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Pielke Jr and McIntyre Assist Christy's Extreme Weather Obfuscation

Posted on 9 August 2012 by Albatross, dana1981

On August 1st 2012, John Christy once again testified before the US Congress in a Senate hearing on climate issues.  His written testimony is here and his verbal testimony is here.  Christy's latest testimony consisted entirely of five climate myths, four of which we debunked in a previous post.  In this post we will examine Christy's comments regarding the link between climate change and extreme weather.

Soon after Christy's testimony, Roger Pielke Jr. and Steve McIntyre weighed in by attacking the largely correct testimony from Christopher Field, while turning blind eye to Christy's grossly misleading testimony that contained myths regarding extreme weather events.  Unfortunately, this sort of behavior by Pielke Jr. is not uncommon and several climate scientists have been the victim of similar efforts (for example, Coumou and Rahmstorf, James Hansen and others). To this end, Pielke Jr. uses an oft-repeated strategy that involves misdirection, bait and switch and knocking down strawmen arguments that he has constructed.

Christy's Extreme Weather  Obfuscation

Christy spent much of his testimony denying that global warming is causing more extreme weather events, claiming that the extremes we have recently experienced are simply "Mother Nature".  Christy also referenced a couple of record local cold and snow events in his verbal testimony.  This is of course a misleading strawman argument; global warming does not eliminate either cold or snowfall records.

There are numerous examples of increased extreme weather frequency already being attributed to humans in the published peer-reviewed scientific literature.  For example, Pall et al. (2011):

"Here we present a multi-step, physically based ‘probabilistic event attribution’ framework showing that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000"

Min et al. (2011):

"Here we show that human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas."

Dai et al. (2011):

"All the four forms of the PDSI show widespread drying over Africa, East and South Asia, and other areas from 1950 to 2008, and most of this drying is due to recent warming. The global percentage of dry areas has increased by about 1.74% (of global land area) per decade from 1950 to 2008."

Zwiers et al. (2011):

"Therefore, it is concluded that the influence of anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on extreme temperatures that have impacts on human society and natural systems at global and regional scales"

Coumou & Rahmstorf (2012):

"Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme — notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes — there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase."

The key point is hiding behind Christy's attempts to obfuscate by focusing solely on convincing Congress that recent extreme weather events are consistent with Mother Nature. While it is very difficult to attribute individual weather events to global warming, we do know that climate change will 'load the dice' and result in more frequent extreme weather events.

Pielke Jr. Bait and Switch Misdirection

Roger Pielke Jr. has also joined Christy's obfuscation on extreme weather by attacking the testimony from Christoper Field on the subject, which he accomplished through a bait and switch misdirection strategy, misrepresenting what Field actually said and then attacking his built-up strawman.

For example, as Field noted,

"the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear."

Pielke's response to this correct point by Field is a perfect example of his misdirection.  The information discussed by Field comes from the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), on which Field was a Co-Chair.  When Field accurately describes the SREX findings about extreme weather hazards, Pielke Jr. misrepresents it as a claim about financial losses, for example responding to Field's quote above about the link between climate change and extreme weather with this quote (emphasis added):

"There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change"

In reality, Field has accurately described the conclusions of the SREX.  For example, the SREX says:

"It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures at the global scale. There is medium confidence that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme coastal high water due to an increase in mean sea level."


"Extreme weather and climate events, interacting with exposed and vulnerable human and natural systems, can lead to disasters."

These quotes quite clearly support Field's comments.  In the most absurd case of Pielke misdirection, Field accurately reports the SREX findings on extreme precipitation events, which Pielke Jr. purports is a misrepresentation because of something that report said about flood losses.  Put simply, the distinction between precipitation and floods is not a hard one to make, nor is the distinction between flood events and associated losses.  In fact these are fundamental distinctions for Pielke Jr.'s area of expertise.

On hurricanes, Pielke ridicules Field for saying that "For several of these categories of disasters, the strength of any linkage to climate change, if there is one, is not known...The evidence on hurricanes is mixed".  In fact, Field uses almost the exact same language as page 159 of SREX (emphasis added):

"Different methods for estimating undercounts in the earlier part of the North Atlantic tropical cyclone record provide mixed conclusions"

Pielke again uses a sleight of hand claiming that (emphasis added) "IPCC was unable to attribute any trend in tropical cyclone disasters to climate change".  But Field was specifically talking about "linkages to climate change", a subtle but important difference to what Pielke is saying.  As for how tropical cyclone activity will respond to a warming planet, the literature is as Field notes "mixed".  Pielke also makes an assertion about disasters based on an SREX quote dealing with impacts (emphasis added):

"The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados"

An increased frequency of disasters will not necessarily lead to an increase in impacts, for example if technology improves to offset the losses caused by disasters.  Therefore Pielke has not even demonstrated a lack of attribution in cyclone disasters, and has certainly not disproven Field's claim about a linkage between cyclones and climate change.

On drought, Field quoted almost verbatim from the SREX summary for policymakers, noting:

"The report identified some areas where droughts have become longer and more intense (including southern Europe and West Africa), but others where droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter."

Here is the associated quote from the SREX:

"There is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia."

Pielke Jr. suggests that Field misrepresented what the SREX said by pulling a quote from a different section on the report and noting that it is not the same - no kidding.  This is undoubtedly an honest mistake from Pielke, but when accusing someone of "misleading US Congress" as Pielke Jr. has accused Field of doing, one should really be sure that the accusation is accuate.  It took all of a 30-second word search for us to find the section Field quotes in the SREX.

Pielke also says that "Field conveniently neglected in his testimony to mention that one place where droughts have gotten less frequent, less intense or shorter is ... the United States" ("central North America" in the quote above).  However, Pielke conveniently neglects to share the SREX conclusions regarding future drought changes:

"There is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in the 21st century in some seasons and areas, due to reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration. This applies to regions including...central North America".

