RealClimate logo

Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

House and Senate committee hearings

Filed under: — group @ 30 January 2007

There are two hearings today from the new congress that are of relevance for RealClimate readers:

The House Oversight Committee is having hearings on the possible suppression of climate change science by the administration (streaming from here). Witnesses include Drew Shindell (NASA GISS), Roger Pielke Jr. and R. Piltz. Update: Full hearing video available at C-SPAN.

The Senate EPW Committee is having an open forum for senators to discuss climate change legislation (streaming from here).

148 Responses to “House and Senate committee hearings”

  1. 1
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    The hearings began a short time ago with opening statements from UCS, Drew Shindell, Piltz and climate policy heretic and historian Roger Pielke, Jr. The link below takes you to the page for the Committee where you can read all the witness statements. It isn’t possible to see it online for some reason. However, C-SPAN covered it live until noon and promised to reair it later today.

    Highlights that I saw: Piltz said the WH deliberately altered important reports (Phil Cooney edits discussed) to downplay significance of AGW. Shindell cited examples of how his press releases were held up and watered down. Pielke, Jr. conceded the Bush people have been extra specially heavy handed in their censorship of scientists, but that similar “oversight” of scientists’ work by policymakers has been ongoing since the 1920′s and the system wouldn’t work without it. He also cited examples of how environmental groups got government researchers to use certain hot words like “harbinger” in much the same way as GOP propaganda specialist Frank Luntz did with “climate change vs. global warming” for his clients.

    Attendance at the hearing so far: lousy. Chairman Waxman, Ranking Republican Davis, Darrel Issa from CA (the man who got the Terminator elected and ironically has helped push the cap and trade debate forward) and a few more members.

  2. 2
    pete best says:

    At almost 20 tonnes per head of capita (25% of all fossil fuels used worldwide per annum) or around 6 billion tonnes per annum the USA has it easy when it comes to cutting fossil fuel burning, energy conservation measures alone could cut that by a significant amount. I mean energy saving light bulbs (80% more efficient), proper insulation on homes and business, and vehicles burning less fuel to get from A to B would be a great start. Couple that with some additional commitments to Geothermal, Wind and Solar and it would make a big difference.

    Europe 25 burns on average around 8 tonnes per capita so the EU more work to do than the USA does.

  3. 3
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:


  4. 4
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    The hearing just concluded. It was finally available online via ABC. I caught bits and pieces of it. By the time it was over, many members of the Committee had arrived and asked questions. One other note. When you testify before Congress and it is broadcast live online, they don’t always turn off the microphones before the feed ends. I heard quite a bit during this post game show, but will respect the privacy of those doing the talking since it wasn’t part of the official record.

  5. 5
    Thom says:

    It’s little disappointing to see that the Democrats had three people to show up while the Republicans were allowed only Roger Pielke Jr. to advocate for their side.

    I realize that the Dems are in power and are going to set the agenda, but the panels should be a little more balanced in the future.

  6. 6

    In theory I’m all in favor of energy-saving lightbulbs, but in practice I find they are not as bright as incandescents. Maybe it’s the brand I’m using — does anyone know of a good brand? Did Consumer Reports ever do a low-power lightbulb issue?

  7. 7
    Ike Solem says:

    Pielke’s testimony:

    Roger Pielke Jr. attempted to draw the link between directions given to government scientists not to use the words “climate change”, “global warming”, “Kyoto” and the Union of Concerned Scientist’s suggestion that the word “harbinger” be used. This ignores the fundamental difference between government science institutions and independent groups; an honest comparison might be between UCS and groups such as the George C. Marshall Institute, Sherwood Idso’s CO2 Science, the Competetive Enterprise Institute and the American Petroleum Institute. NOAA, NASA, etc. are publicly funded institutions that have a fundamental responsibility to present accurate scientific information to the public.

    He then moved on to the issue of hurricanes and denied that there was scientific consensus on the link between increases in hurricane intensity and global warming, even though yet the basic physical concept is pretty clear; hurricanes don’t form unless there is a threshold sea surface temperature, but there are other requirements as well. If existing hurricanes encounter warm bodies of water, they will tend to intensify, as Katrina did. Sea surface temperatures are predicted to increase – I suppose one could argue that since GCM’s don’t model hurricanes, no conclusions can be made, but that’s not very reassuring.

    For someone who refuses to discuss whether or not the ongoing trend of closely spaced temperature records is set to continue, he seems to have a very strong supporter of the lack of a relationship between hurricanes and global warming. Roger Pielke Jr’s quote on this issue is that “We don’t do temperature predictions here.”

    The question (still standing) is “With respect to the fact that the warmest years since accurate records began have all been in the last decade, does this represent an anomalous spike in the natural climate variability, or are we looking at a generally increasing temperature trend that is due to the increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 brought on by buring fossil fuels? (A generally increasing temperature trend would be expected to set a systematic trend of new temperature records, wouldn’t it?)”

