by Judith Curry
The U.S. House of Representatives Hearing on Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy has commenced. The House website for the hearing is here.
Live blogging: Gavin Schmidt, Eli Kintisch, Jay Gulledge
Real time rebuttal (password required): Kevin Trenberth, Andrew Dessler, Gary Yohe.
However, questions have been raised regarding the integrity of the processes employed by those scientists in generating the information for use in public policy. Such process questions have triggered concerns about the robustness of the information being used to support policy shifts, reducing public confidence in certain policy solutions.
The potentially monumental impact of climate change policy on the U.S. economy and nearly all aspects of daily life demand that not only are such policies grounded in science, but that the science itself is generated through processes and procedures that are universally accepted. This hearing will provide an overview of some of the process questions within climate change science and policy that have been raised in recent years.
Whether it is scientific method or regulatory procedure, process is defined as a systematic series of actions that are broadly known and well understood. Given the potential widespread impacts on the U.S. economy, climate change policy has received a level of scrutiny and analysis that rival some of the most important debates the U.S. has engaged in. As such, it is vital that the processes upon which climate change science and policy are based be widely accepted, understood, and adhered to.
Examples of process issues:
- Climate models
- Data quality
- IPCC process
- EPA Endangerment process
Well Armstrong’s testimony was rather bizarre. He is pushing simple time series forecasting methods, and doesn’t seem to know the first thing about complex system modeling using dynamic methods, and apparently nothing about climate modeling. I think it was a good idea to get someone from outside the climate modeling field to comment on the methods used by the climate community, but this should have been someone knowledgable about scientific computing, complex nonlinear systems with practical experience. Armstrong did not fit the bill here.
Muller’s punchline conclusion is:
Based on the preliminary work we have done, I believe that the systematic biases that are the cause for most concern can be adequately handled by data analysis techniques. The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.
Despite potential biases in the data, methods of analysis can be used to reduce bias effects well enough to enable us to measure long-term Earth temperature changes. Data integrity is adequate. Based on our initial work at Berkeley Earth, I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.
Muller’s testimony provides little detail (and only one figure). He states that three manuscripts will soon be submitted for publication, and any statements in his testimony is preliminary.
Anthony Watts objects to Muller’s testimony, see here. Watts concern seems to be that Muller is making public statements about preliminary work for which the data has not yet been made available. Watts even sent his comments to the House Committee. The point is this. Muller did not ask to testify. The timing was not great in terms of the project’s readiness to make public statements about their findings. I think Muller struck a reasonable balance by making a statement of relevance to the matter at hand, with the appropriate caveats. His punchline conclusions are arguably premature, but this was a judgment call in terms of what to include in the testimony.
Christy’s punch lines:
Climate assessments like the IPCC have to date been written through a process in which IPCC-selected authors are given significant authority over the text, including judging their own work against work of their critics. This has led to biased information in the assessments and thus raises questions about a catastrophic view of climate change because the full range of evidence is not represented.
Because this issue has policy implications that may potentially raise the price of energy significantly (and thus essentially the price of everything else), the U.S. Congress should not rely exclusively on the U.N. assessments because the process by which they were written includes biased, false, and/or misleading information about one of the most murky of sciences – climate. In my opinion, the Congress needs at least one second- opinion produced by well-credentialed climate scientists but overseen by a non-activist team which includes those with experience in the scientific method, the legal aspects of “discovery,” and who simply know what is important in answering the questions at hand.
For hockey stick addicts, Christy’s testimony is a must read. He describes how the hockey stick made it into the TAR (note Christy and Mann were co-chairs of the relevant chapter).
Glaser’s punch line:
In my view, EPA failed to observe basic requirements set forth in applicable law as to how a regulatory determination such as the Endangerment Finding should be made. These flaws are not technical. They go to the fundamental fairness and transparency of the way EPA arrived at its Endangerment Finding and the quality of the information on which EPA relied. The procedures EPA failed to observe are designed to ensure the integrity both of the decision- making process and the ultimate result an agency reaches. EPA’s failure to observe these basic requirements therefore undermines confidence in the substantive scientific conclusions in the Endangerment Finding.
A well argued statement, with interesting examples of “process” issues re the EPA.
I am here today to affirm my profession’s conclusion that human beings are influencing climate and that this entails certain risks. If we have any regard for the welfare of our descendents, it is incumbent on us to take seriously the risks that climate change poses to their future and to confront them openly and honestly.
Far from being alarmist, scientists have historically erred on the side of underestimating risk.
Standard stuff. But according to the live blogging pundits, Emanuel did a superb job in oral testimony and in answering questions.
First, if the U.S. were to act without solid assurance of comparable efforts by China, India, and other industrialized countries, its efforts would make almost no difference to global temperature, especially if industrial production and associated emissions are simply exported to other countries. Second, even global action is unlikely to yield U.S. benefits commensurate with the costs it would incur in making steep GHG emission cuts. Third, globally, even with moderate emission reductions, benefits would not be much greater than costs, and, fourth, conflicting economic interests will make international agreements on mandatory limits unstable.
Not my area of expertise, but his arguments seem reasonable to me.