This conclusion is supported by Dai (2010), for example:

"Regions like the United States have avoided prolonged droughts during the last 50 years due to natural climate variations, but might see persistent droughts in the next 20–50 years"

In the comments on his post, Pielke Jr. argued that droughts are not disasters.  That of course depends on your definition of "disaster", but just this year,

"more than half of all U.S. counties - 1,584 in 32 states - have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that's considered the worst in decades."

In addition, there are the impacts to the poor as food becomes more expensive as crops are damaged by drought.

Steve McIntyre Joins the Obfuscation Party

Sadly, Steve McIntyre tripled down on these myths by both repeating Pielke's strawman attacks on Field and by inventing a new conspiracy theory that the draft IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is "hiding" discussions of past mega-droughts.  We cannot address this conspiracy in detail since the AR5 is still in draft form.  However, suffice it to say that the latest draft version actually has more information about North American mega-droughts than the previous version, including Figure 5.12 which now depicts the severity duration and frequency of droughts in North America. 

Selective Skepticism

The real irony here is that Pielke Jr. and McIntyre falsely accuse Field of misleading Congress while completely ignoring that John Christy actually did mislead Congress in the very same hearing.  In fact, Pielke and McIntyre double and triple down on Christy's myth that human activities are not contributing to extreme weather events, which is really just a distraction from the fact that human-caused climate change will certainly cause many types of extreme weather to occur more frequently in the future.  This series of events illustrates that Pielke Jr. and Steve McIntyre do not seem willing to apply their 'skepticism' and 'auditing' to climate contrarians.

There is a silver lining in this cloud of obfuscation - climate contrarians appear to be retreating more and more away from the "it's not happening" and "it's not us" myths, toward the "it's not bad" fallback position. 

However, this means we must be increasingly vigilant when faced with misleading arguments like Christy's and Pielke's that climate change is nothing to worry about.  It has taken decades to transition away from the former two myths - we cannot afford to allow the contrarian obfuscation regarding the consequences of climate change to be as efffective in delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  We simply don't have the time for this nonsense anymore.

Note: this post has been adapted into the Intermediate rebuttal to the myth 'extreme weather isn't caused by global warming'.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 142:

  1. Roger Pielke Jr @50, given your obviously flawed analysis of Field's testimony, as dissected above, I cannot think of a single reason to suspect that reading any of your work would reward the effort. One page of slip shod reasoning, obfustication and unwarranted slanders is more than enough, thank you. Who would subject themselves to a whole book of the same - particularly as they must enrich you for the privilege of their disappointment.
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  2. Hello everyone, As tempting as it is to respond to Dr. Pielke's posts (or lack thereof) could I request that readers avoid "piling on" until SkS posts a formal reply. Thank you. Of course, feel free to discuss the main post and the science in the mean time.
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  3. Hello again Dr. Pielke and welcome back. This comment is on behalf of the SkS team. It was with much dissapointment that we heard of your Tweet concerning your "visit" here. We would like to take this opportunity to once again set the record straight concerning the facts. This all started when you publicly attacked Dr. Field and made false allegations regarding his testimony to US Congress, which we debunked in the above post. Your first comment in this thread directing us toward your other writings was off-topic. Nevertheless, readers and moderators welcomed you here and very politely requested that you respect the blog rules and stay on topic. Unfortunately, you seem unwilling to speak to the evidence we have presented refuting your claims against Dr. Field, or trying to defend the unjustified claims you made against him. Instead you have continued to misdirect and obfuscate, and worse yet publicly make unsubstantiated and baseless attacks on SkS on Twitter. The main post cites numerous peer-reviewed papers concerning weather extremes, so there is no need to open a new thread to discuss the science. You are still very welcome to participate in this discussion if you can stay on topic and speak to the science when defending your allegations against Dr. Field and your opinions on links between climate change and extreme weather. In the future we may discuss your other climate-related writings, but they are off-topic here.
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  4. -53-dana1981 Thanks ... you are absolutely correct, I do not wish to debate the topic of this thread, having done so at my blog (where your readers are invited to participate should they wish). However, given the multiple requests here and from you via Twitter to engage, I am responding by expressing my willingness to participate. My terms of engagement are simply that you begin with a focus on my work, to which I offered pointers. If these terms are unacceptable to SkS, I fully understand -- it is your blog to run as you see fit and as a blogger I certainly respect that. Just as I have no obligation to engage here, you have no obligation to focus on my work. However, in the future, if you change your mind, please send me a tweet or an email and I'll gladly rejoin the conversation. All best ... Roger
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  5. Roger, I thought you work was in being an "honest broker." The veracity of accusations you lob at other people in public should fall under that heading, yes? It seems to me that the people here ARE trying to discuss your work here.
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  6. Roger... I fail to see why you would be unwilling to discuss the specific topic here relative to SkS's reporting of your comments on Field. This article by Dana and Albatross is not regarding your work, it is regarding your misrepresentation of Field's comments. It's a matter very much worth discussing and I would urge you to discuss it here where there is a much larger audience. As I noted to you previously SkS is not like other blogs where anything goes. This is a tightly moderated site where commenting is expected to be polite and to the topic at hand. The moderators take every effort to apply this equally to all parties.
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  7. -56-Rob Thanks, the fact that Field's testimony is at variance with the IPCC SREX is trivial to show -- for instance, over in the Linkedin Climate Policy Group, Mike MacCracken (former head of the USGCRP) accepted this as explained why it was justified. If folks here want to believe that Field accurately represented the IPCC SREX, that is fine -- people believe all sorts of crazy things. But it is not in my interest to debate a point so clearly obvious and (outside of SkS it seems) so readily accepted. I won't be discussing Field further. Now, if you'd like to discuss whether SREX was wrong in its conclusions or is now out of date due to post-SREX science (as MacCracken argues) that is something different. That will require actually examining research, some of which I have conducted and published. But I understand that that subject is out of bounds given the focus on this thread. I hope that makes sense ... Thanks!
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  8. Dr. Pielke, rather than making hand-waiving generalizations based on the comments of one or two individuals, perhaps you would like to explain why you think the quotes we have taken directly out of the SREX in the post above, which certainly appear to confirm what Field has said, don't. Right now what we've got is Field saying 'x', quotes from the SREX saying 'x', and you saying "I know these people who say that SREX doesn't say 'x'". Sorry, but we've demonstrated that the SREX content is consistent with Field's comments, and you have not yet demonstrated otherwise. Saying "I know a guy who agrees with me" is not convincing, no matter who that guy is.
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  9. -58-dana1981 Thanks, but I will avoid entering a silly debate over "he said, he said" which is great blog fun of course, but not something I'm interested in at present. There is plenty enough material here and on my blog for readers to arrive at their own conclusions -- and I am happy for them to do so, regardless how they turn out. With that, it is just about a weekend here, and I am checking out. You now know the terms of my further engagement. Thanks again.
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  10. RogerPielkeJr @59, let us then avoid the he said/she said debate. Will you at least admit for the record that on every occasion when you purport that Field misrepresented the SREX, you quote him saying something about natural hazards, you quote the SREX about losses due to natural disasters. Will you further admit that "natural hazards", "natural disasters" and "losses" are all distinct, though related concepts? I am not interested in the he said/she said. I am interested in the logic of your case, which SFAIK you have left implicit, never expounded and which to my mind is indefensible. If you have explicitly dealt with this question in discussion at your blog, by all means simply provide a link to the comment or comments in which you do.
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  11. RPJ: "If folks here want to believe that Field accurately represented the IPCC SREX, that is fine -- people believe all sorts of crazy things. But it is not in my interest to debate a point so clearly obvious and (outside of SkS it seems) so readily accepted." In other words, "it's true because I say it's obvious". In your own blog comments, your claim is disputed, and you appear willing to (in a somewhat dodgy way) engage there to some degree. I fail to see this as a valid reason to continue dodging here. You want instead to focus on a different topic, being your published work. Your published work, however, is not the SREX (even if some of your work is cited there) and not Chris Field's representation of the SREX. Perhaps that is part of the problem, that you are only willing to consider parts and cited work of the SREX that most agree with you. I think this post gives evidence of that. To passing observers, I would think your comments here are indicative of someone stubbornly unable to admit he is wrong. Lastly, I don't understand the justification for your Twitter drive-by on this excellent site SkS. Dana's Twitter comment was after yours, and a look through the comments here indicates most folks are polite and eager to engage. The post does say you have engaged in "obfuscation" and "misrepresentation", but certainly at no other level than your accusations of Chris Field, and certainly much better supported in my view. If you are to level confident but shaky accusations at a scientist, one would expect you to have the strength to defend criticisms leveled against your arguments on the matter.