    Pielke’s main thrust was that all science is political, and that this is inescapable, which is nonsense. With respect to a memo stating that global warming should lead to increases in hurricane intensity, he said:
    “I am absolutely 100% certain that the statement does not faithfully represent the science… it selects among the science to present a perspective, and that is inevitable, and we have to recognize that, and noone is immune from it… But let’s not pretend that we can somehow separate out scientific truth from political preferences…the reality is that they are always going to be intermixed”

    That may be true for political science, but that’s about it. I also think that NOAA’s use of the 1971-2000 time period as a ‘baseline’ for temperature anomaly calculations goes beyond political intereference with scientist’s ability to speak freely and enters the realm of unjustified manipulation of data. The issue of how to generate a baseline is discussed in detail in the 2001 IPCC report:

  8. 8
    David C. Greene says:

    Subject: Greene’s Law – “The more important the decision, the less likely it will be made by anyone knowing what is involved.” (This may not be original with me. I welcome proper attribution.) This “law” seemed to be full function during the Supreme Court discussions about carbon dioxide being a pollutant.

  9. 9
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: “It’s little disappointing to see that the Democrats had three people to show up while the Republicans were allowed only Roger Pielke Jr. to advocate for their side.

    I realize that the Dems are in power and are going to set the agenda, but the panels should be a little more balanced in the future.”

    Were you being sarcastic here, Thom? If not, the Democrats’ changes in committee invitations are certainly better than having a science fiction writer (Crichton) and people formerly affiliated with the tobacco industry (Seitz, Singer, etc.) claiming expertise in climate science. At least the Dems are inviting people who are actually climate scientists.

    As for balance, you’re completely wrong. If balanced invitations were made, there would be about 200 scientists invited who agree with the facts that the climate is changing and that it is primarily the result of human activities which emit greenhouse gases to one scientist who doesn’t agree with these facts. That is the approximate ratio of those who agree with AGW to those who don’t. (Case in point, the Naomi Oreskes paper in “Science” in December 2004, which showed in a survey of 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers that not one of the 928 studies claimed that AGW was not occurring.)

  10. 10
    cat black says:

    re #7: Pielke’s assertion that science cannot be separated from politics is self-serving, anti-rational, and anti-science. What science cannot be separated from is the natural universe, and that’s all. Where individual human emotions and beliefs come in the way of honest observation the peer review process can apply corrections, and humankind is the better for this. What Pielke is doing is saying that politics, through the engine of propaganda, can alter the universe to suit a power agenda which is clearly nonsense of the highest order. The idea only makes sense if you think Man is above all things, immune, and can change nature and the universe to our will. This is a throw-back to the collision between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, which as we all know was decided in favor of dogmatic irrationalism after a tour of the engines of torture.

    An aging Galileo can be excused for crumbling at the threat of torture and mortification. But Pielke is no Inquisition, and Bush is no Pope, and we need not bend knee to these scurrilous performers of political theater. I’m glad he was alone before the committee — balance be damned — we’ve given these perfidious corporate lapdogs all the time they need to make their case and unless they can produce viable, authentic, peer-reviewed science then they can take their sleight of hand, their vexing illusions, and muddy the waters on some other planet where the bulk of humanity have less at stake.

  11. 11
    Hank Roberts says:

    Reading today’s NYT, I am amazed nobody there mentioned the President’s action today adding a new layer of administrative (political appointee) review for information coming out of all agencies. The NYT said it’s especially the EPA and OSHA he’s concerned about limiting.

  12. 12
    Judith Curry says:

    I am trying to figure out the point of Pielke’s statement. I guess it is to legitimize “cherry picking” of the science. Pielke’s statement had an egregious example of cherry picking on the hurricane-global warming issue. If you read the entire paragraph of the “consensus” statement, you get very different information than if you simply read the portion of the paragraph that pielke chose to quote. Here is the relevant paragraph in its entirety:

    “The scientific debate concerning the Webster et al and Emanuel papers is not as to whether global warming can cause a trend in tropical cyclone intensities. The more relevant question is how large a change: a relatively small one several decades into the future or large changes occurring today? Currently published theory and numerical modeling results suggest the former, which is inconsistent with the observational studies of Emanuel (2005) and Webster et al. (2005) by a factor of 5 to 8 (for the Emanuel study). The debate is on this important quantification as to whether such a signal can be detected in the historical data base, and whether it is possible to isolate the forced response of the climate system in the presence of substantial decadal and multi-decadal natural variability. This is still hotly debated area for which we can provide no definitive conclusion.”

    Note: the factor of 5 to 8 is incorrect, it is a factor of 2-3.

    Pielke’s cherry picking of the text from the statement on hurricanes is a great example in itself of misrepresenting the science for political purposes, supporting the points of Waxman, Piltz, Shindell, et al.

  13. 13
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #6, Barton, I’ve found the CF lights take about 5 to 10 minutes to reach their maximum brightness. Also, we were able to get a brighter kitchen 17 years ago when we started buying them: we replaced the 40 watt incandescent over the stove with a 15 watt (60 watt equivalent); then we got a new fixture over the breakfast table – going from a 5-bulb (60 watts each = 300 watts) chandelier with amber chimneys shooting the light upward, to a single 15 watt globe-style CF in a oak & bevelled glass fixture, & the whole kitchen became a lot brighter (going from 340 watts to 30 watts). After buying our SunFrost frig in 1991, our electric bill took a serious nose-dive. By the time we moved to Texas & went on 100% wind power, the additional cost only came to about $5 per month (having cut our electricity in about half).

