Friday, February 18, 2011

The truth not reported while activists rule-update

ABC science (perhaps in response to our complaint of a lack of balance with ABC's earlier coverage) get in on the act on a paper published in Nature that ABC claims links CO2 with extreme weather  "Study links extreme weather to climate change". In it they appear to have finally got around to interviewing (see update below-ABC did not interview Pielke directly and give the false impression of having done so in their report) the doyen of climate disaster studies  Roger Pielke Jnr. They give Dr Pielke two sentences: "Professor Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado says: "It is exciting to see the application of innovative approaches to connecting the dots between greenhouse gas emissions and damage from extreme events."
But he warns the methods used in the study are still in their "infancy"."
One wonders how long the interview went for, as ABC appear to have misrepresented Pielke Jnr's view's on this study. Here's a link to Dr Pielke's post on the paper in question: Flood disasters and human caused climate change.

Here are some extracts from that post:
Nature published two papers yesterday that discuss increasing precipitation trends and a 2000 flood in the UK.  I have been asked by many people whether these papers mean that we can now attribute some fraction of the global trend in disaster losses to greenhouse gas emissions, or even recent disasters such as in Pakistan and Australia.

I hate to pour cold water on a really good media frenzy, but the answer is "no."  Neither paper actually discusses global trends in disasters (one doesn't even discuss floods) or even individual events beyond a single flood event in the UK in 2000.  But still, can't we just connect the dots?  Isn't it just obvious?  And only deniers deny the obvious, right?

What seems obvious is sometime just wrong.  This of course is why we actually do research.  So why is it that we shouldn't make what seems to be an obvious connection between these papers and recent disasters, as so many have already done? 

Absent an increase in peak streamflows, it is impossible to connect the dots between increasing precipitation and increasing floods.  There are of course good reasons why a linkage between increasing precipitation and peak streamflow would be difficult to make, such as the seasonality of the increase in rain or snow, the large variability of flooding and the human influence on river systems.  Those difficulties of course translate directly to a difficulty in connecting the effects of increasing GHGs to flood disasters.
Pielke concludes "Connecting the dots is fun, but it is not science."
Read the rest and ask yourself if the ABC have fairly presented Pielke's opinion. Pielke Says "impossible to connect the dots", ABC says the opposite.

Update 19/2/2011 Dr Pielke provides a little more detail. ABC did not interview him directly, their article just a mis-mash of comments cut and paste from the NZ based Science Media Centre. ABC's lazy reporters caught out pretending to be journalists. Roger hence remains among the missing voices. From comments posted at Roger Pielke Jr's Blog:

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...13

Sure, my comments were part of a "round-up" put together by the Science Media Centre (London) which you can see in full here:
Here are my comments in full:
"It is exciting to see the application of innovative approaches to connecting the dots between greenhouse gas emissions and damage from extreme events. Pall et al. seek to quantify the increased risk due to greenhouse gas emissions for a particular flood event in England and Wales in 2000. Their methodology extends an approach first applied in the context of the European heat wave of 2003. Wide acceptance of such a methodology will most likely have to await the ability to demonstrate skill in seasonal forecasting (of the future) that improves upon methods that do not consider the influence of greenhouse gases. This is particularly the case in situations such as flooding in Wales and England, where the authors observe that the region has seen no long-term trends in either flooding or precipitation. Such important research is in its infancy."

Single soundbites rarely can capture the nuance involve with such issues, hence the importance of blogs to discuss in more depth.
H/T Loaded Dog

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