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  12. Roger@59: With all dues respect, you *have* engaged in quite a lot of "silly debate" on your blog, viz. Field's testimony in front of Congress and what you *assert* he said, that you claim is in variance with what the SREX report contained. It seems inconsistent that you'd avoid responding to ~direct~ and substantiated excerpts from SREX that seem to be quite exactly what Dr. Fields stated in front of Congress, while turning an utter blind eye to Christy's assertions to the same body. Yet, when asked *directly* to speak about your (very) dogmatic assertions about how wrong Fields was, then simply will not engage in discussion about how John Christy's testimony to Congress was in wide variance to accepted and peer-reviewed articles, journals, and extant data, you simply say, in essence, "I'm not gonna play your game. Nyah nyah." That, sir, simply does not seem like being an 'honest broker,' a position you have staked a fair bit of your reputation at CU-Boulder on. Is it any wonder rational, well-informed, and deeply-commited-to-the-truth people here continue to ask you to defend those statements, and does it not appear to you to be fair by continuing to assert how Dr. Fields was so "wrong," yet not also, in the same agency of honest brokering, to show how Dr. Christy's testimony was *also* wrong?
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  13. I'm certainly not interested in a 'he said/she said' argument, which is precisely why your reporting of MacCracken's supposed comments about the content of the SREX are not relevant. We didn't go out and ask anybody else what the SREX says, we read and quoted directly from the SREX (and other relevant research). The fact is that Field's comments are consistent with the content of the SREX, and you misrepresented his comments in arguing to the contrary. If you would like to try and demonstrate otherwise, again you are very welcome to do so. But to this point we have provided concrete evidence that you misrepresented Field, and you have not provided any concrete evidence to the contrary.
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  14. From where I sit, last year's "dialogue" with Pielke Sr was a big waste of everyone's time and energy. I foresee the same outcome if we engage Pielke Jr in a comparable "dialogue" this year. Let's keep our focus on the stuff that matters most.
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  15. "it is very difficult to attribute individual weather events to global warming" *sigh* Big, big *sigh*, in fact. Trenberth has pointed out with great cogency why that phrase is wrong, and yet people who ought to know better keep repeating it in one form or another.
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  16. Roger@59 "Thanks, the fact that Field's testimony is at variance with the IPCC SREX is trivial to show -- for instance, over in the Linkedin Climate Policy Group, Mike MacCracken (former head of the USGCRP) accepted this as explained why it was justified." Well, maybe so ... but your interpretation of the English language being what it is, I thought I might send this out to Dr. MacCracken at Climate Central: Dr. MacCracken: Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr made the following comment on the Skeptical Science blog today: "[T]he fact that Field's testimony is at variance with the IPCC SREX is trivial to show -- for instance, over in the Linkedin Climate Policy Group, Mike MacCracken (former head of the USGCRP) accepted this as explained why it was justified. If folks here want to believe that Field accurately represented the IPCC SREX, that is fine -- people believe all sorts of crazy things. But it is not in my interest to debate a point so clearly obvious and (outside of SkS it seems) so readily accepted. I won't be discussing Field further." Since I am not currently a member of the Climate Policy Group (you have to be invited to join, it appears), I cannot verify his statement ... and given what to a layman seems a variance between Dr. Field's and Dr. Pielke's recent testimony before the Senate committee, I thought I would check, if you are able to make the time. Alternatively, you could just post a comment on SkS: Thank you for your time. Given the number of times that you and Dr. Field have shared a podium, I thought you might be annoyed at having your name taken in vain. If in fact he has quoted you correctly, I am certain that the SkS community would be glad to hear your reasoning, given your immense prestige within the climate community. Best wishes, OldMole
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  17. Dana How you talk on twitter is your business of course but, "Like father like son" sounds like the sort of stuff that we should try to avoid if we actually want discourse.
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  18. Tom Curtis @50, my reading of Tamino's post was that he disagreed with the way that Hansen et al did some of their analysis. Tamino showed a different method that got different results to Hansen et al. I'm sure the substance of most of Hansen et al will be unaffected by this. However, I think it is great that Tamino has found and publicised a possible error. Fake skeptics never criticise their own. Real skeptics do. Real scientists do. Let the fake skeptics blindly defend their side. It shows how uninterested in the truth they are.
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  19. John @68 - agreed that it's important to apply skepticism equally to both 'sides' and all research. We've got a post coming up on Hansen's paper which looks at critiques from tamino and others.
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  20. John Brookes @68, Tamino showed a different method. However, he only applied to to the contiguous United States, and only applied it to annual data. Consequently the results of his application of his method is not strictly comparable to the results of Hansen, 2012, which used global and seasonal data. In particular, winter months have greater variability of temperature than summer months; and have increased in temperature faster than summer months. The later fact means that by Tamino's own analysis, his technique applied to Annual data would show a larger SD than would be found using summer data alone as done by Hansen. The greater variability in winter months is also likely to swamp any signal of increased variability in summer months. So while Hansen has shown that his argument does not support the conclusion of increased variability within regions, he has not shown that that increased variability does not exist.
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  21. I managed to get access to the Linkedin Climate Policy group, and found the discussion Pielke Jr. references. Not surprisingly, he has not accurately characterized MacCracken's comments. It's a long discussion and MacCracken has a lot to say on the subject. The general gist is that Field was speaking as an extreme weather expert and not limiting himself to the information in the SREX. As such, MacCracken feels that Field's testimony was accurate and appropriate, saying for example
    "it seems to me that scientists in the field should be speaking out with the full results coming from leading research groups that seem very likely to be the leading papers and research cited in future IPCC assessments. And that seems to me to be just what Chris did, and was expected to do as a leading scientist in the field."
    Pielke Jr. then kept pushing him to say that Field's testimony was not consistent with the SREX, which MacCracken did not do, for example responding
    "No. On (a) he was giving his professional views as an EXPERT SCIENTIST relying on work published in the literature per the many citations, key ones being quite new (so post-SREX)"
    Long story short, MacCracken feels that Field's testimony was consistent with the body of scientific literature (which we showed is true in the above post) and that he was not just referring to the SREX in his testimony (which is probably also true). He does nto specifically say whether Field's testimony was inconsistent with the SREX, and in any case, we showed in the above post that it is not. Most importantly, MacCracken agrees that Field's testimony was scientifically accurate, and all Pielke Jr. takes and relays from the discussion is that MacCracken agreed that it was inconsistent with the SREX. I suspect MacCracken would be very dissatisfied with this description of his comments.
