The Return of Knowledge-Based Policy-Making?

NOAA admits a human role in global warming. OMB drops — based on a critical National Academies of Sciences report –plans to implement a flawed risk-assessment procedure. Are these harbingers of change?


usa-temps-1895-2006b.jpg

Figure 1. Source: NOAA

Three days ago National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report documenting the fact that 2006 was the warmest on record for the contiguous 48 states:

Jan. 9, 2007 — The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, including December, which ended as the fourth warmest December since records began in 1895.


Based on preliminary data, the 2006 annual average temperature was 55 degrees F — 2.2 degrees F (1.2 degrees C) above the 20th Century mean and 0.07 degrees F (0.04 degrees C) warmer than 1998. NOAA originally estimated in mid-December that the 2006 annual average temperature for the contiguous United States would likely be 2 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) above the 20th Century mean, which would have made 2006 the third warmest year on record, slightly cooler than 1998 and 1934, according to preliminary data. Further analysis of annual temperatures and an unusually warm December caused the change in records.


These values were calculated using a network of more than 1,200 U.S. Historical Climatology Network stations. These data, primarily from rural stations, have been adjusted to remove artificial effects resulting from factors such as urbanization and station and instrument changes, which occurred during the period of record.


An improved data set being developed at NCDC and scheduled for release in 2007 incorporates recent scientific advances that better address uncertainties in the instrumental record. Small changes in annual average temperatures will affect individual rankings. Although undergoing final testing and development, this new data set also shows 2006 and 1998 to be the two warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S., but with 2006 slightly cooler than 1998.




The unusually warm start to this winter reflected the rarity of Arctic outbreaks across the country as an El Nino episode continued in the equatorial Pacific. A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases. This has made warmer-than-average conditions more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to greenhouse-gas-induced warming and how much was due to the El Nino-related circulation pattern. It is known that El Nino is playing a major role in this winter’s short-term warm period.


U.S. and global annual temperatures are now approximately 1.0 degrees F warmer than at the start of the 20th century, and the rate of warming has accelerated over the past 30 years, increasing globally since the mid-1970s at a rate approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend. The past nine years have all been among the 25 warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S., a streak which is unprecedented in the historical record.” [emphasis added]

Given the dogged determination with which the Administration has suppressed all such admissions — despite the overwhelming evidence — I find this remarkable.


Yesterday, it was announced that OMB is dropping its plans for implmenting risk-assessment. While risk-assessment might have a “MEGO” (“my eyes glaze over”) effect on many readers, its implementation is important as it impinges on all sorts of issues such as how much mercury should be allowed in drinking water, or potentially where to place a new nuclear waste disposal site. I do believe that risk-assessment is, if competently formulated and executed in an environment insulated from political and business pressures, a useful tool for determining the desirability of some policy measures. Those caveats are important. Apparently, the National Academies of Sciences also held that view, and found substantial flaws in OMB’s bulletin; this is the NYT’s article or Washington Post’s article on the subject. From Scientific Review of the Proposed Risk Assessment Bulletin from the Office of Management and Budget:


  • “In view of the diversity of risk assessment responsibilities and proficiencies in the federal
    government, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to produce a single detailed technical guidance
    document that would be applicable to all federal agencies.
  • New guidance that departs from established risk assessment principles and practices and is not
    supported by the current state of the science is unlikely to achieve the goals stated in the bulletin.
  • Without baseline assessments of current risk assessment practices, needs, and capacities for
    improvement in the federal agencies, neither OMB nor the committee can make informed judgments on
    the kinds of guidance needed to reach the goals set forth in the bulletin and the related resources required
    to achieve that end.
    Conclusions that are related to specific aspects of the proposed bulletin are provided below.
  • In some general respects, the bulletin’s requirements for risk assessments (for example, the call
    for balanced presentations of data and for explicit justification of scientific conclusions) are consistent
    with previous reports, including those cited in the bulletin. However, other aspects of the bulletin are
    inconsistent with previous reports in important ways. For example, it adopts a new definition of risk
    assessment and ignores, without explaining, the important impact that risk assessment policies have on
    the process, such as the need for consistent defaults and for clear criteria for moving away from the
    defaults. Without explicit and clear direction on such matters, agency risk assessments are more
    susceptible to being manipulated to achieve a predetermined result. The bulletin’s call for formal
    analyses of uncertainties and for undefined “central or expected estimates” may, in the absence of
    adequate peer-reviewed technical guidance on the evaluation and expression of uncertainties, result in risk
    characterizations of reduced, rather than enhanced, quality. Those are serious concerns because any
    attempt to advance the practice of risk assessment that does not reflect the state of the art on these topics
    is likely to produce the opposite effect.
  • In view of the diversity of risk assessment responsibilities and proficiencies in the federal
    government, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to produce a single detailed technical guidance
    document that would be applicable to all federal agencies.
  • New guidance that departs from established risk assessment principles and practices and is not
    supported by the current state of the science is unlikely to achieve the goals stated in the bulletin.
  • Without baseline assessments of current risk assessment practices, needs, and capacities for
    improvement in the federal agencies, neither OMB nor the committee can make informed judgments on
    the kinds of guidance needed to reach the goals set forth in the bulletin and the related resources required
    to achieve that end.