    I understand Wal-Mart is promoting CFs now. And you can get them in full-spectrum light, and for use with dimmer switch (I think).

  14. 14
    Eli Rabett says:

    Barton, there are two issues. The first is that the spectrum of the incandescent and the compact fluorescent bulbs (CFB) differ (the incandescents are redder). There is a lot of money to be made if you can match a phosphor to the incandescent one which people prefer. The second is that it is only recently that CFBs in higher wattage have become available, but they tend to be too large to fit in many places. There are various ways around this using socket extenders, some of which I have used, but in general you need to use multiple CFAs, as you would multiple 60/75 Watt incandescents.

  15. 15
    Steve Bloom says:

    It’s implied in a couple places above that RP Jr. was an invitee of the minority (Republicans). Is there a source on that?

  16. 16
    cat black says:

    #12 [picking] It might be interesting to see if researchers can “harden” their summary statements against cherry picking. For example, since it is clear that the Denialists enjoy statements containing terms like “hotly debated” maybe we ought to leave those off? There are ways of saying that we need more science to answer valid questions *without* implying that there are political hurdles to clear, or wild debates churning the sediments. We might be better served appealing for specific work in fruitful areas, and more attention to field observations, than to promote the idea that we’re trying to select via ritual combat the One True Theory. Because you know what, we’re not.

  17. 17
    Hank Roberts says:

    Spectra of CFLs (and white LEDs) here (page down; be patient; rest of site also wonderful):
    Reason to check: most emit a strong peak in the band that blocks melatonin synthesis. Quote and references here:
    ” … retinal photoreceptors /2 Very short light wavelengths (420 to 480 nm) are sufficient to suppress melatonin secretion …./3″
    2. Brainard GC et al. Action spectrum for melatonin regulation in humans…. J Neurosci. 2001;21(16):6405-12.
    3. Thapan K et al. …a novel, non-rod, non-cone photoreceptor system in humans. J Physiol. 2001;535(Pt 1):261-7.
    More at: Pardon the digression.
    Attack on this science by right wing belief tank, here:

  18. 18
    Mark A. York says:

    RE: 111 Me too. I blogged about both first thing. A trend? Oh yeah. I just saw Gavin on CNN. Well done, but at the end the reporter had to say there was a monority who say its a natural cycle. Which still giving them more credit than they deserve. They just can’t let go of the false balance he said she said shuffle.

  19. 19
    Thom says:


    Dave Roberts broke the story over at Grist that Pielke is getting invites from the Republicans. Apparently, this is not the first time. Pielke is not happy.

  20. 20
    Mark A. York says:

    I don’t think RP jr. spoke for Republicans per se. He just has a political bias goes around the world thesis I think is falty. He did accuse Dr. Mann as having one and Waxman put him to the griddle on it. it was refuted by the physicist Shindell on cross examination. Issa was relentless in tying paint all of them as biased or not scientists just like the Bush shills. It didn’t work.

  21. 21
    Reader says:

    #12: “I am trying to figure out the point of Pielke’s statement.”

    Simple. It’s straight from the authoritarian’s playbook. When confronted with inconvenient facts, the authoritarian will start by smearing the source, distorting the facts, and issuing unsupported statements of denials. When the argument is lost, the authoritarian will say “well, the other side does it too.”

    This is a good sign, as it means the administration is realizing this argument has been lost.

    We saw a similar pattern last year. After mounting a staunch defense of the myriad of indicted Republicans the right wing ended up resorting to the meme of “both sides are equally corrupt.”

    This may sound flippant, but it isn’t. The enemies of science are authoritarians and their patterns of thinking and argumentation are non-scientific, but predictable.

    To learn more:

  22. 22
    ghost says:

    RE: 15 The AP story says he was invited by GOP lawmakers. Of course, it also calls him a “political scientist,” which probably is accurate in the wrong way–if a bit Freudian. Be your own judge of the accuracy, but I suppose a more formal account of attendance might emerge later. “Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado who was invited by GOP lawmakers….”

  23. 23
    doug newton says:

    I thouht Roger Pielke’s main point was
    “On climate change, even as scientists have come to a robust consensus that human activities have significant effects on the climate, legitimate debate continues on the costs and benefits of proposed alternative policy actions. And evaluation of costs and benefits involves considerations of values and politics. It would be hopelessly naive to think that an advisory committee on climate change could be empanelled without consideration of how the views of its members map onto the existing political debate.”
    Seems about right to me.

    [Response: The statement is fair enough in itself, but this was not a hearing about the administration putting its stamp on preferred policy responses to global warming. It was about systematic suppression of scientific evidence regarding the magnitude of the harm. I don't really expect RPJr to be able to tell the difference, but I'd hope the rest of us could. --raypierre]

  24. 24

    Interesting comments. As I understand it I was recommended by the Republicans and approved by the Democrats. My invite letter came from the Democrats. I hope that this information helps you to evaluate the substantive merits of my testimony;-) Anyone asserting that my testimony defends or represents the Republicans obviously hasn’t read it. Similarly, I don’t think that Shindell, Piltz, or Grifo were there to defend or represent the Democrats. We were each speaking for ourselves, we just happened to be picked because the politicians thought they’d get some advantage from it. I don’t think any of the 4 necessarily was uniformly helpful to the party that invited them. Selection of witnesses at Congressional hearings is of course cherry picking 101.

