We’ve discussed the flawed climate risk analysis presented by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, the non-climate expert thrown up by climate deniers in recent congressional hearings.  Dr. Peilke’s ploy in his testimony was to provide a Fox and Limbaugh-friendly sound bite on video, while hiding qualifiers in his written footnotes to cover his pseudo-scientific butt.  The nub of his claims were that damages due to climate change are undetectable, and would not emerge, if at all, for decades to come.
His recent hire as “climate expert” for Nate Silver’s purportedly “data driven” 538 blog proved to be such a disaster on all sides, that a chastened Silver promised to find a qualified scientist to straighten things out, and rebut his own blog.
And so he has.

Dr. Kerry Emanuel  of MIT, one of the world’s best known hurricane experts, on 538:

..I’m not comfortable with Pielke’s assertion that climate change has played no role in the observed increase in damages from natural hazards; I don’t see how the data he cites support such a confident assertion. To begin with, it’s not necessarily appropriate to normalize damages by gross domestic product (GDP) if the intent is to detect an underlying climate trend. GDP increase does not translate in any obvious way to damage increase; in fact, wealthier countries can better afford to build stronger structures and to protect assets (for example, build seawalls and pass and enforce building regulations).1 A grass hut will be completely destroyed by a hurricane, but a modern steel office building will only be partially damaged; damage does not scale linearly with the value of the asset.

More seriously, a casual inspection of both graphs (normalized and non-normalized damage over time) presented by Pielke leads me to question the statistical significance of either. This is hardly surprising, since 23 years is not a very long time to detect trends in natural hazard damages, whether such trends are caused by demographics or by climate change. A 2012 study2 by London School of Economics researchers Fabian Barthel and Eric Neumayer looked at damage trends normalized by GDP, a measure they used because others are not universally available. For Germany and the United States, with 29 and 36 years of data, respectively, they detected “statistically significant upward trends in normalized insured losses from all non-geophysical disasters as well as from certain specific disaster types,” but for the globe as a whole, with 19 years of data available, they could find no significant trends.

Since the U.S. alone accounted for roughly half the insured losses over this period, the significance of the longer U.S. record and lack thereof in the shorter global record suggests that 20 years may be too short to detect significant trends. The increasing normalized trends in the U.S. were evident in convective storms, winter storms, flooding events and high temperature-related losses, and were almost statistically significant for hurricanes at the conventional 95 percent confidence level.3 In view of data like this, it’s very hard to accept Pielke’s confident assertion that “[n]o matter what President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron say, recent costly disasters are not part of a trend driven by climate change.”

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March 31, 2014

Let me know what you think of this reporting.


No secret that Elon Musk is the new Thomas Alva Jobs Einstein.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report is now out.


This is the second of a series from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out this year that outlines the causes, effects and solutions to global warming.

This latest Summary for Policymakers document highlights the fact that the amount of scientific evidence on the impacts of warming has almost doubled since the last report in 2007.

In the words of the report, “increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.

“Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real,” said Dr Saleemul huq, a convening lead author on one of the chapters.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that, previously, people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance”.

“Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse,” he said.

The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. It details five reasons for concern that would likely increase as a result of the warming the world is already committed to.

These include threats to unique systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs, where risks are said to increase to “very high” with a 2C rise in temperatures.


As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward.

The report states:
“Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.
“… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”

D’oh! You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending).

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A Carbon Tax that Works

March 30, 2014

Chris Mooney in The Atlantic:

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: The BC government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal. That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump—for gasoline, it’s 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon)—or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies. (Canadian dollars are currently worth about 89 American cents).

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”
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Car company dilemma: For Millenials, you are more likely to get lucky due to your networking ability online than your sweet ride.


Auto manufacturers today are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the millennial generation has little-to-no interest in owning a car. What car makers are failing to see is that this generation’s interests and priorities have been redefined in the last two decades, pushing cars to the side while must-have personal technology products take up the fast lane.

It’s no secret the percentage of new vehicles sold to 18- to 34-year-olds has significantly dropped over the past few years. Many argue this is the result of a weak economy, that the idea of making a large car investment and getting into more debt on top of college loans is too daunting for them. But that’s not the “driving” factor, especially considering that owning a smartphone or other mobile device, with its monthly fees of network access, data plan, insurance, and app services, is almost comparable to the monthly payments required when leasing a Honda Civic.

With recent studies showing a huge decline in auto sales among the millennial marketplace, it’s no wonder auto manufacturers are in a mild state of panic, realizing they’re missing out on a generation that wields $200 billion in purchasing power. Numbers don’t lie, and over the last few years statistics have shown a significant drop in young people who own cars, as well as those with driver’s licenses–and that decline continues among the youngest millennials, meaning this is not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34, fell almost 30%, and according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just half, 54% are licensed before turning 18. This is a major break with the past, considering how most teens of the two previous generations would race to the DMV for their license or permit on the day of their 16th birthday.

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British Medical Journal:

This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities.

What we all do matters, not least in how it influences others. Those who profess to care for the health of people perhaps have the greatest responsibility to act. And there are signs of action being taken. Within the health system, organisations and health facilities are reducing their carbon footprint. Barts Health NHS Trust has, for example, reduced its energy bill by 43% since 2009. The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, himself a public health physician, has called for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in green energy.7 We should all respond.

Such action not only limits the threats of climate change, but could offer a health dividend, including potentially large financial savings for health systems. More active forms of transport and the consumption of less red meat will cut death and illness from cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Less air pollution will cut the global burden of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, and heart disease.3 The IPCC has incorporated this new understanding into its latest report on impacts, and we can expect to see this message flowing into the World Health Organization’s plans for action, to be discussed at its climate conference in August.

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