Conclusions that are related to specific aspects of the proposed bulletin are provided below.



  • In some general respects, the bulletin’s requirements for risk assessments (for example, the call
    for balanced presentations of data and for explicit justification of scientific conclusions) are consistent
    with previous reports, including those cited in the bulletin. However, other aspects of the bulletin are
    inconsistent with previous reports in important ways. For example, it adopts a new definition of risk
    assessment and ignores, without explaining, the important impact that risk assessment policies have on
    the process, such as the need for consistent defaults and for clear criteria for moving away from the
    defaults. Without explicit and clear direction on such matters, agency risk assessments are more
    susceptible to being manipulated to achieve a predetermined result. The bulletin’s call for formal
    analyses of uncertainties and for undefined “central or expected estimates” may, in the absence of
    adequate peer-reviewed technical guidance on the evaluation and expression of uncertainties, result in risk
    characterizations of reduced, rather than enhanced, quality. Those are serious concerns because any
    attempt to advance the practice of risk assessment that does not reflect the state of the art on these topics
    is likely to produce the opposite effect.
  • The proposed definition of risk assessment in the OMB bulletin departs without justification from
    long-established concepts and practices, including those developed by National Research Council (NRC)
    and other expert committees and endorsed in existing peer-reviewed guidelines. In particular, the
    proposed definition broadens the definition of risk assessment to include components of risk assessment,
    such as hazard assessment and exposure assessment. Such a broadening, which treats different
    procedures under the same name, is needlessly confusing. More important, several of the standards
    proposed in the bulletin are not applicable to individual components of risk assessment. The committee
    also disagrees with defining risk assessment as a document; risk assessment is a process from which
    documents can result.
  • The dominating theme of the bulletin and its supplementary information is improving the quality
    of risk assessments undertaken by federal agencies, but the stated goals do not all support this theme. The
    goals stated in the bulletin and the supplementary information emphasize efficiency in the conduct of risk
    assessment activities more than quality.
  • The discussion of the range of risk estimates and central estimates in the proposed bulletin is
    incomplete and confusing. A central estimate and risk range might be misleading when sensitive
    populations are of primary concern. Those numerical quantities are meaningful only in the context of
    some distribution characterizing variable traits or uncertainties. The choice of summary statistics cannot
    be a blanket prescription but must reflect the specific context.
  • The description of uncertainty and variability in the bulletin is simplistic. It does not recognize
    the complexities of different types of risk assessments or the need to tailor uncertainty analysis to an
    agency’s particular needs. There is no scientific consensus to support the bulletin’s universal
    prescriptions for how uncertainty should be evaluated.
  • The bulletin’s treatment of adverse effects is simplistic and too restrictive. Effects chosen for risk
    assessment may be adverse effects, precursor effects, or nonadverse effects. The point of departure to be
    chosen in a risk assessment depends on a number of factors, such as the questions being addressed, the
    scientific information available, and an understanding of the underlying mechanisms for the effect of
    interest.
  • The bulletin is silent on several important aspects of the risk assessment process. Specifically, it
    gives little attention to risk assessments for which the end point is major failure of engineered systems, to
    sensitive populations, to the often decisive role of risk assessment policy in choices regarding default
    options, to the integral role of risk communication, and to risk assessment standards for stakeholder
    assessments submitted for use in the rule-making process. The bulletin also fails to explain the basis for
    exempting risk assessments associated with licensing and approval processes.
  • Although risk assessment and risk management are closely related and it is desirable to build
    links between them, the committee agrees with accepted practice that they are distinct. The bulletin blurs
    the important distinction between them by setting risk assessment standards related to risk mitigation and
    comparative-risk activities usually regarded as risk management. Risk assessors should not be required to
    undertake what have been traditional risk management functions, such as identifying alternative
    mitigation strategies.
  • The bulletin claims that it avoids addressing risk communication in any detail, but it includes
    quite specific guidance on this topic. The guidance provided is not well informed or consistent with
    previous expert panel reports. In general, the bulletin takes the outmoded view that risk communication is
    mainly a matter of disseminating key findings after a risk assessment has been completed and not the
    contemporary view that it is a continuing discussion among risk assessors, risk managers, and
    stakeholders from start to finish. The more objectionable risk communication guidance in the bulletin
    includes instructions to the agencies always to communicate ranges of plausible estimates and always to
    compare assessed risks with other familiar risks — guidance that is not consistent with relevant research
    literature.
  • Although OMB has not constructed a baseline reflecting current agency risk assessment practices,
    the committee concludes on the basis of agency comments and its own knowledge of risk assessment practices that there are aspects of the bulletin that could be beneficial but that the cost — in staff resources, timeliness of completing risk assessments, and other factors — are likely to be substantial. Overall, the
    committee concludes that, while varied and uncertain to some extent, the potential for negative impacts
    on the practice of risk assessment in the federal government is very high if the currently proposed bulletin
    were to be implemented.”


