Original Sin: The U.S. National Climate Assessment was Off Track from the Start
By ROGER PIELKE JR.
Excerpt: Over the past few days I have commented on X/Twitter about the just-released Fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA). It is much more a glossy promotional brochure than anything resembling a careful assessment of the scientific literature on climate change and the United States. That’s a shame because scientific assessments are crucially important. Instead, the U.S. NCA pours fuel on the pathological politicization of climate science.
Among the issues I have highlighted:
- Several reviewers asked the NCA to cite our various papers on extreme weather and U.S. losses. The NCA refused, in one instance claiming “this comment is inconsistent with the author team’s thorough assessment of the science” and in another, falsely claiming, “Pielke et al. only examined trends through 2005 and have not published an updated assessment since.” Someone should tell them about Google Scholar, where our most recent work is easy to find.
- The report’s main chapter on climate trends was led by a scientist who works for Project Drawdown, a climate advocacy group. That chapter was also written by a scientist at The Nature Conservancy and the company Stripe, which makes money via carbon offsetting through carbon removal. There is no need for these conflicts of interest to play such a prominent role in the report’s authorship, but they perhaps explain some of its errors.1
- The report leads with the “billion dollar disaster” meme popularized by NOAA. As Nature summarized the report: “Extreme weather events caused by global warming cost the country around US$150 billion in direct damages each year, says the climate report.” All U.S. extreme weather and its economic impacts can now apparently be attributed to global warming.
I could go on. See my X/Twitter feed for more.
The failures of the NCA stem in part from its placement inside the White House, making it a tempting target for political meddling. But a deeper reason for its failures result from a belief that science can make politics lead to desired policy. Unfortunately, that belief brings politics more into science and science assessments than anything else.
Here are two papers that explain how that happened:
Pielke Jr, R. A. (2000). Policy history of the US global change research program: Part I. Administrative development. Global Environmental Change, 10(1), 9-25.
Pielke Jr, R. A. (2000). Policy history of the US global change research program: Part II. Legislative process. Global environmental change, 10(2), 133-144.