    I asserted in my testimony that citing Emanuel (2005), Webster et al (2005) and Mann and Emanuel (2005) represented a selective presentation of the literature on hurricanes and global warming, especially in the context of the recent consensus statement from the WMO endorsed by the AMS (how could that be neglected?!?), which said of the debate over the trends documented in the first two of these papers:

    “This is still hotly debated area for which we can provide no definitive conclusion.”

    Here is what WMO says about Mann/Emanuel:

    “The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised (e.g. Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached on this issue.”

    No consensus. Hotly debated. Seems quite clear. Why anyone would go to the mat on this point is beyond me. There is a debate ongoing in the community. It is not necessary to assess certainty. In fact assessing such certainty misrepresents the science. So why do it?

    Anyone wanting to actually read my comments and discuss is welcome to on our site. Thanks!

  25. 25
    John Sully says:

    #23: you forgot the part where he tried to discredit Drs. Mann and Curry by misstating what the scientific consensus of the effect of AGW on hurricanes is.

    However, the statement you quote from him I would think is accurate. Can’t really argue with it.

    The thing that really frosted me was Issa’s use of an out of context bit from Hansen arguing with the 2000 USCCP scenarios for CO2 increase. Clearly at that point 1% per annum was too much, he was correct to criticize that. However this does not mean that he thinks that everything is going to be OK; anyone who follows this debate knows that. And then he tried to cut off Shindell whenever he tried to point out what actually happened to the report…

    For my money the two least convincing witnesses were the woman from the UCS and Pielke. The woman from the UCS because she did not come well prepared and Pielke because of his obfuscation. Piltz and Shindell were great, though.

  26. 26
    Ike Solem says:

    I was hoping that someone would try and explain or defend NOAA’s use of the 1971-2000 baseline… but that doesn’t seem possible. I think this fact is the most succinct refutation of PRJr’s thesis that scientific truth will always be intermixed with political preferences… or does that support his thesis? Is he trying to justify manipulation of data on political grounds?

    In any case, use of this baseline seems unjustifiable by any measure; I’d like to see NOAA go back to using the 1961-1990 baseline – unless someone can explain why they shouldn’t?

  27. 27
    John Sully says:

    Ike, it seems reasonable to me. The record is fairly complete in that period (although homogenization adjustments will need to be made for some stations) and it has much less forced change than the 1971-2000 baseline. Why not use it, as it seems that it would be the best combination of the aspects of the data set that we are looking at, combining some stability along with accuracy of observations. Why, isn’t the 1961-1990 period what the IPCC recommended…?

  28. 28
    Eli Rabett says:

    It was an interesting hearing (saw the replay). Dr. Curry, did someone call you during the hearing, or was your response to the committee from the submitted statements? Just curious.

    Shindell was impressive, but I think on occasion he let words be put into his mouth. The bit about equivalence btw the committee statement and what the Bush administration did was somewhere betweeen strained and hilarious.

  29. 29
    John Sully says:


    I understand that there is not a consensus on the hurricane question. However the disagreement seems to be over whether or not the signal (strengthening of individual hurricanes in the NATL basin) is detectable and if so, what is the magnitude of that signal. Tropical Cyclone theory is clear on this; warmer SST’s lead to stronger (not more) hurricanes. On this there is no disagreement that I can detect, perhaps Landsea has some other ideas which have not been communicated — right now, he seems to feel that the current increase is just due to the AMO. That is fine, it is a reasonable view to hold and we should let the facts decide.

    However, to imply that Mann and Curry were misstating the consensus was wrong. The argument is not over whether or not hurricanes will be stronger, but over whether or not we can see the signal yet. My prediction is that by 5AR the IPCC will say that we can see the hurrican signal also.


  30. 30
    Benny says:

    From Judith Curry: “Pielke’s statement had an egregious example of cherry picking on the hurricane-global warming issue. If you read the entire paragraph of the ‘consensus’ statement, you get very different information than if you simply read the portion of the paragraph that pielke chose to quote. Here is the relevant paragraph in its entirety….”


    Roger responds by completely ignoring the substance of Curry’s remarks and digressing into “pleae quit pointing out that the Republicans invited me to testify because I’m an ‘honest broker.’”


  31. 31
    Hank Roberts says:

    The majority — the Chair — always _issues_ the invitations, right?

  32. 32
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    RE: 24

    “I asserted in my testimony that citing Emanuel (2005), Webster et al (2005) and Mann and Emanuel (2005) represented a selective presentation of the literature on hurricanes and global warming, especially in the context of the recent consensus statement from the WMO endorsed by the AMS (how could that be neglected?!?), which said of the debate over the trends documented in the first two of these papers”

    The AMS put forth many statements in 2006, and in fact published more than one that did not “approve”, per se, in relation
    to the implied context that you appear to be representing with and or by your assumption and presumption statements.