(p. 68-70)

If these events mark an end to the anti-science tendencies of the current Administration (see also this instance at DoE), then that would be a welcome event. Whether the tendency to spurn informed expertise more generally will also diminish remains to be seen. After all, ask yourself what has happened to those military commanders who opposed the escalation of force levels in Iraq? And ask yourself whether that outcome is a repeat performance of what happened to Shinseki in 2003 (versus what happened to Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld).

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36 thoughts on “The Return of Knowledge-Based Policy-Making?

  1. DickF

    I do not know of any person who knows anything about climate who does not believe that the globe has been warming over the past 100 years, but what is new is that people are surprised that the globe is warming. In the 1960s when I first learned about the Mini Ice Age that ended in the early 1800s I knew that our climate was warming. During the global cooling craze of the 1960-70s I laughed because I knew the globe was warming.
    Well, the global cooling crowd finally figured out that they were getting nowhere with their global cooling mantra because observation told us all that the earth was actually warming. So in the true spirit of left-speak the global cooling crowd because the global warming crowd. What many had known for over 100 years was suddenly discovered and those who saw their global cooling grants drying up found a new payroll.
    Fads come and go and that is fine with me, sometimes they even give us something useful, but when these fads began to suck at the public teat I just get a little tired.

  2. calmo

    MEGO on the bullets Menzie (but I am charmed by my latest acronym acquisition! –that was my license/invitation to save my eyes) but this

    After all, ask yourself what has happened to …

    is somewhat of an antidote and I shall return to those bullets MEPU (my eyes pinned up).
    Can we expect this administration to look beyond its immediate political survival? Has it ever looked beyond its immediate political survival? The introspection here:

    “After all, ask yourself what has happened to ..”

    seems at odds with that self-proclaimed flawless performance that is famous for not negotiating with itself.

  3. Dick

    The problem is Dick, what happens if this fad doesn’t die and continues to go on? You represent Intellectualism and ignorance. No wonder Hitler wanted all the intellectuals dead. The “goldbugs” represent intellectualism at its extreme. A fantasy based unreality that would die a quick death as its reality would be the worst thing to happen in Western Civilization since the destructive colonization of Christianity.

  4. Bruce Hall

    There is no doubt that we are in a period of global warming, but there are many scientists who caution that attribution to anthropogenic CO2 is questionable for a variety of reasons including:
    1. the global temperatures oscillate as well as trend upward or downward. The present oscillation is upward, but the trend may or may not be upward… using geological timelines.
    2. the causal relationship between CO2 concentrations and global warming is questionable. There is geological evidence to suggest that global warming has, in the past cycles, preceeded CO2 concentration increases.
    3. temperature measurements have been done inconsistently, even during recent times, ignoring urbanization effects and meterological variations that significantly impact readings
    But, even if you are positively, absolutely, unequivocally convinced that CO2 –> global warming, here are words from economist,Dr. Don Boudreaux of George Mason University at “Cafe Hayek”:
    http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2005/12/a_note_on_globa.html
    http://cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2006/12/wise_words_on_g.html

  5. menzie chinn

    Bruce Hall: Many of these issues were batted about in the commentary after this post. I’ll side with the National Academies of Sciences, peer reviewed journals, and the scientific consensus. But thanks for the posts from Cafe Hayek. I do wonder where Professor Johnson obtained the support for the assertion:

    “…the consensus among economists — whose expertise is at evaluating trade-offs — is that taking the steps necessary to avoid such disruptions will lead to substantially larger disruptions.”

    If “avoiding” includes mitigation procedures, then he must be talking to different economists than I talk to.