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  22. dana1981- To set the record straight, MacCracken said: "it appears to me they [Congressional Democrats] invited two leading scientists (McCarthy and Field) to testify about what science is now finding, and that is what Chris did. That it goes beyond IPCC, well the science has gone beyond IPCC." Obviously, there is no doubt that Field's testimony "goes beyond" what the IPCC SREX reported. Now, whether that "going beyond" is appropriate is worth discussing. In what ways did Field "go beyond" IPCC SREX? As I explained to Mike in that thread: "I critiqued Field's testimony on 5 points: 1. Linking human-caused climate change to economic disasters via extremes 2. Neglecting to mention that the US has seen a decline in drought 3. Citing the NOAA billion-dollar disasters 4. Asserting that the role of climate change in hurricane disasters ($$) is "mixed" 5. Implying that the role in climate change in flooding disasters ($$) is increasing Each of these 5 are at variance with the conclusions of the IPCC SREX." I offered to Mike the chance to back up the appropriateness of each of these 5 deviations from IPCC SREX with specific post-SREX scientific references. Contrary to what you report, MacCracken declined the opportunity to discuss the science: "I made my comment on this blog as I really only wanted to discuss the context for the discussion, not the science, as was going on on your blog. I have been working mainly in other areas of research and am just not going to get into a detailed discussion with you on all of this." As far as SkS, it has been eye-opening to see what you do, from your gratuitous insult of my father and me via a Tweet to the above characterization of my interaction with MaCracken, what I have seen is a lot of innuendo/insults and little actual science. I really did expect better. [snip] Anyone wanting to discuss issues 1-5 above is welcome at my site. Thanks!
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Comments regarding moderation policy are by definition off-topic, so please do not include them in a substantive post. I have snipped this time, next time I will delete. Note also that a private communication does not necessarily represent SkS, any more than I would regard a tweet from a contributor to your blog as being representative of your blog as a whole. Lastly, we would welcome a discussion of the science here, but that is difficult if you do not post comments on the science. Please do discuss any scientific point relevant to the article, it is exactly the purpose of the site.
  23. I forgot the link to my site in the above, it is here, Thanks!
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Link activated.
  24. There are two major problems with your comments, Roger. Number 1, as we showed in the above post, the points on which you "critiqued Field's testimony" are largely misrepresentations of his actual arguments, which are both accurate and consistent with the findings in the SREX. Number 2, regardless of its consistency with the SREX, the far more important point is that Field's testimony was an accurate representation of the full body of scientific evidence, as MacCracken noted in his comments. So basically you're criticizing Field for giving scientifically accurate testimony by shifting the goalposts associated with one relevant report, while remaining silent regarding the scientifically inaccurate testimony in the same hearing from John Christy. Coincidentally, I've invited MacCracken here to give his own opinions on the issue, rather than having third parties (mis)interpret his comments. I hope he accepts.
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  25. -74-dana1981 Thanks ... of the five papers that you cite in the post above, four were in fact reviewed by the IPCC SREX (Pall, Min, Dai, Zwiers), thus have been determined to be consistent with the findings of that report as judged by its contributors all the way through the SPM. So citing them as a defense of Field's deviation from SREX won't work. In any case the four papers have nothing whatsoever to do with the points 1-5 that I summarized in #72 above. The fifth paper that you cite Coumou and Rahmstorf, is not cited by IPCC SREX, so it is properly post-SREX, however, it has nothing to do with the 5 points that I raised in #72 above. In any case, Field cites none of these five papers you bring to his defense to make any of his points. He does however cite 2 NOAA websites plus 3 post-SREX papers from the recent BAMS special issue on attribution. But again, neither of the NOAA press releases nor the BAMS special issue speaks to the science underlying the five points that I list in #72. [off-topic snipped] Is there post-SREX literature which justifies overturning findings of the IPCC SREX as described in the five points listed in #72 above? Either there is or their isn't. MacCrcken argued the former (i.e., SREX is outdated by new science), which I think is unsupportable (maybe if he accepts your invitation to participate here he can point to that post-SREX literature that he alluded to but did not cite). If it is the latter then you will have to argue that the SREX got things wrong, which is always possible. Either way, to make your scientific argument, you will need to discuss post-SREX literature. [off-topic snipped] Thanks!
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Please can everybody keep to the science and avoid any further complaints about the nature and/or tone of the discussion, which are off-topic and potentially inflammatory. Please leave enforcing the comments policy to the moderators.
  26. Roger, again I remind you that your points #1-5 are strawmen. I don't know who your beef is with, but it's clearly not with Field. What Field said was accurate, and you're still arguing that nobody has addressed the discrepancy between the SREX and your charicature of Field. To be clear, it's probably true that the SREX doesn't say what you claim Field said. The problem is, as we showed in this post, Field didn't say what you claim he said. We have demonstrated that Field's testimony (i.e. what he actually said) is supported by the scientific literature. You have yet to provide any evidence to the contrary.
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  27. -76-dana1981 Good, sounds then like we agree on the science, specifically the follow conclusions associated with IPCC SREX: 1. Linking human-caused climate change to economic disasters via extremes is not scientifically supportable 2. The US has seen a long-term decline in (midwestern) drought 3. Citing the NOAA billion-dollar disasters is a scientifically unsupportable to claim anything to do with long-term changes in climate 4. The role of climate change in hurricane disasters ($$) is not detectable 5. The role in climate change in flooding disasters ($$) is not detectable Let us please leave aside whether Field stated or implied anything to the contrary of these five, people can well look at his testimony and decide that for themselves (here: If we agree on the science underlying these five statements, then this has been a productive visit. Thanks!
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  28. RogerPielkeJr, The original post here at SkS was clear in saying (emphasis added):
    When Field accurately describes the SREX findings about extreme weather hazards, Pielke Jr. misrepresents it as a claim about financial losses
    You responded in the comments here by saying (emphasis added):
    4. Asserting that the role of climate change in hurricane disasters ($$) is "mixed" 5. Implying that the role in climate change in flooding disasters ($$) is increasing
    Dana has responded by saying (emphasis revised):
    To be clear, it's probably true that the SREX doesn't say what you claim Field said. The problem is, as we showed in this post, Field didn't say what you claim he said.
    It is clear to me from this exchange, and I think to anyone reading it, that you do continue to not merely ignore but also reinforce the claim of the original post, that you have misrepresented what Field said and argue against a strawman (what you claim he said, not what he said). Please address this one issue directly and clearly. It can be done in one simple way. Provide a quote, with context as necessary, from Field's testimony which unequivocally supports your contention.
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  29. -79-Sphaerica thanks ... While I appreciate the interest in a further exegesis of Field's testimony, the specific issue that you raise has been well dealt with over at my blog, so I point you there: So, given that lengthy discussion, when I say I have no interest in further parsing those comments, I hope you will appreciate that. Arguments have been presented on both sides, and I am satisfied that my views have been well presented. So, I will restrict my further comments here to science. Thanks!
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  30. Essentially repeating the content of the above post (and I agree with Sphaerica @79): Linking climate-induced extreme weather to changes in economic losses is a difficult proposition, and as I understand we cannot yet definitively make that link. I'm not sure how this is relevant, since Field did not claim otherwise. However, as Field correctly noted, there are many types of extreme weather events whose increasing long-term trends have been linked to climate change. While the USA has been fortunate not to see more frequent droughts up to this point, that luck has likely ended (see Dai and SREX). While Field accurately described the body of scientific evidence, John Christy's testimony in the same hearing was grossly inaccurate.
