Extreme Weather expert Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.: ‘My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic’

By: - Climate DepotDecember 3, 2016 12:15 AM with 19 comments

Via: http://www.wsj.com/articles/my-unhappy-life-as-a-climate-heretic-1480723518

By Roger Pielke Jr. Dec. 2, 2016 7:05 p.m. ET

Excerpts: Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver ’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer : “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.

I understand why Mr. Podesta—most recently Hillary Clinton ’s campaign chairman—wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, other techniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.

More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.

Instead, my research was under constant attack for years by activists, journalists and politicians. In 2011 writers in the journal Foreign Policy signaled that some accused me of being a “climate-change denier.” I earned the title, the authors explained, by “questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports.” That an academic who raised questions about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an area of his expertise was tarred as a denier reveals the groupthink at work.

Yet I was right to question the IPCC’s 2007 report, which included a graph purporting to show that disaster costs were rising due to global temperature increases. The graph was later revealed to have been based on invented and inaccurate information, as I documented in my book “The Climate Fix.” The insurance industry scientist Robert-Muir Wood of Risk Management Solutions had smuggled the graph into the IPCC report. He explained in a public debate with me in London in 2010 that he had included the graph and misreferenced it because he expected future research to show a relationship between increasing disaster costs and rising temperatures.

When his research was eventually published in 2008, well after the IPCC report, it concluded the opposite: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.” Whoops.

The IPCC never acknowledged the snafu, but subsequent reports got the science right: There is not a strong basis for connecting weather disasters with human-caused climate change.

Yes, storms and other extremes still occur, with devastating human consequences, but history shows they could be far worse. No Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, by far the longest such period on record. This means that cumulative economic damage from hurricanes over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long-term average would lead us to expect, based on my research with colleagues. This is good news, and it should be OK to say so. Yet in today’s hyper-partisan climate debate, every instance of extreme weather becomes a political talking point.

For a time I called out politicians and reporters who went beyond what science can support, but some journalists won’t hear of this. In 2011 and 2012, I pointed out on my blog and social media that the lead climate reporter at the New York Times , Justin Gillis, had mischaracterized the relationship of climate change and food shortages, and the relationship of climate change and disasters. His reporting wasn’t consistent with most expert views, or the evidence. In response he promptly blocked me from his Twitter feed. Other reporters did the same.

I suppose it is a distinction of a sort to be singled out in this manner by the president’s science adviser. Yet Mr. Holdren’s screed reads more like a dashed-off blog post from the nutty wings of the online climate debate, chock-full of errors and misstatements.

But when the White House puts a target on your back on its website, people notice. Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.

But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point. Studying and engaging on climate change had become decidedly less fun. So I started researching and teaching other topics and have found the change in direction refreshing. Don’t worry about me: I have tenure and supportive campus leaders and regents. No one is trying to get me fired for my new scholarly pursuits.
But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups, the media, Congress and the White House. If academics—in any subject—are to play a meaningful role in public debate, the country will have to do a better job supporting good-faith researchers, even when their results are unwelcome. This goes for Republicans and Democrats alike, and to the administration of President-elect Trump.

Academics and the media in particular should support viewpoint diversity instead of serving as the handmaidens of political expediency by trying to exclude voices or damage reputations and careers. If academics and the media won’t support open debate, who will?

Mr. Pielke is a professor and director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His most recent book is “The Edge: The Wars Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports” (Roaring Forties Press, 2016).


Related Links: 

Harassment prompts scientist to stop his research debunking extreme weather claims – CU Climate Expert Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.: I am Under ‘Investigation’ – Accuses Dems of ‘a politically-motivated ‘witch hunt’ designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name’ Dr.  Pielke Jr.:’ Congressman Grijalva doesn’t have any evidence of any wrongdoing on my part, either ethical or legal, because there is none. He simply disagrees with the substance of my testimony – which is based on peer-reviewed research funded by the US taxpayer, and which also happens to be the consensus of the IPCC (despite Holdren’s incorrect views)’ ‘The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt, I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues. I am simply not initiating any new research or papers on the topic and I have ring-fenced my slowly diminishing blogging on the subject.’

‘Floods are not increasing’: Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. slams ‘global warming’ link to floods & extreme weather – How does media ‘get away with this?’