  6. Bruce Hall

    Menzie,
    Probably from the same source that finds “consensus” among climatologists.
    Interestingly, the idea of “consensus”, while useful in politics and football polls, is a terrible concept in the physical sciences. I can go for “substantial evidence supporting” or even “strong indications of” followed by specifics which then can then be tested. I think the best statement for “global warming” is “substantial evidence supporting” and for “the causality of carbon dioxide –> global warming” the term would be “correlation”… the events are correlated, but the direction of events is still being debated because the data available is ambiguous.
    You might be interested in the professional blog World Climate Report http://www.worldclimatereport.com/ (the Chief Editor: Dr. Patrick J. Michaels – Dr. Michaels is a Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and is the Virginia State Climatologist. He received his A.B. and S.M. degrees from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Ecological Climatology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979. Dr. Michaels has been President of the American Association of State Climatologists and Program Chair of the Applied Climatology Committee of the American Meteorological Society.)
    Interestingly, in the academic politics of climate change/global warming, “peer reviewed” seems reserved for supporters of the theory of anthropogenic CO2 caused global warming. Those who question those conclusion with other “peer reviewed” publications are simple “climate change skeptics.”

  7. Stormy

    Keep dreaming, Bruce.
    I would suggest that you visit RealClimate.org which has addressed this latest silliness, i.e., that skeptics are refused peer review.
    Be all this as it may, the warming itself is but a tip of the iceberg. If all we had to worry about was the submergence of NYC and environs, we could live with that. But everywhere one looks, enormous pressure is being placed on the environment worldwide.
    For openers, I suggest you do some research on crashing oceanic fish populations. May be the extraordinary drought hitting Australia might be of interest to you. You might also wish to examine the disappearance of potable water. Or perhaps you might do some research on how pollution clouds in Chinavisible from spaceare actually affected the weather elsewhere.
    Man is putting enormous pressure on the environment everywhere, not just the rising CO2 levels.
    I find it ironically amusing that you import to climatologists and other scientific researchers an element of greed: Really, all they want is to increase the quantity and depth of their research grants. These are really get-rich schemes, nothing like the serious efforts of corporations to get rich quick.
    Have you ever met these well-heel fellows, seen the McMansions in which they live? You might want to do some research in this areayou know, with graphs and data charts, showing the rising salaries of these leeches on the body politic.

  8. Bruce Hall

    S.
    I think you may have my comments confused with someone else. I never said that those who disagree with anthropogenic-CO2 global warming are refused “peer review”… what I said was “Those who question those conclusion with other “peer reviewed” publications are simple “climate change skeptics.”” In simpler words… despite having “peer reviewed” publications that disagree with “the consensus position”, they are simply dismissed by groups in forums like this as “simple climate change skeptics.”
    I read posts at RealClimate and elsewhere. “Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems.” The lovely thing about blaming CO2 for both global warming and climate change is that it provides a simplistic answer to rally political support around… got to act right now or we’re doomed!!!
    And remember “scientific consensus” was the same group that imprisoned Galileo.

  9. Bruce Hall

    Just a new “religion” by those who hear catchy phrases as get on a bandwagon bound for… where?
    Have faith my son for as it is written:
    Quran 2.39. “But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein.”
    The faithful have their signs and believe and if the unfaithful prevail, heat and drought and fire will reign upon the earth.
    Or as RealClimate recently posted:
    Much of the sensationalist talk in the public discourse (and to which the scientists in the piece, and we, rightly take exception) are not the pronoucements of serious scientists in the field, but distorted and often out-of-context quotes that can be further mangled upon frequent repetition. We have often criticised such pieces (here, or here for instance) and it is important to note that the ‘shrill voices of doom’ referred to by Mike Hulme [and many others] were not scientists, but campaigners.
    But then there wouldn’t be any fun in the forums, right?

  10. Stormy

    Bruce,
    I apologize for conflating you with DickF, who somehow thinks the whole thing is a financial scam to increase grants.
    Be that as it may.
    Would you name those “other” peer reviewed publications?
    And some serious scientists in the field who take the view that CO2 has little, if any, role in global warming?
    The analogy to Galileo is cute but that is about the size of it.
    The simplicity of your position is apparent in one of your remarks on CafeHayek:
    Not living in a near-ice-age environments doesn’t seem all that bad.
    http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:30NyUimRAZQJ:cafehayek.typepad.com/hayek/2006/12/wise_words_on_g.html+%22Bruce+Hall%22+RealClimate&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=3
    I really question your understanding of what precisely global warming means, its ramifications other than a nice tan, good swimming, and no heating bills.