    Hurricanes and Global Warming – Potential Linkages and Consequences
    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 87 (5), 623 (2006)

    …..”Several studies (Landsea et al. 1998, Pielke et al.
    2005) have concluded that the recent observed increases
    in Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity
    are within the range of observed multidecadal variability.”…”
    But to therefore assume that all
    of the variability during the twentieth century has
    been natural is not valid (e.g., Houghton et al. 2001;
    Feldstein 2002; Gillett et al. 2003; Hoerling et al.
    2004; Gillett et al. 2005).”….


    Pielke, Jr., R. A., C. W. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver, R. Pasch, 2006: Reply to Hurricanes and Global Warming Potential Linkages and Consequences. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 87:628-631.

    The AMS also published in 2006

    Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis That Greenhouse Warming Is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity
    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 87 (8), 1025 (2006)

    ….”In addition to critiques by well-known global warming deniers, the issue of hurricanes and global warming has been debated intensely within the meteorological community, identifying clear differences in the prevailing views on this subject, especially between climate researchers and hurricane forecasters. Some of this debate reflects healthy skepticism in the scientific community that will move the research forward, while other aspects of the debate are convoluted with denial of global warming. We therefore have the following several objectives to clarify the debate surrounding the subject as to whether or not global warming is causing an increase in global hurricane intensity, by sorting out the valid from the fallacious criticisms, addressing the valid criticisms, assessing alternative hypotheses, and identifying the outstanding uncertainties; to illustrate a methodology of hypothesis testing to address multiple criticisms of a complex hypothesis that involves a causal chain; and to provide a case study of the impact of politics, the media, and the World Wide Web on the scientific process.”….

    …”Several hurricane forecasters and researchers have also invoked natural variability as the source of the variations in both hurricane characteristics and SST, most specifically in the North Atlantic and North Pacific (e.g., Landsea et al. 1999; Goldenberg et al. 2001; Xie et al. 2002; Molinari and Mestas-Nunez 2003). To address these arguments, we consider the null hypothesis: Recent trends in tropical surface temperatures are not a response to greenhouse warming. “…

    ….”Knutson et al. (2006) specifically attributed the increase in global tropical sea surface temperatures to greenhouse warming. Hence, the null hypothesis is rejected because the trend in tropical SST cannot be explained by natural internal variability and/or volcanic eruptions or solar variability, and the observed trend is consistent with model simulations associated with forcing from greenhouse gases. Elevation to theory? “…

    ….” Acrimony generated by the media debate has contributed to disruption of legitimate debates sponsored by professional societies by the cancellation and removal of panel members. The media has played a significant role in inflaming this situation by reportersâ?? recitations of what people on the other side of the debate are allegedly saying. One reporter manufactured a personal conflict between he first author of this paper (including an egregious misquote) and a scientist on the other side of the debate who have had no personal contact in
    several years. This illustrates the role that the media can play in inflaming a scientific debate and the values gap between scientists and journalists.”…..

    And from the WMO

    Statement on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change
    Nov 2006

    …”This statement was developed, discussed and endorsed at the World Meteorological
    Organization (WMO) Sixth International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones, San Jose
    Costa Rica, November 2006.”…

    2. To provide an updated assessment of the current state of knowledge of the impact of
    anthropogenically induced climate change on tropical cyclones.”…

    …”10. During 2005 two highly publicised scientific papers appeared documenting evidence
    from the observational record for an increase in tropical cyclone activity. Emanuel (2005) has produced evidence for a substantial increase in the power of tropical
    cyclones (denoted by the integral of the cube of the maximum winds over time) for
    the West Pacific and Atlantic basins during the last 50 years. This result is supported
    by the findings of Webster et al (2005) that there has been a substantial global
    increase (nearly 100%) in the proportion of the most severe tropical cyclones
    (category 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale), from the period from 1975 to 2004,
    which has been accompanied by a similar decrease in weaker systems. Mann and
    Emanuel (2006) reported that tropical cyclone counts in the Atlantic closely track
    low-frequency variations in tropical Atlantic SSTs, including a long-term increase
    since the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    11. A number of authors attribute the reported increases as being due primarily to data
    reliability issues, in that the strong tropical cyclones are more accurately monitored in
    the recent years.”….

    12. In the Atlantic basin, where the most reliable historical hurricane records are believed
    to exist, the causes of the pronounced multidecadal variability of major hurricane
    activity in recent decades is currently being debated. Goldenberg et al. (2001) argue
    that Atlantic major hurricane activity is oscillatory, being modulated (via vertical
    wind shear and other circulation changes) by a multidecadal mode of SST variability
    referred to as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Mann and Emanuel (2006)
    dispute this claim, attributing decadal changes in tropical Atlantic sea surface
    temperature to variations in radiative forcing caused by varying solar activity,
    volcanic and manmade aerosols, and greenhouse gases.Expectations about future
    trends vs cyclical variations of Atlantic hurricane activity would be quite different depending upon the relative importance of these two proposed factors in explaining
    Atlantic tropical cyclone variations in recent decades.”

    15…..”Even for global mean temperature, uncertainties in future
    projections are substantial (e.g., IPCC 2001) owing to uncertainties in such factors as
    future anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, global and regional climate
    sensitivity (e.g., cloud feedback), indirect aerosol forcing, and ocean heat uptake.
    The notion of substantial 21st century climate warming appears to be robust to these uncertainties (IPCC 2001) although the magnitude of the warming still has large

    18. “Given the consistency between high resolution global models, regional hurricane
    models and MPI theories, it is likely that some increase in tropical cyclone intensity
    will occur if the climate continues to warm.”