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  31. -8-dana1981 Thanks, on the science we appear to agree. We shall simply have to agree to disagree on Field's representation of the science in his testimony. It is always a good political strategy in Congressional testimony to leave enough ambiguity such that people can hear what they want ;-) (That last comment is tongue-in-cheek) Until next time ...
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  32. Okay, so there you have it from Roger Pielke, Jr. himself. He misrepresented (as clearly evidenced by the original post) what Field said in Congressional testimony, and now he is unable/unwilling to defend his own statements in that regard. If anyone is able to find any quote from Field's testimony that gives some insight as to how Dr. Pielke might have so misunderstood what was said as to publicly charge him with malfeasance in Congressional testimony, I'd certainly be interested in seeing it. [I'm sorry, but to me this -- the public admonishment of a professional giving testimony before Congress -- is not an area where we should "agree to disagree." That is an unacceptable outcome to the discussion, and I am very disappointed that it is merely being left where it stands -- unresolved, but clearly a poor reflection on Dr. Pielke's interpretation of events.]
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  33. At the risk of repetition, I really believe this a simple exercise in reading comprehension, exemplified by Roger Pielke Jr's first point on his blog regarding Field's testimony: "1. On the economic costs of disasters: Field: "As the US copes with the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking series of 14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters and this year’s massive wildfires and storms, it is critical to understand that the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear." What the IPCC actually said: "There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change" Field's assertion that the link between climate change and disasters "is clear," which he supported with reference to US "billion dollar" economic losses, is in reality scientifically unsupported by the IPCC. " Either one believes Field is using his monetary example to support an assertation that there is a link between financial loss and climate change (which he never asserts, so I assume we must somehow infer this, because they happen to be in the same sentence), or he sets the contemporary scene in terms of recent events and the resulting financial loss, and then explains there is evidence of climate change and extreme events. I have to say, based on point 1 alone, it is clear that the blogger must be (Snip-) Field's testimony, and as a consequence throw the rest of his analysis into question as it is very clear Field NEVER asserts the first position that RPjr accuses him of. You may possibly accuse Field of misleading the public with such a statement, if the public in question is quick to jump to conclusions and infer things the speaker does not say. (-Snip-)
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Off-topic snipped. Caution is given regarding speculated intent (cf Comments Policy), which was also snipped.
  34. rojimboo @83 - while I agree that the confusion seems to boil down to an issue of reading comprehension, I don't think it's fair to accuse Pielke Jr. of "intentionally misunderstanding" Field's testimony. It's entirely possible that the misunderstanding boils down to careless reading - seeing the monetary value, seeing the reference to climate change and disasters, and incorrectly assuming the latter are being linked to the former. Regardless of the reason, the point stands that Pielke is misreading/misinterpreting Field's comments, which as we have noted many times now, are consistent with the body of scientific literature.
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  35. dana1981 @84 - You are correct. I should not have assumed so. The alternative just seemed so improbable.
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  36. -83-rojimboo Thanks for your interest in The Climate Fix ... a few replies on your comments: (-Snip-) Thanks!
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Off-topic response to off-topic snipped.
  37. Lots of hooplah for very little subtance, really: Field's testimony is consistent wth the existing litterature, including the SREX report. Dr Pielke Jr's representation of field's testimony is inaccurate. Christy's testimony is not consistent with the existing scientific litterature. No evidence has been brought to contradict any of these points in the OP.
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  38. 1) What Pielke Jr says:
    "Linking human-caused climate change to economic disasters via extremes is not scientifically supportable" What Field said in his testimony: Nothing on this topic. What the SREX actually says:
    Economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters have increased, but with large spatial and interannual variability (high confidence, based on high agreement, medium evidence). ... Economic, including insured, disaster losses associated with weather, climate, and geophysical events are higher in developed countries. Fatality rates and economic losses expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) are higher in developing countries (high confidence). ... Increasing exposure of people and economic assets has been the major cause of long-term increases in economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters (high confidence). Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (high agreement, medium evidence). These conclusions are subject to a number of limitations in studies to date. Vulnerability is a key factor in disaster losses, yet it is not well accounted for. Other limitations are: (i) data availability, as most data are available for standard economic sectors in developed countries; and (ii) type of hazards studied, as most studies focus on cyclones, where confidence in observed trends and attribution of changes to human influence is low. The second conclusion is subject to additional limitations: (iii) the processes used to adjust loss data over time, and (iv) record length. [4.5.3]"
    (Original bold, my underlining) What I say: Pielke Jnr's claim is a very strong one, implying, not that the evidence of a link between extreme events and increased losses is inconclusive, but that such links have been conclusively disproved. Not unsupported, but unsupportable. Given that losses due to climate related disasters have increased sharply, and at a significantly faster rate than losses due to geophysical activity, Pielke Jnr's claim is odd, and very strong. Of course, that fast rise in climate related losses is not conclusive because studies with normalized losses have shown slightly rising, or slightly falling losses from climate related disasters: (Fig 3 from Neumayer and Barthel, 2011. The essential difference between the conventional approach (attributed to Pielke Jnr) and the alternative approach is suggested by Neumayer and Barthel is that the former must average over state or national data levels, while the later normalizes based on a 1 degree by 1 degree gris of economic data (see paper for details).) However, as Neumayer and Barthel warn:
    "Due to our inability to control for defensive mitigation measures, one cannot infer from our analysis that there have definitely not been more frequent and/or more intensive weather-related natural hazards over the study period already."
    The SREX also warns:
    "Another general area of uncertainty comes from confounding factors that can be identified but are difficult to quantify, and relates to the usual assumption of constant vulnerability in studies of loss trends. These include factors that would be expected to increase resilience (Chapters 2 and 5 of this report) and thereby mask the influence of climate change, and those that could act to increase the impact of climate change. Those that could mask the effects of change include gradual improvements in warnings and emergency management (Adger et al., 2005), building regulations (Crichton, 2007), and changing lifestyles (such as the use of air conditioning), and the almost instant media coverage of any major weather extreme that may help reduce losses. In the other direction are changes that may be increasing risk, such as the movement of people in many countries to coastal areas prone to cyclones (Pompe and Rinehart, 2008) and sea level rise."