  11. Bruce Hall

    S.
    I’ll give you an example list (I’m sure a creative guy can find a long list by himself), but I can suggest to check out the following which can lead you to still others:
    Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. – Colorado University
    http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/
    Dr. Tim Patterson – Carleton University
    http://http-server.carleton.ca/%7Etpatters/
    Dr. Patrick J. Michaels – University of Virginia
    http://www.worldclimatereport.com/archive/editors/editors.htm
    They have publications available through their websites. You’re also welcome to stop by mine, but I’m just an old blogger that likes to have fun and tweak those who buy into “popular wisdom” and then create wild scenarios from their interpretation of “popular wisdom.”
    Global warming/cooling is largely a natural phenomenon that occurs both independently and within the larger aspect of climate change. Climate change occurs at random intervals and has many drivers. The ramifications of global cooling in the past has been ice ages, loss of habitat, loss of flora and fauna. The ramifications of global warming in the past has been the opposite. That is not to say that localize negative or positive changes have not happened in both cases, but the general changes have been such.
    My position is simple: the world is full of simple, easy to understand, wrong answers. How’s that for irony? Sometimes humor or sarcasm is all that’s left when dealing with simplistic thinking.
    Just click on the link below.

  12. Bruce Hall

    S.
    Let me restate one thing since posting at 1 a.m. (EST) sometimes gets things jumbled.
    Global warming is not equivalent to climate change, which is what I said above. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling… which is the reverse of what I stated above. The intent was the same… climate change and global warming/cooling are not the same thing.
    Such human forcings that I mentioned above include dramatic changes in land use which can significantly alter the regional climate … and measured temperatures.
    Okay, you can be humorous now. I’m going to bed.

  13. calmo

    Just a minute Bruce…ok, 33 of them maybe. I appreciate your contrarian position which I think is: we don’t really know the long term picture. And the glaciers can all melt to hell and it could be only the start of another Ice Age for all we know.
    So you are all for reining in daring statements like: the globe is warming. Or even more daring: the globe is warming from all that CO2 being pushed into the air and those forests being hacked down. Or possibly: we can do something about it by planting a forest of genetically modified CO2 turbo-sucking Jack Pines in the front yard.
    Sometimes it is ok to act when we don’t have all the information and this seems to be a good candidate for paying more respect to our environment even if it turns out that we are hastening our arrival to that Frozen Hell and not that more popular hotter place.
    In the meantime I hope the climatologists are learning more and listening to the entire spectrum of empirically based research.

  14. Anonymous

    No, Bruce Hall does not have a genuine contrarian ‘opinion’. In a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists , Patrick Michaels is mentioned as a ‘Scientific Spokesperson Affiliated with Exxon-Mobile”
    Patrick J. Michaels
    Affiliation With ExxonMobil-Funded Organizations

  15. American Council on Science and Health
  16. American Legislative Exchange Council
  17. Cato Institute
  18. Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
  19. Competitive Enterprise Institute
  20. Consumer Alert Advisory Council
  21. George C. Marshall Institute
  22. Heartland Institute Writer
  23. Heritage Foundation Policy
  24. Tech Central Station Science Roundtable
  25. Weidenbaum Center
    The above organisations have received in total well over $1 million from Exxon-Mobile.
    Bruce, I hope you learn to check the legitimacy and integrity of your sources before posting them, as you are wasting peoples time. It is disrespecful and this scholarly blog deserves better.
    Lee Brown Jr.
    MS Physics UFlorida, 2000
  26. Bruce Hall

    Ah, if you are “associated” with Greenpeace, then you are “legitimate” and have “integrity,” but if you are “associated” with Cato or Heritage, you are a “mouthpiece.”
    Got it, no “politicizing” positions here.
    If you get private funding, you are lying about results. If you get government funding, you are scientifically “pure.”
    Really…. I always thought that data presented could be data examined. But now it is easier to have hyperbole rather than examination.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6115644.stm
    Sorry, Lee. Your arguments are not relevant.

  27. Bruce Hall

    Calmo,
    You presume that any warming is bad and any cooling is good… strange value judgments. You presume arctic and antarctic ice is good and increased habitable area is bad… strange value judgments.
    When I say “habitable” I am not limiting discussion to humans. Geologically, warmer climes have been more abundant times for life in general. Yes, there are changes to the environment and ecology. Some local climates worse, others get significantly better.
    “Sometimes it is ok to act when we don’t have all the information and this seems to be a good candidate for paying more respect to our environment even if it turns out that we are hastening our arrival to that Frozen Hell and not that more popular hotter place.”
    Respecting our environment can be done many ways and money can be spent far more effectively than focusing on only one aspect of our environment… without getting poetic.

