Critics fail to exonerate report from politicization
Stuck pigs squeal, scalded dogs yelp, or insert another folksy phrase to describe the reaction to my Jan. 29 column in the Baton Rouge Advocate, with arguments made from the unconvincing to the incomprehensible.
The column took issue with the validity and reliability of the science behind some estimates used of sea level rise (SLR), which actually served as ancillary to the larger point – despite very similar forecasts in the 2012 and 2017 versions of its Coastal Master Plan, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority accepted drastically higher levels of SLR in the report’s formulation. The piece briefly noted problems in some of the studies used to assume those levels that would occur by 2100. Notably, it pointed out that the panel’s composition has changed dramatically in the interim, with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards appointing a majority of its members.
This piqued the interest of the lead author, outgoing head of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Donald Boesch, of one of the studies used. In a letter to the editor, he agreed that the 198 cm SLR maximum in the report was “unlikely, at least during this century, based on my appraisal of the latest science,” although opining that lower estimates on which the report based conclusions seemed serious enough.
Yet just three months ago, in other public fora Boesch sounded much more in character as a climate alarmist that man’s activities if left unchecked – and especially with Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s policy signals in that area – would cause unmitigated disaster. Observers have noted a consistent stream of overheated rhetoric from him on the subject over the years, perhaps caused by the large amount of government funding his organization received as an attempt to justify and attract more of it.
In an interview with fellow alarmist Bob Marshall just after the election, Boesch let people know that if Trump followed through with the Republican platform plank to nix the Paris Agreement that would necessitate draconian social and economic changes (the U.S. has not formally bound itself to follow it), if you live south of Baton Rouge you had better put your house on stilts and get some pirouges:
Donald Boesch, a New Orleans native and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said U.S. withdrawal could lead to as much as 6.5 feet of sea-level rise by the year 2100, and many meters more in the next century. “In that case, the coast would be up against the bluffs at Baton Rouge,” he said.
Perhaps politics and science move quickly, but in three months he went from the 198 cm level as a distinct possibility to now considering that “unlikely?” And he interestingly did not defend his 2013 study mentioned, which significant anthropogenic climate change critic Anthony Watts succinctly deconstructed by noting tidal gauge data didn’t support the report’s conclusion and it assumed a steady acceleration in SLR where none recently had occurred.
While his letter for the most part seemed temperate, Boesch did give away confirmation of his stridently alarmist agenda, when he termed a leading source of skepticism to climate change alarmism, the reports from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, as coming from a “wacko” organization (while hundreds of reputable critiques exist of the alarmist perspective, those from this group perhaps constitute the most comprehensive). This dismissive attitude of the very serious and scientifically compelling work involved typifies those enthralled in the faith of significant anthropogenic climate change, who simply will out of their minds any evidence contrary to their flimsy theses whenever they find themselves unable to repair the massive holes punched into their arguments. (Another letter, little more than an emotional screed by a Federal Emergency Management Administration employee, displayed the same anti-science, anti-intellectual attitude.)
Also firing off a letter was Mark Davis, the director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy. He doubts that a more alarmist attitude, perhaps driven by ideology, has infected the CPRA, but instead theorizes the altered attitude comes from the “state of the science and the ways risk management practices are evolving in the public and private sectors.” He also thinks that changing scenarios from SLR of 100, 150, and 200 cm to 50, 100, and 150 cm or start the effort over as I suggested as “the least responsible course,” alleging that my recommendation comes because “it disagrees with [my] view of climate science” and that the piece “impugn[s] the integrity of the team that has worked since 2012 to frame it.”
Note the misdirection and straw man argument he introduced. Regarding the former, the “evolution” of which he speaks goes undefined, but logically must entail that, in the past five years, evidence has mounted to show the threat of anthropogenic significant climate change greater than ever; otherwise, why change the scenarios? In fact, the exact opposite has occurred: predicted temperature increases simply have not happened as the years have gone by. With this important data unknown or ignored by Davis, he can imply that to reject “evolution” as equaling need for greater alarmism means to reject “science” and thus induce politicization. In reality, that view he propagates itself introduces politicization into the argument, so in his letter he accomplishes exactly what he maintained I did in the column.
As to the latter point, nowhere does the piece “impugn the integrity” of those who came up with the SLR forecasts in either 2012 or 2017. It merely notes (1) SLR estimates notoriously are inaccurate, (2) a team prior to the inauguration of Edwards nonetheless came up with estimates, which turned out largely the same as those from five years previously, and (3) a panel almost entirely different in membership from the one five years ago after the inauguration of Edwards posited much more alarmist scenarios than those of five years ago. Read the column: it does not imply in any way that the team influenced the scenarios, nor that its members did not do their best to come up with estimates despite the questionable data quality with which they had to work.
It’s not the estimates that introduce the bulk of politicization into the conclusions; faith in significant anthropogenic climate change is baked into these and can’t be undone. It’s what was done with these by the CPRA members. In misstating this, either Davis grasps at straws to bolster a losing argument or has reading comprehension problems.
The most cogent response came from Denise Reed, the chief scientist for The Water Institute of the Gulf in Baton Rouge, although she makes the same straw man mistake as did Davis. She attempted to defend the estimated levels and mindset that went into creating the 2017 scenarios, terming it an approach of “plan for the worst, but hope for the best.”
But nowhere does she explain why the highest case scenario of 2012 became the lowest case of 2017 and the highest case of 2017 doubled the highest case of 2012. What so materially changed between now and then that, given basically the same estimates, dramatically more intense scenarios became the selections? Again, no evidence exists to show that climate change has become any more severe in any significant way since 1978, nor do alarmists acknowledge any alternatives to an anthropogenic explanation (such as sunspots and/or the El Niño/La Niña phenomena, which would moot the concept of SLR stemming from man-made activities) causing what temperature variation occurs that then supposedly leads to climate change. If Reed has any insight as to why the CPRA members picked the more alarmist scenarios despite the stable objective conditions, she didn’t tell.
Similar data, no objective changes in the knowledge base about climate that would support more alarmism, yet more alarmism is what we got from the CPRA, so obviously something is going on here. The main point of the column emphasized that science rather than politics should guide CPRA decision-making. The published responses to the piece do nothing to suggest that the CPRA took this approach in its draft report, nor that the agency should not rectify that error prior to presenting the final version to the Louisiana Legislature.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:00