I’m spending a couple of weeks in Vienna while attending a workshop on planet formation. Spent yesterday doing a bike tour, and wine tasting, in the Wachau Valley, and then spent today visiting some of the attractions in Vienna. The picture on the right is the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace. We also walked around Belvedere Palace and then visited the Art History Museum.

It’s been very hot, although not as hot as parts of France. Out apartment doesn’t have airconditioning and, for a few days, I didn’t even have a fan. It was remarkably uncomfortable and I found it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. A fan certainly helps, but it’s still uncomfortably warm at night.

Something that has struck me while attending this workshop is that even though it is reasonably focussed (planet formation) there are still aspects of this topic that I’m not familiar with (and the same, as far as I can see, is true for the other attendees). I think many areas of science have become sufficiently complex that it’s not easy to stay in touch with all of what is going on, even for those in that research area. This probably has implications for how we might define relevant expertise. It might also suggest that those who think they can see obvious problems in complex research areas may simply not understand the issues quite as well as they think they do.

I’ll finish by highlighting Michael Tobis’s Realclimate post about Absence and Evidence. It discusses the recent article by Ross McKitrick that highlights the work of Roger Pielke Jr. It caused a bit of a Twitter furore in which Roger seemed incapable of distinguishing between a criticism of what Ross McKitrick implied in his article, and an attack on himself. To be fair, this was not a surprising outcome.

It seems pretty clear that Ross McKitrick used Roger’s work to imply that Climate Change is not impacting extreme weather events. This seems clearly not true, and yet Roger seems quite comfortable with Ross McKitrick’s article. The link between climate change and extreme weather events is complicated, and some do indeed make claims about climate change and extreme weather events that are indeed too strong. Implying no connection between climate change and extreme events is, however, not a suitable response to such claims. Treating a criticism of such an article as an attack on one’s work is bizarre. Maybe Roger needs to remind himself of the Mertonian Norms.

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21 Responses to Vienna

  1. Eli Rabett says:

    In one sense Roger is boring. Same old same old and always wrong. In another, as Ethon points out, he is delicious.

  2. Everett F Sargent says:

    I just ignore RPJr these days. I just don’t see any objective point in going there anymore. Broken record as it were.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    For technical discussions of Energy but also Climate Change,
    BNC Discussion Forum
    is now available for registering.

    The format is topical while moderation is post facto.

    As lengthy sequences of comments often veer off topic, those suitable for the BNC Discussion Forum are encouraged, now, to be posted on that site.

  4. Roger has been consistent over the past decade plus, so I find it odd that you continue to misunderstand or misinterpret his position. He does not write that climate change is not impacting severe weather. He says that severe weather is rare enough that if climate change is impacting it, it hasn’t shown up in relevant data sets as of yet.

    If McKitrick does in fact misinterprety Pielke, then why don’t you discuss his misinterpretation? When I was a more frequent blogger I sometimes wished to disassociate myself from some of my commenters. Perhaps on occasion you feel the same.

  5. Tom,

    Roger has been consistent over the past decade plus, so I find it odd that you continue to misunderstand or misinterpret his position.

    I don’t think I’ve really expressed much of a view about Roger’s position.

    He says that severe weather is rare enough that if climate change is impacting it, it hasn’t shown up in relevant data sets as of yet.

    Actually, most of what he does (as far as I’ve seen) is argue that there isn’t a signal in damage costs.

    If McKitrick does in fact misinterprety Pielke, then why don’t you discuss his misinterpretation?

    This is essentially what happened. McKitrick appears to be drawing incorrect conclusions about climate change and extreme events and is using Roger’s work to justify such a conclusion. Based on my discussion with Roger on Twitter, he seems comfortable with his work being used in this way.

  6. Hi ATTP, do you have a link to RP’s twitter conversation?

  7. Tom,
    It’s on Twitter. It’s not hard to find. Given what happened the last time you and I discussed RPJ, I’m not that keen to provide a link.

  8. Okay, I should probably provide a link.

  9. izen says:

    @-“Since 1965, more parts of the US have seen a decrease in flooding than have seen an increase.”

    Or, there are more parts of the US suffering an extreme drought than are suffering extreme flooding ?

    @-“And from 1940 to today, flood damage as a percentage of GDP has fallen to less than 0.05 per cent per year from about 0.2 per cent.”

    Why ? Context-less factoids are always suspect. They dog-whistle the audience to ‘hear’ whatever explanation they are motivated to want.

    It is certainly NOT the result of a change in the climate. Rainfall has not decreased, probably the opposite.

    The probable answer is in one of the two major socialist, or at least state/communitarian, projects initiated by FDR in response to the market crash of the 1930s.
    The highways were one.
    The other was the flood control act that mandated the War department, later the Army corps of engineers, to build dams, levees, reservoirs, spillways and flood containment to ‘tame’ the rivers.
    These were Federal and State funded Public projects that had almost carte blanc to do whatever would save money and lives. These were some of the largest, and most expensive investment in infrastructure that the US has ever made. Taming the Mississippi also enables it use as a major transport route for much of US imports and exports. Before that it regularly flooded the surrounding agricultural lands and could only be navigated at limited times by Mark Twain.

    Since the mid 1950s the cost of flood prevention and all the other factors in managing water resources (excepting drinking and sewage water management) has cost about…
    0.2 per cent of the GDP.

  10. Everett F Sargent says:


    Source(s) of your last comment (e. g. link(s)) wrt USACE and local damages/control structures vs national GDP?

  11. libertador says:

    Concerning the flood question, there is an interesting graphic in the linked by Micheal Tobis, about the distribution of precipitation change:

  12. Steven Mosher says:

    speaking of damage. Its amazing to see how hong kong survives typhoons

  13. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — Vienna has a wonder natural history museum with a fabulous meteorite collection.

  14. izen says:

    Vienna has a long and interesting history, since Roman times, of central governance carrying out flood control projects that enabled much of the city to be built on the Danube flood plain.
    Most recently a whole new river course was opened to divert floodwaters in the late 1980s.

    Flood control is one of the prime examples of what central government has to carry out in response to environmental threats because capitalism is incapable of any effective response. It is a pattern of social organisation and response, that will need to be expanded under the impacts of climate change.

  15. David,
    Yes, we almost went there, but went to the Art History Museum instead.

    Heard a bit about that on one of the tours we did.

  16. Marco says:

    “He says that severe weather is rare enough that if climate change is impacting it, it hasn’t shown up in relevant data sets as of yet.”

    If this is indeed what he says, maybe you can explain what those “relevant data sets” are. Pielke Jr seems to suggest in his tweet that “damages” is a relevant parameter to use. Many people in the past have already pointed to the problem with using that metric: it does not (and cannot) take into account any actions aimed at mitigating the impact of extreme events.

    It’s like saying that there is no evidence that the average speed of a formula 1 car has increased in the last sixty years, because there is no upward trend in casualties. Screw the actual average lap times (corrected for circuit changes to the extent possible, of course).

  17. Snape says:

    The Flood Control Act was also a big deal for the Pacific NW. Here’s an interesting look at a tragedy which took place only two years prior:

    “71 years ago today, what was once Oregon’s 2nd largest city was erased from the map in hours. If you’ve never heard of the Vanport Flood, read on…it only happened 5 miles from downtown Portland.”


    I agree with izen – the statistics on flooding are very misleading. A point that RPJ and McKitrick likely keep to themselves.

  18. Eli , bad as Roger’s tweet is, it looks even worse in juxtaposition with the reinsurance news-

  19. Pingback: Slow travel | …and Then There's Physics

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