  28. DickF

    Lee Brown,
    I am curious. Do you have statistics on the amount of government grants issued to the pro-anthropogenic-CO2 global warming? I am always amused at the naivet among those who condemn studies made by businesses but give a total pass to those funded by government or that are a sole source of income by those doing the study. Do you actually believe there is no monetary motivation in the selling of the anthropogenic-CO2 theory?

  29. DickF

    Another area of the global warming issue that needs much more investigation is whether warming will be a net positive or a net negative. Those who wish to attack anthropogenic-CO2 always conclude that the net impact will be negative, but that is still an open issue. For example is it negative for the argiculture from the tropical climates to expand into more temperate climates with current temporate climates expanding northward and southward. Doesn’t this actually expand argicultural production?
    In fact global warming might be just what we need. Consider that we are experiencing a very warm year this year. If the climate that is creating this warming also the climate that prevented hurricanes from hitting the United States this past summer?

  30. Stormy

    Well, Lloyd’s of London is on board with global warming, as is the preponderance of insurance companies. As far back as 2001, Allstate stopped insuring water-side residents on the Chesapeake Bay.
    I had a house there then, Dorchester County, and was trying to sell it. Allstate was my insurer. It refused insurance to the new owner. I asked my agent, a conservative, ex-military man, if GW was the reason. He answered, “Yes.”
    I have been following the insurance industries pronouncements since then.
    Here is the latest from Lloyd’s:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070112/ts_alt_afp/usinsuranceenvironment_070112205240
    But again, global warming or climate change, is not limited to rising sea levels and warmer climes.
    I think, Bruce, you really should look more carefully at the full range of effects, from health to desertification to bio-adaptation…to say nothing of mass migrations of people.
    As far as Pielke is concerned, he at least enters into the debate on RealClimate, although in my humble opinion, he does not do very well.
    DickF,
    I still await that data on how much money the scientists are making freezing their buns off in Antarctic. But, of course, anyone who makes a salary from government or private grants is suspect, right? This kind of argument is just silly. But I suppose it appeals to anti-government types, except when Halliburton is concerned.

  31. menzie chinn

    Bruce Hall: Hmm. I think since Galileo, we’ve developed something called “the scientific method”, which as I recall involved confronting hypothesis with data to construct a theory. My understanding of Galileo’s trial was that it had something of the flavor of “faith-based” thinking. But if you’re right about peer-reviewed journals freezing out viewpoints for no good reason, I might as well pack up my bags, and give equal weighting to peer reviewed articles as to every article I see on the Web.

  32. menzie chinn

    Grzesiek: No system is perfect, but it is a means whereby which new results are as assessed. But you can do a reality check. Do you trust the results in the average posting on the Web more than you do the average article in a peer reviewed article? For econometric results, for instance, I’ll take those in peer-reviewed journals over those found in consultant’s reports. In other words, the peer review system is a plausible means of overcoming asymmetric information; if you’ve got a better one, I look forward to hearing it.

  33. Stormy

    To All:
    The situation in Australia is dire. The major river system that feeds southern Australia may well, by 2050, be catastrophically stressed, threatening cities as far south as Adelaide.
    The present situation
    http://www.mdbc.gov.au/__data/page/1366/December_drought_update06.pdf
    http://www.mdbc.gov.au/__data/page/54/First_Ministers_Briefing_7Nov06_MD
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21008372-30417,00.htm
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21047959-1702,00.html
    If the present droughtthe most severe in 1000 yearscontinues, and present predictions are that it will, then who knows what will happen well before 2050. The warning, from concerned scientists, is that global warming will make a living hell of Australia.
    Elsewhere, the Mediterranean tourist industry is worried that tourists will go to the Baltic. Sheesh. And then there are those hoping for a Northwest passage.

  34. Grzesiek

    “Do you trust the results in the average posting on the Web more than you do the average article in a peer reviewed article?”

    God no; but you said average. Though I disagree with you more often than not, both you and JDH run a great weblog (there are many other great econ weblogs too).
    I know the information is sourced; again whether I agree with it is another matter. :’)
    Peer Review reform is coming; whether it be greater transparency (think Linux development) or rigorous empirical affirmation.

  35. Anonymous

    Bruce and Dick, Do you really think that you have thought of anything that hundreds of world class scientists who have dedicated their professional careers and staked their reputations on the study of climatology have not thought of already? Moreover you accuse this group of lying to the public in order to get a paycheck?
    That is a very serious accusation. http://www.ucsusa.org points out individuals, names names and provides original documentary evidence. You have done none of this yet you have the chutzpuh of equating your statemetns with theirs.
    Fine, you claim my list of org’s that Patrick Michael’s is involved is completely irrelevant. Everybody else can judge for themselves. I am quite sanguine that the opinion of others will significantly differ from yours.

