdren replied with a delegitmization effort, saying that I was
- “not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion on this point. And again, I will be happy to submit for the record recent articles from Nature, Nature GeoScience, Nature Climate Change, Science and others showing that in drought-prone regions droughts are becoming more intense.”
- Of course, Holdren was incorrect.
- My views are 100% consistent with those of the IPCC, the very definition of “mainstream scientific opinion.”
- Holdren promised to submit scientific evidence for the hearing record in support of his views, Sessions said he looked forward to it.
- Three days later Holdren’s missive about me was posted on the White House website, titled Drought and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr ” (here in PDF).
- Holdren singled out just 2 statements that I had made in my testimony:
- “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally.”
- Drought has “for the most part, become shorter, less, frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century”. Globally, “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.”
- The quotes in blue above are from the US National Climate Assessment (former) and a Nature paper (latter) on global drought trends.
- Holdren explained his objections:
- “I replied that the indicated comments by Dr. Pielke … were not representative of mainstream views on this topic in the climate-science community; and I promised to provide for the record a more complete response with relevant scientific references. “
- The slide below shows the entirety of my discussion of drought in my 2013 Senate testimony, which consisted only of quotes from the IPCC, the US CCSP and an image from the CCSP report.
- Holdren did not mention hurricanes, floods or tornadoes in his 6 pages of response.
- Holdren’s response blew up the internet (or at least the tiny part of it involving issues related to climate).
- When the White House posts 6 pages about you, it gets noticed.
- For my part, in response wrote a blog response which you can read here.
- In that post I noted:
- “It is fine for experts to openly disagree. But when a political appointee uses his position not just to disagree on science or policy but to seek to delegitimize a colleague, he has gone too far.”
- This was, as far as I am aware, the first time that a Science Advisor to the US President used his platform to seek to delegitimize an academic with whom he disagreed.
- I am aware of no such comparable use of the authority and reach of the White House against a researcher.
- The fact that I was singled out by the president’s science advisor was not reported on or commented on by the mainstream scientific media. Leading scientific organizations said nothing.
- I found this pretty amazing, but c’est la vie.
- If John Marburger, say, had gone after James Hansen, it’d have been a story.
- I responded more forcefully in an article in The New Republic a few days later.
- None of this mattered, I quickly learned that a lone academic is no match for the bully pulpit that is the White House and the powerful echo chamber of the online climate debate.
- A few weeks later the campaign to have me removed as a writer for 538 was underway and 11 months later the investigation motivated by Rep. Raul Grijlava (D-AZ), which he indicated was the result of Holdren’s missive, was launched.
- One of my close colleagues said to me at the time: “I’d love to come to your defense, but I don’t want them coming after me.”
- Fair enough.
- Let’s quickly take a look at the state of the science in 2018 on drought.
- The 2017 US National Climate Assessment, prepared under the direction of John Holdren in the last months of the Obama Administration and released after Donald Trump became president concluded the following about drought:
- “drought statistics over the entire CONUS have declined … no detectable change in meteorological drought at the global scale”
- “Western North America was noted as a region where determining if observed recent droughts were unusual compared to natural variability was particularly difficult.”
- It was an interesting experience.
- I’m still here.
via The Climate Fix
April 30, 2018 at 10:13PM