    (My emphasis) Note that the assumption of constant vulnerability is known to be false. Modern houses are more resistant to wind damage than older houses. Areas vulnerable to flood or drought in the past are now less so because of the construction of dams, and so on. Because the total impact of these measures is hard to quantify, it is not known whether normalized losses if adjusted for changes in vulnerability would be rising or falling; and it is certainly not known with any statistical confidence which direction the trend is. What that means is that it is still a matter of scientific debate whether overall losses have increased in part due to global warming. That is, however, a far cry from Pielke Jnr's attempt to close out the debate. (Note: There have been several recent extreme events which resulted in very large losses and in which the extremity of the events is clearly attributable to global warming. However, it is also possible that events causing losses have been reduced in impact or frequency by global warming so that overall global warming has had no net impact, or has reduced losses. Therefore I do not consider those events germaine to assessing Pielke Jnr's claim as such - although he could easily be interpreted as denying even the existence of those events, or the scientific attribution of their intensity to global warming.)
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  39. 2) What the SREX says:
    "Nonetheless, there is some agreement between studies over the different time frames (i.e.,since 1950 versus 1970) and using different drought indicators regarding increasing drought occurrence in some regions (e.g., southern Europe, West Africa; see below and Table 3-2), although other regions also indicate opposite trends (e.g., central North America, northwestern Australia; see below and Table 3-2)."
    What Field said:
    "The report identified some areas where droughts have become longer and more intense (including southern Europe and West Africa), but others where droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter."
    (My emphasis) What Pielke Jnr says:
    "The US has seen a long-term decline in (midwestern) drought"
    (My emphasis) What I say: Pielke Jnr is absolutely correct. There has been a trend to less drought in the US midwest. It is worthwhile noting why he restricts this claim to the midwest, and not the the USA as a whole. Below are the annual average precipitation trends for the US (1958-2008; first graph) and the drought trend for the same period (1958-2007; second graph). Both are from the Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States report of 2009. As can be clearly seen, there is a trend to reduced drought in the mid-west. But there is also a trend to increased drought in the south east, and in the west. Had Pielke Jnr not included his discrete little qualifier in brackets, his claim would have been dubious at best, and possibly false. Given that, it is worthwhile reviewing what Pielke Jnr said about Field's testimony.
    "Field conveniently neglected in his testimony to mention that one place where droughts have gotten less frequent, less intense or shorter is ... the United States. Why did he fail to mention this region, surely of interest to US Senators, but did include Europe and West Africa? "
    So, Pielke Jnr roundly condemns Field for not making a claim to Congress that he cannot bring himself to make on a blog comment where he might actually be pulled up for inaccuracy. Of course, his defense for that condemnation is not that what Field said was true or false, but that it did not accurately reflect what was said by the SREX. There is only one problem with that defense. The SREX does not mention the United States, but Central North America. Central North America is a very specific location in the SREX, whose position is shown in figure 3.2, of which a (slightly modified) detail is shown below: As can be clearly seen, Central North America is approximately the US midwest. So Pielke Jnr is condemning Field for not inaccurately calling the midwest the entire US, and for not attributing to the entire US facts asserted in the SREX only of the midwest.
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  40. It is odd to see Roger Pielke Jr. (I'll abbreviate that as RPjr) finish his "agree to disagree" comment with a statement like "It is always a good political strategy in Congressional testimony to leave enough ambiguity such that people can hear what they want ;-) (That last comment is tongue-in-cheek)", as it seems that a good deal of his argument depends on attempting to imply ambiguity in others' statements that isn't there,while at the same time employing ambiguity in his own statements so that he can shift goalposts as needed. Any written language is imperfect, and words can have different meanings in different contexts. It is best to attempt to be precise, and precision often takes more words that imprecise language. For example, Field's testimony (quoted in the original post above) uses the phrase:
    "the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear."
    As has been pointed out in the post (and reinforced in the subsequent comments), "Pielke Jr. misrepresents it as a claim about financial losses". Can we read Field's statement this way? What if he quoted Field as saying:
    "the link between climate change and ... disasters is clear."
    ??? This would be a pretty clear statement claiming what RPjr seems to want to believe Field said, but is the part left out (the ellipsis) important? Yes, it is. After all, why would Field put it in, if he could state the link explicitly in fewer words? What we have is a situation where Field is saying "we have a clear link from A to B, and B one of a group of things that can lead to C". RPjr is trying to pretend that it is a claim of a clear link directly from A to C. Is Field being deliberately vague? No. Is RPjr just misunderstanding, or is he attempting to play up something that takes advantage of what he hopes is something that we'll not read properly? Only he knows. Contrast this with RPjr's writing in his comments here. In #57, he said:
    "the fact that Field's testimony is at variance with the IPCC SREX is trivial to show"
    Keep a close watch on what happens to the word "variance". That can have a number of meanings, but to the casual reader it likely means one of disagreement or discord. And RPjr's use of this in an attempt to imply that Field's testimony was inaccurate also suggests that this is the meaning he intended. Later, though. RPjr (in response to dana's quotes from the LinkIn Climate Policy site that RPjr pointed to) goes and says:
    "Obviously, there is no doubt that Field's testimony "goes beyond" what the IPCC SREX reported"
    (Emphasis by bolding is mine, but quote are in RPjr's original comment.) Now, what is the difference between "at variance with", and "goes beyond"? In one context, perhaps the same thing - i.e., that the two are not exactly the same. In another context, they can mean entirely different things. "Goes beyond" could mean that there is disagreement or discord, but it can also mean that it expands on (without disagreeing), adds to, or improves upon the original. If RPjr means the latter, and does not mean to imply that Field's testimony was in discord with the IPCC SREX, then I could probably agree with him. RPjr's attack on Field's testimony is only consistent if you read "goes beyond" as "is in discord with", though, and right now I think the SkS post has a lot more credibility than RPjr. It may be that RPjr has just been sloppy in changing from "at variance with" to "goes beyond". It may be that his intention is "to leave enough ambiguity such that people can hear what they want". Or, perhaps it is just another example of bait and switch. Or, perhaps he is hoping that someone will agree with "goes beyond" based on the second meaning (adds to), and then RPjr will treat that as if he got agreement on "goes beyond" as if it meant the former (in discord with). I'm tempted to say again that only he knows, but it is possible that even he doesn't realize what he's doing. Whatever it is RPjr is selling, I'm not buying.
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  41. So after all this, we still seem to have Roger Pielke Jr blurring the distinction between temperature and precipitation events and associated losses. Four of his five points in #77 refer to losses and not events, the fifth is a cherry pick and is eviscerated as the SREX talks about change in the global pattern of droughts and not just one region of the US (see Tom's #89). I would like to repeat the question I put to Dr Pielke in #19, which is straightforward and demands a straight answer:
    In the light of evidence presented above that you have often blurred the distinction between extreme events and extreme losses, and being critically mindful of the distinction between the two ... Do you agree with the IPCC SREX report's assessment of the increase in extremes of temperature and precipitation?
