by Judith Curry
A few things that caught my eye this past week.
Lessons from the dust bowl
From NPR: This drought’s no dry run: lessons from the dust bowl. Excerpts:
More than 63 percent of the country in the lower 48 states is experiencing drought, leading some to compare the summer of 2012 to the droughts of the 1950s and even the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.
“Certainly from a geographical footprint, it’s right up there with the ’50s and ’30s at over 60 percent,” says climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“But the ’30s and ’50s were multiyear droughts,” he says, “and this drought, so far for the majority of the country, is not a multiyear drought yet.”
North Carolina lawmakers have temporarily banned using a science panel’s recommendation to plan for rising sea levels, after the governor decided Thursday not to veto the measure.
The measure has been lampooned by comedians and has drawn the ire of environmentalists. It blocks the state from adopting any rate of sea level change for regulatory purposes until 2016, while authorizing more studies.
Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision means the bill becomes law, bringing temporary closure to the debate that began when the science panel warned that sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 and threaten coastal areas. Coastal development group NC-20 rejected those findings and said the seas would rise only 8 inches.
North Carolina law makers need to read up on decision making under uncertainty. Here we have two scenarios: 8 inches or 3 feet sea level rise. The reality may not even be between those bounds (when you account for geological processes and land use).
Pielke Jr on evidence-based policy
Roger Pielke Jr has an excellent post entitled Evidence-Based Policy: Which Side are You On?. Excerpts:
We’d all like to think that policy makers consider evidence from experts in how they make decisions. Of course they do, but in case after case, such consideration takes a form far from that which might be considered ideal by most experts. Typically, a decision is made based on considerations that have little or nothing to do with evidence, and only then is evidence sought out to support that decision. Science in all of its glorious bountifulness is almost always compliant.
So where does this leave us if we’d like to secure effective evidence-based policy?
The best way to divide the world into two camps are to segregate those who seek science to confirm political prejudices and those who support effective and trustworthy science arbitration, wherever it may lead. The scientific community has at times lost perspective in all of this complexity and found itself in the former category rather than the latter, siding with political advocates whose interests in the integrity of science come second to whatever issue of the day they are championing.
Securing evidence-based policy with integrity requires a ruthless adherence to the ideals of effective science arbitration, even when uncomfortable and inconvenient. Perhaps most uncomfortable of all is the realization that those who would champion the political causes supported by most scientists themselves would not champion the integrity of science itself when its results do not conform to their prejudices. The championing of scientific integrity is a cause unto itself.
I think that this is exceptionally well said. The victim of all this is the integrity of science, which is the main issue that I have tried to champion.
North Carolina policy makers: please read Pielke’s article.
Climate skeptics as conspiracy theorists
And finally, if you don’t want to deal with the issue of scientific integrity, you can always call your opponents conspiracy theorists. From a post on the talkinkingclimate blog:
It might seem odd to lump climate change – a scientific theory supported by thousands of peer reviewed papers and hundreds of independent lines of evidence – with conspiracy theories like these. But new research published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science has found a link between the endorsement of conspiracy theories and the rejection of established facts about climate science.
In a survey of more than 1000 readers of websites related to climate change, people who agreed with free-market economic principles and endorsed conspiracy theories were more likely to dispute that human-caused climate change was a reality.