Monday, March 30, 2009

Misleading Cato Petition Ad On Climate

In today's Washington Post (and I think some other papers) a paid ad appeared from the Cato Institute that has a bunch of signatures by various climate scientists, directed at President Obama "with all due respect" questioning that global warming is happening and asserting that after accounting for population and property value growth, there has been no increase in damage due to climate disasters over time. Citations are provided for some of these assertions.

I shall only note that this last one is rather problematic. A source is claimed to be an article from 2005 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Pielke et al. I googled and found no such article, but did find some statement by him addressed to "Stern Review." In that he says that while climate is a factor in rising disasters, they could not necessarily be tied to global warming, and that in the future they might be offset by rising population and property values, hardly what is claimed the petition/ad.

I did some further checking and found a figure showing natural hydro-meterological disasters over time. While 2008 is back down to about 350, about the same as 1998, that is still more than any year prior to then, with such numbers being below 200 mostly in the past, although getting over 500 in 2000 and 2002 and equaling 500 in 2005. In any case, not at all supporting the reported claims by Pielke. This figure is from a chapter by D. Guha-Sapir and F. Vos in a book out from Springer this year, and it can be found down a ways on the right with the full citation on a blog post by Andrew C. Revkin of the New York Times.


Brenda Rosser said...

Is that Roger Pielke?
There's a sourcewatch article on him. ""...Roger regularly writes opinion pieces and commentaries on climate change, but only rarely publishes peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals. On top of several hundred posts on his blog, for 2008 his CV lists eighteen publications, but only one is a peer-reviewed article." ['Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1900-2005. ']

DeSmogBlog also provides commentary on a number of climate change skeptics. See:

Readers may be able to access a copy of a recent study on climate change skeptics entitled: ‘The organization of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’
Published in: journal Environmental Politics, Volume 17, Issue 3 June 2008 , pages 349 - 385

"This study quantitatively analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical books published between 1972 and 2005. We find that over 92 per cent of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are linked to conservative think tanks (CTTs). Further, we analyse CTTs involved with environmental issues and find that 90 per cent of them espouse environmental scepticism. We conclude that scepticism is a tactic of an elite-driven counter-movement designed to combat environmentalism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection."

Then there are repeated reports of censorship and doctoring of climate science.

Debate heats up over climate report
By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | April 6, 2007

"An authoritative international global warming conference, already past its deadline for finishing a comprehensive report, lapsed into an unprecedented showdown between scientists and diplomats over authors' concerns that governments were watering down their warnings....

Climate chaos: Bush's climate of fear

"A US government whistleblower tells Panorama how scientific reports about global warming have been systematically changed and suppressed...."

Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study,,2004397,00.html
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday February 2, 2007. The Guardian

The Big Chill
by Jonathan Chait
Originally published in the LA Times

Excerpt: "...Nicole Gaudiano of Gannett News Service recently reported that Representative Wayne Gilchrest asked to be on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio refused to allow it unless Gilchrest would say that humans have not contributed to global warming. The Maryland Republican refused and was denied a seat.Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), both research scientists, also were denied seats on the committee. Normally, relevant expertise would be considered an advantage. In this case, it was a disqualification; if the GOP allowed Republican researchers who accept the scientific consensus to sit on a global warming panel, it would kill the party's strategy of making global warming seem to be the pet obsession of Democrats and Hollywood lefties...."

Climate science was doctored, Robert Lusetich. 21st March 2007,20867,21418971-2703,00.html

"THE Bush administration diluted scientific evidence of global warming, one of its former high-ranking officials has admitted.Philip Cooney, an oil industry lobbyist now working for Exxon Mobil, conceded during a congressional hearing yesterday that while he was chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality he watered down reports on the adverse effects of man-made emissions on the planet's climate."My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration," Mr Cooney told the house government reform committee....

Former oil industry consultant exposes how...
Big business blocks action on climate

THE "Global Climate Coalition" and the "Global Climate Council" sound like environmental lobby groups. They were launched in the late 1980s as the threat posed by global warming became clear. A new book by former oil industry consultant Jeremy Leggett exposes how these bodies were fronts for the world's biggest polluters. Their horrifying aim was to fight to prevent serious action on climate change."The board membership of the Global Climate Coalition included representatives of the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco, Arco, Phillips, Texaco, DuPont and Dow Hydrocarbons," explains Leggett. Shell and BP were members, and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. Coal interests included the American Electrical Power Service Corporation, the American Mining Congress, the Edison Electric Institute and the National Coal Association." Heading the Global Climate Council was Washington corporate lawyer and "fixer" Don Pearlman, who had been an under-secretary in the Department of the Interior during former US president Reagan's administration....

US 'tried to gag' global warming critic
By Andrew Revkin, New York
January 30, 2006

"THE top climate scientist at NASA has said the Bush Administration tried to stop him from speaking out after he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The scientist, James Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said NASA officials had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard website and requests for interviews from journalists...." said...


Yes, that is Roger Pielke, Jr. His father is an actual climatologist. He is a political scientist who somehow has become someone that some climatologists like to quote, especially those putting forth politically charged and misleading petitions.

Anonymous said...

I thought the total costs/economic impact of complying with the Kyoto Protocols was around $300 billion, which is now chump change.

Is global warming denial now merely undying animosity towards Al Gore & environmentalism ?

The global warming deniers are basically like the tobacco industry shills in the early 1990s before they were left flat on their asses by the publication of the tobacco companies' internal research !

TheTrucker said...

The "Cato Institute" has been cherry picking data and misrepresenting reality for a very long time. There is simply no reason to think anything they have to say is credible. The good part is that most "independents" agree with that assessment of Cato. The normal people are always scared by the right wing loons because it is fascism and shades of Hitler. Only the far right is listening to Cato and it makes no difference to them anyway. They are already ideologically bound to a religious position and they will not be moved from it in any case. People who do not believe in economics or science are not rational enough to be swayed by any "evidence". But they rejoice at the sound of the pseudo scientific trumpets blown in support of their religious predispositions.

Anonymous said...

"I googled and found no such article"

Odd. It seems to be available online from several different sources.

This is how inconvenient results are reported:

“Emanual (sic) (2005) reports a very substantial upward
trend in power dissipation (i.e., the sum over the lifetime
of the storm of the maximum wind speed cubed)
in the North Atlantic and western North Pacific, with
a near doubling over the past 50 years (Webster et al.
2005). The precise causation for this trend is not yet

While casually referring to "precise causation", he conveniently forgets to mention that Emanuel's widely cited paper showed a very high level of correlation with sea surface temperatures. (see

Anyway, Cato is in no way a neutral body on climate change. It has a clear (anti-regulatory) bias on this issue. said...


I am not able to access the article. In that url is that the letter "l" after "h" and also the symbol before "cluster," is that "&"? I do not know what that is.

Pat Michaels, the main author of the Cato ad is visiting my campus today, and I would like to know what I am talking about for sure when I meet him.

Brenda Rosser said...

There's some interesting Real Climate commentary on the Pat Michael's advertisement:

"..most amusing are the footnotes that they use to bolster their case. There are four: the brand new Swanson and Tsonis (GRL, 2009), Brohan et al (JGR, 2006) (which is there to provide a link to the HadCRU temperature data), Pielke et al (BAMS, 2005), and the oft-derided Douglass et al (IJoC, 2008. Of these papers, not one has the evidence to support the statements attributed to them in the main text....

24 March 2009
With all due respect…

On Wikipedia's articl on Pat Michaels:
"He has received financial support in research funding and consulting fees from the fossil-fuel energy industry.[10] ....In a July 27, 2006 ABC News report, it was revealed that a Colorado energy cooperative, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, had given Michaels $100,000. The report noted that the cooperative has a vested interest in opposing mandatory carbon dioxide caps....

There are comments about Michaels by a number of prominent critics as well as some interesting external link articles.

The Sourcewatch article on Michaels at:

reinforces the serious questions around the scientific objectivity of this man.

media said...

cato gets alot of press on NPR talk shows. they also i think have ties to places like GMU (possibly part of the revolving door between economic science and economic reality). sometimes they team up with 'progressives' of various stripes to go against subsidized agriculture, occassional spending on eco-destructive projects, excessive drug laws, etc. I think even Hitler ('meat is murder') was primarily vegetarian, so we can't be too choosy when developing allies for single issue causes.

and, my view is people like Pielke and Michaels are so tarnished and likely exceedingly shallow that for them to even have bus or plane fare, much less a job, and for them to be entertained by taxpayer funded insitutions, maybe is an adequate reason to just completely shut them down. people can do chaos theory on their own time, until they can fund their work without fellow traveling with slave masters.


Barkley Rosser said...

Well, Pat Michals is a very curious case in all of this. I went to the talk and we had quite a going back and forth. I have known him personally for a long time and once worked for his major professor, the late Reid Bryson, at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on a model of world food production as impacted by climate change.

There is a strange disjuncture between Pat as scientist and Pat as polemicist. I fear the latter has been dominating the former for some time, but the former has not completely disappeared. This ad is a clear manifestation of the latter, as noted by Brenda and me and others, really an embarrassment it is so bad. He is leaving he University of Virginia for good and going totally with the Cato Institute, which means more polemics and less science I fear. He got himself into trouble by going over the top in some of his public critiques of some of those he has disagreed with, particularly James Hansen.

Regarding his actual scientific position, it is not all that unreasonable. He does accept that global warming is happening. He argues for the lower end of the range of temperature changes as projected by the IPCC. He argues with some good reason from the data, that the temperature changes are going up linearly, essentially a balancing of the exponential increase in CO2 offset by the largely logarithmic relationship between CO2 and temperature. There is also the matter of a short term slowdown in the warming due to solar and oceanic fluctuations (La Nina), although he accepts that these are temporary, and the longer trend to warming is likely to appear.

When I confronted him, he also agreed that there are fat tails in all this, and that there is a non-trivial possibility of a combination of nonlinear effects leading to a very sharp increase in temperature.

He was accompanied in his talk by an economist from the Heritage Foundation, a former colleague of mine, David Kreutzer, who is of a strongly public choice bent. I actually had more problems with his arguments, that were based on a model that seemed rather questionable to me that showed all sorts of very high costs from trying to do anything about global warming. We debated his model quite vigorously, but to no great resolution. The audience was on their side, as the presentation was organized by the JMU Young Republicans, but both Michaels and Kreutzer were very careful to treat me with respect and not to just dismiss my arguments or blow them off with slogans. In that regard what transpired was a real debate, and one of the organizers thanked me for providing "serious discussion and tough questions." Could have been worse.