    I wonder if Dr Pielke is willing to answer that question?
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  42. Bob Loblaw #90 - it's worth repeating a quote from RPjr's post criticising Field's testimony: This is not a particularly nuanced or complex issue. What Field says the IPCC says is blantantly wrong, often 180 degrees wrong. It is one thing to disagree about scientific questions, but it is altogether different to fundamentally misrepresent an IPCC report to the US Congress. Below are five instances in which Field's testimony today completely and unambiguously misrepresented IPCC findings to the Senate. I don't think his original intention, at least, was to leave enough ambiguity such that people can hear what they want.
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  43. OPatrick @92, Pielke Jr is correct that this is not a particularly nuanced issue. The distinction between natural events that cause a risk of losses to humans (hazards) and the losses actually caused is not difficult to make, and is a fundamental distinction in Pielke's area of expertise. So fundamental, in fact, that the SREX devotes its entire first chapter to making plain the distinction between hazards and disasters, and clarifying the related concepts. Nor is the distinction between the United States and Central North America (as shown on the map above) a particularly nuanced one. For those having difficulty distinguishing between the two, the former includes California and Florida. The later does not. Yet these distinctions which are part of Pielke's area of expertise seem beyond him when admitting them leaves him with no basis for criticizing Field's testimony. It must be very handy to have beliefs so adaptable to the rhetorical needs of the moment.
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  44. Commenters here are beginning to identify a basic problem with Field's testimony. It is not scientifically sound to use data/trends in economic impacts ("disasters") to say anything about trends (or lack thereof) in related climate phenomena ("extreme events") -- until such data has been properly "normalized." Hence, in my work I and my colleagues carefully explain that if you are looking for trends in climate variables, then look at climate variables, not data on societal impacts. Consequently, assertions of trends in extremes should not be conflated with patterns of disasters in any way without applying methods such as those in Neumayer and Barthel or our similar work (perfectly consistent with each other, BTW). Such conflation should certainly not appear in a single sentence a la Field's issue #1 that I listed above. The citing economic impacts or disasters in Field's testimony at all is problematic. Thanks!
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  45. RogerPielkeJr #94 - can I clarify that when you say "Consequently, assertions of trends in extremes should not be conflated with patterns of disasters in any way without applying methods such as those in Neumayer and Barthel or our similar work (perfectly consistent with each other, BTW). Such conflation should certainly not appear in a single sentence a la Field's issue #1 that I listed above." you are referring to this sentence in Field's testimony: As the US copes with the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking series of 14 billion-dollar climate-related disasters and this year’s massive wildfires and storms, it is critical to understand that the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disasters is clear.? If so then I question your use of terms such as 'unambigously misrepresented' and '180 degrees wrong'. My reading of this sentence is that the first part 'sets the scene' by reminding senators of the practical importance of understanding the science on the impacts of climate change, the level of human and economic costs that could be involved, whilst the second part talks of links between climate change and extreme events that lead to such disasters without any necessary implications that these events are already occuring as a result of climate change. At the very least it is not unambiguous.
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  46. -95-OPatrick Field defines "billion-dollar climate-related disasters" in his first paragraph (as you excerpted) -- clearly and unambiguously associating "disaster" with economic impacts. The word "disaster(s)" subsequently appears on average once per paragraph in his his short 12 paragraph testimony. The alternative, that Field was not referring to economic impacts when freqeuntly mentioning "disasters" I find implausible (others may disagree). Thanks!
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  47. Roger #96 - where else in his testimony does Field use "disasters" in a way that you would object to? And do you object to anything in Field's own summary of his testimony: 1) Overwhelming evidence establishes that climate change is real 2) Strong evidence indicates that some kinds of climate extremes are already changing 3) Climate change leads to changes in the risk of extreme events that can lead to disasters ?
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  48. OPatrick #95, I think even "not unambiguous" is too strong -- it takes special effort to read the sentence as Roger wishes to. Punctuation matters. A comma may seem like a silly thing to be arguing about, but the only reason we're arguing about it is because Roger wants to ignore the structure of a sentence and what it actually says in order to construct his strawman. Now I can accept that initially it was an honest mistake -- goodness knows that there are hot-button issues for me that I often imagine someone to be talking about because they made the mistake of uttering the keywords I'm on the lookout for in the same sentence -- but I don't understand how, once the misunderstanding was pointed out, someone would persist, and even attempt to mischaracterise the point as arguing about the placement of a comma, rather than accepting that the real point is that Field was actually talking about the link between climate change and extremes (as he plainly stated). Scientific writing abounds with comments that "set the stage" for the work in question; if we started going through every paper's introductory paragraph and removed punctuation willy-nilly I'm sure we'd come up with all sorts of absurdities to waste time arguing about. Maybe even accuse people of "fundamentally misrepresenting" the scientific knowledge. But I see communication as fundamentally an attempt to convey information from one mind to another and prefer to look at what is actually written. All that sentence is saying is that there is a clear link between climate change and certain kinds of extremes -- the kind of extremes that lead to disasters. If he intended to say that there was a clear link between climate change and disasters or climate change and economic impacts he could have actually said that. He didn't.
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  49. -97-OPatrick I do not object o 1 or 2, 3 yes, obviously. The words "disaster," "billion-dollar" and "income" had no place in Field's testimony unless he were to discuss the science associated with economic losses, which he did not. -98-JasonB If we are reduced to discussing the effects of a comma, then I rest my case. As well, Field repeatedly uses the word "disasters" in his piece, after defining it the first time. I am in agreement with this commenter at my blog: Thanks!
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  50. Pielke Jr @94 attempts to spin my 88 as,
    "Commenters here are beginning to identify a basic problem with Field's testimony."
    "Consequently, assertions of trends in extremes should not be conflated with patterns of disasters in any way without applying methods such as those in Neumayer and Barthel or our similar work (perfectly consistent with each other, BTW). Such conflation should certainly not appear in a single sentence a la Field's issue #1 that I listed above."
    Does he think nobody actually read my comment? His gall is beyond belief. However, let me make this quite clear for him: 1) Roger, I am appalled by your persistent attempts to spin this case, and to ignore fundamental distinctions central to your profession; 2) There is nothing wrong with Field's testimony. Contrary to your claim, he does not conflate hazards with disasters. Rather, you do by persistently treating him as talking about losses from disasters when he talks about hazards; 3) Your desperation in misrepresenting Field shows only that you are incapable of arguing against his testimony on its merits;
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    Moderator Response: Inflammatory snipped

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