  36. John Thacker

    Moreover you accuse this group of lying to the public in order to get a paycheck?
    There are climate scientists themselves who have admitted exaggerating risks because they felt that if they did not do so, then the public would be too slow to act.
    Would it surprise me too much if people made this sort of “noble lie,” if they felt that perhaps when the evidence was inconclusive that they should swallow their doubts and sound more certain that they were, since the risks of catastrophe were so great? I could believe that, and I could believe it without even particularly condemning people in some instances in all kinds of situations.
    And of course there are peer reviewed journal articles suggesting that anthropogenic causes are not the primary drivers of warming – see here, for example–. Of course, those people are politically attacked too.
    Dr. Chinn– Of course we believe that the scientific method wins out over time. That doesn’t mean that petty people don’t become in charge of tenure committees, hiring committees, or journals at various time periods, and try to reject people and ideas that don’t match their pet theories.
    What do you think of the Card and Krueger minimum wage study? Certainly when it was released it contradicted the consensus of economists as well as that of most peer-reviewed studies. They later claimed that there was a publication and research bias, saying that the number of published minimum wage studies showing an effect just barely over significant was so much higher than the number of studies showing an effect just barely under significant that there must be some sort of data cheating going on.
    If it could happen with peer-reviewed literature on the minimum wage, then certainly couldn’t it happen elsewhere? The scientific method is the best we’ve got, but it’s corrections happen slowly.
    Speaking of knowledge-based policy-making, I see that the Democratic House did decide to go against the recommendations of the OMB’s economists when it comes to drug negotiations.

  37. menzie chinn

    John Thacker: Sure, the Krueger-Card thesis encountered resistance, but not sufficient to prevent it from being published in the premier peer-reviewed economics journal, the American Economic Review v.84 no. 4 (1994).

    Regarding prescription drugs, as I read the letter to Dingell (I think you mean CBO, not OMB), there is no explicit recommendation; merely a statement that there would be little effect from the legislation. The report [pdf] does not make a recommendation either, although of course CBO reports by statute do not make recommendations.

  38. DickF

    you claim my list of org’s that Patrick Michael’s is involved is completely irrelevant.
    Lee Brown,
    I never made any such charge. I was simply attempting to level the playing field. Many today do not trust the claims of science any more because voodoo science is often used to squeeze money out of the government. Take a look at the the legacy of Sen. Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Awards. How many of them involved studies financed by the government?
    A few examples over the past 30 or so years:
    Tequila Fish
    The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for spending millions of dollars to find out if drunken fish are more aggressive than sober fish, if young rats are more likely than adult rats to drink booze in order to reduce anxiety, and if rats can be systematically turned into alcoholics.
    How to Buy Worcestershire Sauce
    The Department of the Army spending $6,000 to prepare a 17-page document that told the federal government how to buy a bottle of Worcestershire sauce.
    TV Watching Lessons
    The Office of Education for spending $219,592 to develop a curriculum to teach college students how to watch television.
    Tennis Cheaters
    The National Endowment for the Humanities for a $25,000 grant to study why people cheat, lie and act rudely on local Virginia tennis courts.
    $2 Million Patrol Car
    For the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration for spending $2 million on a prototype police patrol car that was never completed. The car was loaded with gadgets and would have cost $49,078 each.
    Basketball Therapy
    For the Health Care Financing Administration for Medicaid payments to psychiatrists for unscheduled, coincidental meetings with patients who were attending basketball games, sitting on stoops, etc. — the cost of which was between $40 and $80 million.
    Surfing Subsidy
    For the Department of Commerce for giving the City and County of Honolulu $28,600 to study how they could spend another $250,000 for a good surfing beach.

  39. M1EK

    The difference, John, is that the Card-Krueger paper was, in fact, published after making it through peer review; whereas there in fact aren’t really papers being published which show no global warming occurring (ref: Oreskes, which has held up surprisingly well despite its seemingly easily disproved premise).
    Yes, I realize you’ve jumped to the next lily pad in the pond – the vanishingly few numbers of peer-reviewed papers which assert that GW is happening but it’s just not anthropogenic, but I bet that a couple years ago you were on lily pad N-1. And so, probably, were they; and no, it’s not bad form to note that a surprisingly high number of such studies are funded by a surprisingly small number of groups which are surprisingly funded by groups which make an industry of throwing up chaff to hide the wheat.

