An ethical challenge for Greg Laden – put your money where your mouth is

Posted: November 12, 2013 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics

I’m happy to assist this appeal for donations to victims of the typhoon in the Philippines as well as the challenge to Greg Laden the serial liar and libel merchant. What a wanker that guy is!

I’m happy to assist this appeal for donations to victims of the typhoon in the Philippines as well as the challenge to Greg Laden the serial liar and libel merchant. What a wanker that guy is!

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  1. omnologos says:

    My impression is that Laden is one of those good guys who’ve decided it’s ok to become monsters for a Higher Cause. The history of humanity is replete with them.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Roger Pielke, Jr. said…

    Seth Borenstein of AP sent me an email asking some questions, my quotes didn’t make it into his story, but here they are in 2 comments:

    Here are ten questions:
    1. What human factors do you see in play here in Typhoon Haiyan?

    RP: If you are referring to the physical qualities of Haiyan, then I will defer to the recent IPCC AR5: “In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

    That means that the scientific evidence does not presently support claims of attribution of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on tropical cyclone behavior with respect to century-long trends (much less the behavior of individual storms). The IPCC AR5 cites some of our peer-reviewed work in its report (Weinkle et al. 2012, Journal of Climate).

    Our peer-reviewed work suggests that assuming model predictions for future changes in tropical cyclone behavior are perfectly accurate (for a range of models) that it will be many decades, even centuries, before such a signal can be detected in trend data. More generally, I have written: “In practical terms, on timescales of decision making a signal that cannot be seen is indistinguishable from a signal that does not exist”

    Of course, there are scientists willing to go beyond what can be supported empirically to make claims at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this subject — e.g., Mann, Francis, Masters are always good for inscrutable and unsupportable quotes. Such outlier views are welcomed, as help to push science forward. But they are also a minefield for journalists, politicians and activists who may cherry pick them as if they are somehow representative.

    2. What about poverty and coastal development? How much of those were as factors?

    RP: In general there is an inverse relationship between loss of life and property damage. The wealthier nations become the less loss of life in big disasters (again, in general). At the same time, more wealth also means more property damage.

    While the details of Haiyan’s course of death and destruction will have to await post-disaster assessment, what we can say is that the development of warning systems and responses have led to a dramatic decrease in loss of life to tropical cyclones (and disasters generally) around the world. See:

    Haiyan, and events like it, tell us that there is still much work to do in addressing vulnerability to disasters. The long-term trends tell us that we have a sense of what actions will be effective in that work.

    3. How about construction quality or is this a case with winds (depending on who is measuring) of 150 or 200 mph, is construction no longer an issue?

    RP: Construction quality, including standards, enforcement, etc. is always going to be important in locations exposed to high winds. When the intensity is such that it exceeds building capacity to withstand, then it is important to have plans in place for evacuation to safe zones or shelters. To suggest in any situation that “construction is no longer an issue” is probably the wrong way to think about the challenge – construction always matters.

    4. What about disaster preparations, quality or lack thereof, as a factor?

    RP: The Philippines have centuries of experience with typhoons and the tragedies that can result. The specific lessons from Haiyan (Yolanda there) should await a careful assessment of what worked well and what might be improved. It is premature to speculate.

    5. What about sea level rise, especially that attributed to climate change?

    RP: Sea level rise is inexorable and relatively slow in comparison to the surges associated with tropical cyclones. It is important to be aware of, especially in the context of long-term planning. It is not possible to identify a “sea level rise” signal in historical normalized losses from tropical cyclones, and of course, not a GHG-driven sea-level rise signal. More generally, when we are talking about 5 meter storm surges, I am not convinced that 3 mm/year of sea level rise is a big issue in the magnitude of disaster losses (because building and adaptation along the coast is continuous and in the context of where the sea is presently), even though sea level rise is (again) real and important to consider in long-term planning and will have economic and social consequences.

    6. When you look at all the human factors and then look at all the natural factors, what percentage would you put at human-caused (including poverty, development, population, preparation, construction, and climate change related) and what part natural? And why?

    RP: Sorry, I don’t understand this question? What part of what?

    Disasters are well understood to be consequences of human development (As Gilbert White used to say, extremes are acts of God, disasters are acts of Man) — where we live, how we live, etc. So you could say that a disaster is 100% human caused. At the same time, without the extreme event there wouldn’t have been a disaster either. So you could say that the disaster was 100% natural caused. Not sure this is a useful question, though I do understand the urge to assign blame. A better question is, what actions can we be taken so that future storms have a lesser human impact?

    7. This is an area that normally gets more tropical cyclones than anywhere else in the world and generally stronger ones. And the Philippines are 7000 islands smack in the middle, how much of this is unavoidable? And when we talk unavoidable, what about just avoiding living in dangerous places, does this count?

    RP: The same question could be asked of Miami, San Francisco, Tokyo, or Boulder etc etc. As Dennis Mileti used to say, we cannot avoid disasters, but we can shape how we experience disasters. The Philippines are always going to experience tropical cyclones, some very extreme. Similarly, San Francisco is always going to experience earthquakes. The questions to be asked well before an event occurs (or in the aftermath of the most recent event) are how do we want to experience those disasters, and what can we do to shape those experiences via purpose action (which invokes issues of wealth, politics. capacity, etc.)?

    8. There’s also a few human factors that lessen disasters _ warning, good construction, disaster preparations, etc. What were their roles here?

    RP: Again, rather than speculate we should await rigorous post-disaster assessments. These are important questions that deserve thoughtful approaches.

    9. In this case did human factors that lessen disasters outweigh or come close to outweighing human factors that exacerbate disasters? And why?

    RP: Ill posed .. see #6.

    10. In general, looking at the last decade of mega-disasters worldwide, are human factors worsening or lessening disaster effects? And why?

    RP: Overall, globally and over decades, disasters from weather events are resulting in lower damages per unit of GDP and less loss of life. This is a sign that the world is collectively doing better. Events like Haiyan remind us that there is a lot of work still to do, and other very large, consequential disaster events (Japan and Boxing day tsunamis, etc.) also remind us that the human toll can still be very tragic. In this sense disasters are too important to merely serve as a talking point in the debate over climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

    Hope this helps, please follow up if anything is unclear etc.
    Mon Nov 11, 09:34:00 PM MST

  3. tallbloke says:

    extreme weather – frequency graph

  4. tallbloke says:

    The Philippines government has raised the official death toll from the typhoon disaster to 1,744 people, but the final number is expected to rise significantly.

  5. hunter says:

    The insight on how the reporter’s bias shaped the questions is fascinating. It is amazing that major media reporters operate at little more than the “when did you stop beating your wife?” Line of manipulative questioning.
    Your answers were thoughtful and reasonable….no wonder they did not make it into the article.

  6. hunter says:

    That graph of the US hurricanes is a bit confusing. It makes it appear that there are more hurricanes coming ashore as of late.

  7. Anthony Watts says:

    Thanks Rog,

    Laden’s posturing over the 10K death toll “estimate” that I said I’d wait on before reporting just went south:

    Philippine Prez. Aquino: Typhoon Haiyan deaths likely 2,000 to 2,500 — not 10,000

  8. tallbloke says:

    Good call Anthony. Also good that the world was galvanised to action by initial reports, and that you were an early responder.