    21. “There is general agreement that no individual events in those years can be attributed
    directly to the recent warming of the global oceans. A more appropriate question is
    whether the probability of an event happening in a particular basin has been increased
    by the ocean warming, as for example the probability of cyclone development can
    change according to the phase of ENSO or of the Madden Julian Oscillation. It is
    well established that global atmospheric structure responds to the tropical sea surface
    temperature, and that such a response will affect the potential intensity (MPI) as well
    as other environmental factors such as vertical shear and relative vorticity. Thus it is
    possible that global warming may have affected the 2004-2005 group of events as a
    whole. The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have
    already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised
    (e.g. Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached on this issue.”

    25. “Projected rises in global sea level (IPCC 2001, Meehl et al., 2005) are a cause for
    concern in the context of societyâ??s vulnerability to tropical cyclone induced storm
    surges. In particular for the major cyclone disasters in history the primary cause of
    death has been salt-water flooding associated with storm surge.”

    26. “A large body of research has been conducted on the potential impacts of climate
    change on tropical cyclones. This research has increased in volume over the past year
    in response to the recent research reports and in response to a number of recent highimpact
    tropical cyclone events around the globe.”…”Because of the rapid
    advances being made with this research, the findings in this statement may be soon
    superceded by new findings. It is recommended that a careful watch on the published
    literature be maintained.”

    and the WMO report concludes with

    27. “Despite the diversity of research opinions on this issue it is agreed that if there has been
    a recent increase in tropical cyclone activity that is largely anthropogenic in origin,
    then humanity is faced with a substantial and unanticipated threat.”

  33. 33
    doug newton says:

    Raypierre re 23
    If Roger Pielke was responsible for the suppression of the scientific evidence that you mentioned or if he was representing the Republicans then I would agree. Otherwise I thought that he made a good point about the relationship between science and politics that was appropriate for the nature of the hearing. I am missing something no doubt but I came to this site to avoid the politics.

    [Response: In case it wasn't clear, I actually agree almost completely with the specific statement you quoted above. The part I don't agree with, in some sense, is the prominence given to the "costs and benefits" language in the quote, which is likely to be misconstrued by most to mean monetized cost-benefit analysis, of the sort that the present administration has mandated throughout the regulatory apparatus. The part I wholeheartedly agree with is that there is no avoiding values -- typically non-monetary values -- when deciding what action to take. After all, if we decide that it is important to keep polar bears from going extinct, that decision arises because of a value judgement, and not primarily a monetary one. The fallacy among most economists (Amartya Sen being a notable exception) is that traditional monetized cost-benefit analysis provides a "scientific" and value-free way of making decisions, whereas in reality it is just a very highly specialized form of utilitarianism. But, with those sorts of caveats, I agree with RPJr on the quote. The incorrect inference, and part of the general obfuscation in the testimony, is the broad brush characterization that this sort of thing means that all science is political. --raypierre]

  34. 34
    Andy Revkin says:

    If anyone wants to review some of the early stories that led up to this moment, we’ve grouped some links here with today’s news story:

    [Response: Thanks, Andy! That's very helpful. --raypierre]

  35. 35
    pete best says:

    I read the other day that the US Government is proposing a technological fix to the problem of cimate change and not to stop it, lots of ideas there. I could just see the USA trying a fix rather than spending a lot of money trying to prevent it.

    Maybe cure is better than prevention for some

  36. 36
    Benny says:

    I would like to point out that Roger Pielke Jr. has attempted to slander Dave Roberts over at Grist for reporting that Pielke was invited by the Republicans.

    For some reason, Pielke got all bent out of shape at this and said that Roberts is no different than Rush Limbaugh. Well, the Associated Press also reported this, as well.

    From the AP: “Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist at the University of Colorado who was invited by GOP lawmakers, said, ‘The reality is that science and politics are intermixed.’”

    So why is Pielke engaging in ad hominem attacks against Roberts?

    [Response: As much fun as this seems to be, can we please not get involved in he said/you said arguments about who is and who isn't ad-hom'ing. This is just a distraction from points of substance. Thanks. - gavin]

  37. 37
    bob altemeyer says:

    I want to agree with post #21 about authoritarians’ abuse of science. Their leaders have little interest in the truth, whether it’s science-based or not. They’re in it for the power. Their followers have even less respect for science, especially if it conflicts with what they’ve been taught (and have memorized) as being true. Some evidence for this is contained in Chapter 3 of the book I’m publishing on line at, and more will come next Monday when I put the chapter on authoritarianism and religion on line.

  38. 38
    Judith Curry says:

    Eli, FYI early Tues morn I received an email from one of Waxman’s staffers, asking for some clarification regarding Pielke’s statement on hurricanes. I replied to this around 6:30 a.m. I recieved a request for further clarification, which i replied to. I also got several blackberry emails from the staffer during the hearing. This communication situation was complicated by the fact that I was traveling on Tues a.m. I wish I had had the time to make a clearer statement on this. The WMO “consensus” agrees with most of the elements of the argument put forward by Webster et al. and Emanuel (particularly in context of the causal chain described in the Curry et al. BAMS article). The cherry picking of the single statement from the “consensus” that he used is misrepresenting the statement, and before actually writing the phrase “misrepresenting the statement” I thought of a few much stronger phrases to use (but I am not interested in flaming with RP Jr, been there done that).

  39. 39
    Judith Curry says:

    BTW, Pielke seems to get really irked when his own BAMS 2005 article on hurricanes and global warming isn’t referenced. I think that is what this is really about, as well as the so-called misrepresentation of the scientific literature that Pielke recently accused Holland and Webster of. The Emanuel and Webster papers are the main “paradigm” shifting papers with many many citations in the scientific literature and in the media; there have been something like 30 papers published since then on the topic. Surely Waxman’s letter is not expected to be a complete literature review? Even the Curry et al. BAMS article is somewhat outdated as a review article, but in larger scheme of things is really a scientific footnote to Emanuel and Webster et al. papers (with the new ground in that paper being the politics, media, science interaction).

  40. 40
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    The argument that politics and science will always intermix is insufficient. To shrug off the fact is mere fatalism.

    There are ways to mitigate the mixture of science and politics, and there are people who do. We just had a blog which referenced work by Kerry Emmanuel. Yes, Emmanuel stuck in the shiv to “environmentalists” but he did not slight the reality of global warming. The mix of politics and science may not always be oil and water, but it doesn’t have to shaken together like salad dressing.

  41. 41

    It is strange to have authoritarianism brought up by believers of the AGW hypothesis, when it is the AGW faithful that are proposing authoritarian solutions to be implemented by agreements by imposed nation states. If only non-authoritarian voluntary measures were being proposed, this would not be the political issue that it is. As an early adopter of CFLs, passive and active solar, telecommuting, Time of Use metering, and a soon-to-be installer of reflective white roofing (mitigating approximately 1/50 billionth of global warming, it is only half my roof, but a zero cost decision since the repair was needed), I am far from opposed to having a smaller environmental footproint.

    But, I am opposed to the oppressive, economically damaging proposals justified based on models, which are not yet ready for attribution of the recent warming or projection of future warming. Even the “worst” “consensus” projections of future climate, do not justify diverting resources from poverty, disease, and the existential threat of Near Earth Objects. Economics is the science of allocation of scarce resources. The growth impairing, uneconomic, authoritarian measures being proposed, result in less resources being available to solve problems, less power to control our future, and more human suffering.

    It is alarming, at how the advocates of AGW are willing to sacrifice the skepticism and critical thinking standards of peer review science and blind themselves to other priorities. Unlike Pielke Jr., I think there is scientific truth to be found if we just have the freedom (from authoritarianism) to exercise the critical thinking tools available to us and have the patience to avoid premature conclusions.

  42. 42


    You ask: “Surely Waxman’s letter is not expected to be a complete literature review?”

    No, this is exactly what the WMO Statement does and why it should be cited, even if it suggests that there is not yet complete certainty on this issue. On climate science generally one should cite the IPCC, not Soon and Baliunas. Why not the same standards for the other area of science? Why you would see fit to debate this point is beyond me. Your exploration of my motives, while interesting and I suppose fair here at RC, may be appropriate behavior for anonymous public commenters, but do they really present you as a leadings scientist in the best light?

    Lets agree that you disagree that the WMO consensus is actually a consensus. Any other substantive disagreements with my testimony (aside from me personally)?

    Citing scientific consensus statements only when politically convenient is not good if one wants to assert the authority of consensus.

  43. 43
    Sashka says:

    Re: 8

    Very good!

  44. 44
    Sashka says:

    Re: 12

    Judith, you are cherrypicking on Pielke’s statement. Whether it’s 5-8 factor or 2-3, his point still stands: there is no consensus.

    [Response: You're confusing unanimity with consensus. Anybody familiar with the science, looking at the intellectuall firepower, track record, and scientific arguments on the side of Emanuel/Webster vs. the ones who say "little or no effect" would see where the strongest arguments lie. To be sure, this is not as much of a slam-dunk as the broader AGW issue, but to describe the situation as "hotly debated" is utterly misleading, even if technically correct. It's hotly debated in the sense that one side is very vocal, even though its arguments are weak. (You can guess which side I'm referring to) --raypierre]

  45. 45
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Saw TV coverage of this last night on NBC, ABC News, & Nightline, which surprised me, since the media have been deafeningly silent on global warming over the past 16 years – except for Nightline’s “pro-con-we-don’t-really-think-it’s-happening” program, “Is Science For Sale” (sponsored by Texaco) in 1995, the year AGW 1st got into the 95% confidence interval, and some increased coverage since Katrina.

    I’m actually angry and sad. I told my husband that the U.S. media are now reporting as if somehow Bush & certain Republicans are the sole guilty parties in suppressing & distorting the science, when the media themselves are even more guilty, since they are the main link between the scientists and the public — not some official reports or scientific presentations — which any journalist could have seen did not jive with regular science journal articles, or even the very conservative (due to their requiring broad consensus) IPCC reports.