Extreme Weather Expert Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.: Despite claims of ‘warmest ever’ – 2015 ‘had the lowest catastrophe losses in a generation’ – “It’d be great if just one journalist (any!) would note that 2015 — warmest year ever — also had the lowest catastrophe losses in a generation,” Mr. Pielke said on Twitter.
Prof. Roger Pielke Jr. on Pope: ‘Is science policy a theological matter?’ – Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the scientist who helped Pope Francis prepare the Encyclical Letter, wrote in an accompanying essay in explicitly Biblical terms, warning of “having eaten from the fruit of fossil fuel burning.” Schellnhuber’s association of the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden with technological innovation is exactly the sort of counter-narrative to conventional Christianity’s tale of human dominion over nature that White and Francis (both the Saint and the Pope) have proposed. It is also compatible with a dominant strand of contemporary Western environmentalism that has scientists in roles that Church leaders used to play.
Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. on climate ‘Witch Hunt’: ‘My 11-year old asked me if I was going to jail’

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. on climate ‘Witch Hunt’: ‘My 11-year old asked me if I was going to jail’

  • antimarx

    All I had to read was that you support a carbon tax…you’re a fool.

    • xmarkwe

      What a coincidence! I only had to read this brief comment to come to the same conclusion about antimarx!

  • Sky Captain

    Indeed. With all your knowledge, how can still support a carbon tax?

    • NBOB

      I think he wants a price for energy high enough that it won’t be wasted.

      • Sky Captain

        But that doesn’t make sense. All unused released energy is always wasted. Only potential energy can be stored. So using all the available energy is the best thing that can be done with it. The so called scientists who want to conserve energy have built a house of cards which will collaps at the first breeze.

        • xmarkwe

          Well, Sky, I’m glad you are not the captain of the ship I’m on. You’d run us out of fuel and leave us stranded in the middle of the ocean as soon as possible simply for the sake of doing so.

          There may be some value in not wasting energy. Simply wasting it ‘because it is there’ does not make much sense.

          • Sky Captain

            Do you have some physics background? This “energy” word that people throw around so blithely is not what most think it is. Tell me, how does one “conserve energy”? If you use less, what happens to the energy that has been released? The only thing that can be done with it is to convert it back to potential energy, like using a pumped storage scheme, hold it as a charge in batteries or some other way but how to you store heat for example? Not to be done, at least not in the way most people think it can be done.

            The only way to really “conserve” energy, is to not release it in the first instance. In other words, generate only the electricity (one of the common uses for energy) that you need at the moment you need it. That is not easy either and is why wind power is so problematic, you can’t turn it on when you need it and when you don’t need it there may be lots of it.

            If by “conserving energy” people mean that the source materials should be conserved, then they should say so, but even that may be a silly notion. How do we conserve those resources when the earth is essentially a closed system as far as source materials are concerned?

            So, “wasting energy” is at best a misguided statement and at worst an utterly foolish notion.

          • xmarkwe

            We are (perhaps) almost on the same page:

            The only way to really “conserve” energy, is to not release it in the first instance.

            If by “conserving energy” people mean that the source materials should be
            conserved, then they should say so.
            Yes, that is generally what is meant in these discussions on fossil fuels.

            How do we conserve those resources when the earth is essentially a
            closed system as far as source materials are concerned?
            Generally we are looking at this from a ‘human race lifespan thereof’ point of view.

          • xmarkwe

            en·er·gy ˈenərjē/ noun noun: energy

            1. the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.”changes in the levels of vitamins can affect energy and well-being”

            2. power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat or to work machines.

            3. Physics

            the property of matter and radiation that is manifest as a capacity to perform work (such as causing motion or the interaction of molecules).”a collision in which no energy is transferred”

            a degree or level of energy possessed by something or required by a process.


  • Captain Kirk

    The climate fear mongers have won a victory with your quitting your research. They will now attempt to pass of all extreme weather events as caused by manmade global warming without the voice of truth. I would hope that, if you see things getting out of control in the media, you would reconsider and re-enter the fray. You are fighting for science against the crowd who would use the term to back monetary political gains. Good luck either way, thanks for your support of truth in science.

  • This issue is ridiculous and easily shown to be false for less than $10. For free instructions email me at [email protected] Meanwhile, the facts are very simple:

    CO2 is a “trace gas” in air and is insignificant by definition. It would have to be increased by a factor of 2500 to be considered “significant” or “notable.” To give it the great power claimed is a crime against physical science.

    CO2 absorbs 1/7th as much IR, heat energy, from sunlight per molecule as water vapor which has 188 times as many molecules capturing 1200 times as much heat producing 99.9% of all “global warming.” CO2 does only 0.1% of it. Pushing panic about any effect CO2 could have is clearly a fraud.

    There is no “greenhouse effect” in an atmosphere. A greenhouse has a solid, clear cover trapping heat. The atmosphere does not trap heat as gas molecules cannot form surfaces to work as greenhouses that admit and reflect energy depending on sun angle. Gases do not form surfaces as their molecules are not in contact.