  40. Stormy

    The most important people in the struggle for the planet’s future, in my estimation, will be the economists.
    If I thought all was well with the world, I would not be here. Economics was never a serious interest of mine until a few years ago. Economists have the tools to assess the damage in terms most people will understand: their pocketbook and their economic well-being.
    Eventually, it is they who will move the public to action; it is they who will have to grapple with the real cost of environmental despoilment, of dangerous demographics, and, yes, of global warming. Note that Bush himself casts the argument in economic terms, as have the corporate interests that feel threatened by the studies that grow more numerous every day. (It is no accident that Bruce uses the economic argument as well.)
    The economists within the insurance industry have already placed their bets.
    It is imperative that economists acquaint themselves with the findings of other disciplines: demographics, energy, biologists, climatologists, agronomiststo name just a few.
    Assume, for a moment, that what they say is true? What happens then? Will China have white picket fences and two-car garages in the year 2050? Is there enough time for globalization as now practiced?
    Play the game of what if. The ball is entering your side of the court.

  41. Stormy

    Bruce,
    I suggest you read the latest paper on Arctic sea ice in RealClimate and, as one commentator put it,
    “Given all this information, perhaps Roger Pielke Sr. should revist his 2005 statement: “Our conclusion is that the Arctic Systems Science report, which received so much media attention, significantly overstated the actual trends of Arctic sea-ice coverage.”
    In my view, Pielke has not been a reliable expert for contrarians.

  42. kuros

    here is what a friend of mine sent me:
    I gotta tell ya guysthe whole thing with global warming is that there is a group of people measuring some change and broadcasting their measurements to the masses (who gobble it up, the lower the education the more the gobble). Big deal. The thing about change is that everything is always changing; everything has always been changing and everything will always continue to change. Nothing is ever at rest (Brownian motion) unless, theorized, at absolute zero. Even then, scientists dont have accurate enough instruments to detect movements of the components of atoms at the calculated rest state of matter (highly likely the case).
    The chair I am sitting on is changing, the plastic that comprises my computer monitors is changing, the asphalt I park my car on is changing, the palm tree next to my car is changing and you and I, this planet, our sun, the whole friggin universe is in constant change; always will be, all at different (measured by humans) rates. The weather where I live changes daily, weekly, hourly, minute by minute, I bet it does too in Florida. How can you be surprised or shocked at the fact that people are measuring change in climates on greater scales than weekly; and they are reporting that very thing.change? Is everything supposed to stay the same? Unchanging? Undynamic? Static? Predictable? That is terribly anthropomorphic of us. The thing that is predictable is the fact that things are going to change!
    As far as the cause of this change, who knows and who cares? What the hell is any one individual, city, government, or entire world population acting collectively going to do about the forces of our solar system, sun and dynamics of the planet? If a bear in Scandinavia isnt sleeping as much as his predecessors (was that species engraved into the history of the universe to never change no matter what on planet earth?) The effect is the bear is walking around more and giving a leg up to some bird population or a beetle population or improves the local soil that year. It means the local ungallant species may get trimmed out a bit which helps the local wild rhododendron population, etc etcthe point is, nature works just fine. Always has and always will. Mans interpretation of how we would prefer things to be just gets in the way of it all. George Carlin said once about saving the planet. He said screw that, HA! Save the humans, should be the slogan! The planet isnt going anywhere, humans are!
    The only thing inconvenienced is people who have a vested interest in things not-changing. If I owned coastal land in CA, and the water might rise I may change to get out of that investment or moveadapt to the change.
    I wont cry about it and It doesnt bother me one bit that cuddly bears don’t sleep as much and penguins arent populating like they used to and its going to be hotter than it used to be. Hell, there were 15 or so measurable ice ages in the last 40,000 years where countless species died off and others were given a niche to make it; thats the way it has been happening all along. Change in itself is an inconvenience; the successful candidate adapts.
    So, thats my take on global warmingI could write much more but have to get dinner going. So, the boo-hoo stories about how change is affecting different things makes me smile and shake my head. People need to think a bit more about what we are all experiencing and realize everything is what it is and get joy out of witnessing that very thing.
    The bottom line is, who cares if the oceans are changing and the temperature around the world is changing and different people and organisms will be effecteddid the Republicans cause it? George Bush? HAHA, hilarious the arrogance of the masses to think that we humans are responsible for the forces of nature. The news feeds on the dim-bulbs in our country. I think its more interesting to observe these changes and read/watch the whiners crybaby about it all. Don’t forget, there are a lot of people making money over this big marketing scam on the backs of the double digit IQers.

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