    I’m watching the movie TITANIC & thinking, “there’s a good metaphor”….the crew in the lookout perch don’t have their binoculars, bec they’ve been misplaced (while the rich people inside drinking & dancing do have them). That’s the government-industry-media complex staying silent on GW at best, and denying & distorting the science at worst (even though they should and could know the truth). The officers comment about how it will be hard to see icebergs during that night, because the waters are still (this would be problems in establishing that GW is happening, both for the scientists & for laypersons looking to signs from the skies — which in no way has anything to do with the reality of it happening).

    The first part establishes the arrogance of the Titanic owner, builder, & passengers — how grand and unsinkable the Titantic is (Rose, the heroine, makes a comment about Freud that goes over their heads). They go full-speed ahead to show off (us in our arrogance and greed). When the crew finally spot the iceberg & sound the alarm (the scientists finally establishing AGW is happening, & the word finally getting out to the people that we must reduce our GHGs), it’s too late. They cut the engines (us just now seriously implementing conservation measures (assuming we do)), they veer hard to the side (us just now seriouly changing to alternative energy (assuming we do) — when the tech has been available for decades), but it’s too late. The ship is obviously sinking & still there are denialists.

    And then they only have half the lifeboats needed, bec it made the deck look ugly to the rich people (our aversion to wind generators), and afterall in their estimation the ship was unsinkable. And, of course, it is the rich who get dibbs.

    Where the metaphor breaks down is that back then they followed the ethic “women & children first,” but we’ve pretty much left the children to sink with the ship on this issue.

  46. 46
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #41, Martin, if you (and many others ) can seriously start reducing your GHGs through resource conservation & efficiency in ways that do not lower your living standard, but save you money, then we don’t really need authoritarian policies. So, it’s really up to you (& others), whether or not we eventually go to an authoritarian situation…or devolve into chaos, as happened the last moments on the Titanic.

  47. 47

    Re. #12:

    I don’t quite understand Dr. Curry’s suggestion that the observations indicate only a 2-3 times amplification over theory, rather than the 5-8 times amplification suggested in the WMO statement.

    Knutson and Tuleya (2004) find that an approximate 2ºC increase in SST (along with other atmospheric changes) that results from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 increases maximum winds in tropical cyclones by about 6%. In Emanuel (2005), Dr. Emanuel reports that the observed 0.5ºC increase in SST should (according to his theory, not K&T’s) increase the peak winds by about 2-3%. My best guess at what 0.5ºC would mean according to K&T would be an increase of peak winds of about 1.5-2% (close to Emanuel’s independent calculation). Dr. Emanuel (2005) further reports that a 2-3% increase in peak winds coupled with an expected increase in storm lifetime, would result in a Power Dissipation Index (PDI) increase of 8-12% adding that this is “far short of the observed change.” As far as the observed change, Dr. Emanuel (2005) reports that the combined PDI for the Atlantic and the Pacific has “nearly doubled over the past 30 years.” I’ll take nearly doubling as being an increase of 80-90%. Thus, an expected PDI increase (from CO2 increases) of about 10% divided by and observed increase of 80%, gives a value of about 8 times what was expected. Now, if you factor in the fact that, contrary to expectations resulting from CO2 increases, the atmospheric temperatures in the tropics have warmed less than surface temperatures, leading to an increase in the potential intensity of tropical cyclones more than expected from CO2 considerations alone, then, as Dr. Emanuel (2005) shows, the expected PDI increase should be about 40% (rather than 10%). Using this number, you get that observations indicate an increase of about 2 times what would be expected. I am guessing that this is how Dr. Curry arrived at her number. So, the degree of increase over expectations is dependent on your expectations. If you think CO2 increases are solely to blame, then the observations are off by about 8 times, if you think that factors in addition to CO2 increases are at play, then observations are only off 2 times, and maybe less once you take vertical wind shear and other factors into account. Additional indication that natural factors may be responsible for some of the cycling in Atlantic SSTs and thus tropical cyclone activity (in opposition to the ideas of Mann and Emanuel, 2006) can be found in the recent GRL paper by Zhang et al. (doi:10.1029/2006GL028683).

    -Chip Knappenberger
    to some degree, supported by the fossil fuels industry since 1992

  48. 48
    Chris Mooney says:

    Re 42 and preceding —

    Roger has a point about the Waxman committee’s statement on hurricanes, but I’d say it’s a relatively small one. The committee’s language was actually pretty careful. On the other hand, certainly they should have at least mentioned/referenced the WMO statement. My two cents:

  49. 49

    [[It is alarming, at how the advocates of AGW are willing to sacrifice the skepticism and critical thinking standards of peer review science and blind themselves to other priorities.]]

    Physician, heal thyself. It’s the deniers who have been avoiding peer-reviewed science, which is why so many denier papers (e.g. Idso’s, or many of Soon and Baliunas’s) show up in non-peer-reviewed journals or on the internet.

  50. 50

    [[Judith, you are cherrypicking on Pielke's statement. Whether it's 5-8 factor or 2-3, his point still stands: there is no consensus. ]]

    On anthropogenic global warming, there darn well is. If you didn’t mean AGW in general, how about listing some specifics next time?

Switch to our mobile site