    The Medieval Warming from 800 AD to 1300 AD Micheal Mann erased for his “hockey stick” was several Fahrenheit degrees warmer than anything “global warmers” fear. It was 500 years of world peace and abundance, longest ever.

    Vostock Ice Core data analysis show CO2 rises followed temperature by 800 years 19 times in 450,000 years. Therefore temperature change is cause and CO2 change is effect. This alone refutes the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.

    Methane is called “a greenhouse gas 20 to 500 times more potent than CO2,” by Heidi Cullen and Jim Hansen, but it is not per the energy absorption chart at the American Meteorological Society. It has an absorption profile very similar to nitrogen which is classified “transparent” to IR, heat waves and is only present to 18 ppm. “Vegans” blame methane in cow flatulence for global warming in their war against meat consumption.

    Carbon combustion generates 80% of our energy. Control and taxing of carbon would give the elected ruling class more power and money than anything since the Magna Carta of 1215 AD.

    Most scientists and science educators work for tax supported institutions. They are eager to help government raise more money for them and they love being seen as “saving the planet.”

    Read the whole story in “Vapor Tiger” at Amazon.com, Kindle $2.99 including a free Kindle reading program for your computer. We have an inexpensive demo-experiment that proves CO2 increases have no effect on IR heat giant until 10,000 ppm and they cool the atmosphere by driving water vapor out!

    Google “Two Minute Conservative” for more.

  • Marcus Amspacher

    According to Dr. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus in Climatology/Meteorology at Univ. of Virginia, man-made CO2 comprises only .117% of all greenhouse gases, man-made or natural. This is statistically zero. Who is this idiot Pielke? Certainly not one of the good guys, and he certainly has his head in the sand if he thinks man’s greenhouse gases justify action. The planet Earth is having a big laugh at Pielke and the other stupid humans who have perpetuated this hoax. It is my hope that Trump will spur Congress to hold hearings on this, bring the IPCC forward and demand they show the scientific proof, which they can’t. We need to shut this hoax down once and for all!

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  • People on Mother Earth are like ants on a cruise ship. We have no more control over the climate than we do the steering.
    I hope Dr. Pielke has a place in the Trump administration to help bring credibility back to ‘science’.

  • ObamatheIllinoisIdiot

    It has been getting warmer for 10,000 years, since the last Ice Age ended (TRUE or FALSE?)

    The warming was natural then, not manmade (TRUE or FALSE?)

    When did the global warming change from natural to anthropodic (manmade)?

    If you can’t clearly delineate when the change occurred, then the warming must still be natural. See Occam’s Razor (lex parsimoniae, “the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one”).

  • ObamatheIllinoisIdiot

    Greenhouse gases ranked by their contribution to the greenhouse effect:

    Greenhouse Gas Contribution
    Water vapor 72%
    Carbon dioxide 26%
    Methane 9%
    Ozone 7%

    Why the focus on CO2? CO2 is easy to tax! Why not go after water vapor? Even a liberal would see that taxing water vapor is stupid.

    Why not control methane? The farm lobby would stomp the liberals.

  • ObamatheIllinoisIdiot

    97% of climatologists believe in manmade global warming (this isn’t true BTW)? In the 1950s, 100% of geologists believed the continents did not move. Then along came plate tectonics. 100% were wrong. See any connection? Scientists are generally more wrong than right.

  • ObamatheIllinoisIdiot

    Scientific Consensus (or the Bandwagon Appeal) is a logical fallacy.

    The phrase Bandwagon Appeal comes from the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.” In long past
    political campaigns, candidates would ride a large bandwagon through town. People would show support of the candidate by boarding the wagon. The phrase now refers to joining a cause because of its popularity. Bandwagon appeal is a logical fallacy: popularity does not equal truth or validity.

    Bandwagon Appeal Form: Idea X is popular. Therefore, X is correct.

    Bandwagon Appeal Alias: Appeal to Popularity, Argument by Consensus (Scientific Consensus), Argumentum ad Populum, and Authority of the Many.

  • Robert Muir

    Just read Pielke’s The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. Brilliant! In Canada there is a similar “Mystery Graph” on historical storm frequency shifts (erroneously credited to Environment Canada) that has been exposed to be a theoretical 1-standard deviation shift in a standard normal bell curve probability density function!


    It was created by the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction in their 2012 “Telling the Weather Story” report .. telling a story is right! Unfortunately it has been repeated by every media outlet, property and casualty insurers, a chief economist at a major bank, etc as a statistical fact, and unfortunately has been used to misdirect flood mitigation efforts toward expensive and ineffective mitigation as opposed to the obvious adaptation needed for yesterday’s rainfall extremes: