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The Importance of the Development Pathway in the Climate Debate

Posted by Olive Heffernan on behalf of Roger Pielke Jr.

Today I am testifying before the House Committee on Science and Technology of the U.S. Congress. In my testimony I argue that we should pay attention to development paths in addition to the mitigation of greenhouse

gases. You can see my testimony in full here.

A full reference:

Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2007. Statement to the House Committee on Science and Technology of the United States House of Representatives, The State of Climate Change Science 2007: The Findings of the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change, 16 May.


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    Thom said:

    I’m very concerned about this testimony because the opening remarks references large passages from a paper on hurricanes that Pielke previously highlighted on this same blog. The main citation which supported this paper, was a study that Pielke published in a skeptic journal called Energy and Environment.

    Pielke characterized his own study in Energy and Environment as “grey literature.”

    Oddly enough, Pielke has warned that academics sometimes launder grey literature.

    According to Pielke: “I have noticed recently a number of peer-reviewed papers that reference so-called “grey literature” (e.g., agency, company, NGO reports) which hasn’t itself been peer reviewed. Then the peer-reviewed study that cites the grey literature is subsequently cited in another publication to refer to the information in the original non-peer reviewed source. This is a way to give the veneer of peer review to a non-peer-reviewed study.”

    How is Pielke not “laundering grey literature” with the study he blogged about here? And how is reposting on the same topic not adding another spin cycle?

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    Roger Pielke, Jr. said:


    Your misrepresentations of my work and efforts to smear by association are entertaining, but misguided.

    The 1999 paper was indeed peer-reviewed, and the analysis is solid. Please let us know if you have any critique of the paper other that the venue where it is found. In any case, the 2007 paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is a completely separate analysis that depends in no way on the earlier study. On that analysis, please let us know if you have any problems whatsoever with the analysis. Similarly, on the Congressional testimony, which again is completely independent of the other two papers.

    Otherwise, we’ll have to assume that you cannot find anything wrong with my analyses themselves!


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    Jonathan Gilligan said:

    The focus on hurricanes is a distraction.

    I am much more concerned about the advice “Until our discussions of climate change are broadened to include a more comprehensive focus on development pathways, it is unlikely that we will make wise decisions about the future, including those about the emissions of greenhouse gases.

    I read this as saying that Congress should not take action on mitigation until we have a comprehensive vision for sustainable development. I suggested to Roger on Prometheus that this sort of thing is dangerous because it gives Congress a great excuse for inaction (lots of hearings but no legislation, which is the policy equivalent of the scientific focus on reducing uncertainties for which he and Sarewitz have strongly criticized the scientific community).

    Roger replied that he favors incremental approaches to climate change (i.e., don’t let failure to legislate adaptation stand in the way of getting started with mitigation) and does not support waiting for a grand comprehensive program, but that his testimony is simply a call to develop a larger vision with which to organize individual initiatives on sustainability (“I am calling for a little bit broader vision than tuning the atmosphere to a specific ppm target.”) I continue to worry that he’s (however inadvertantly) providing cover for inaction.

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    Roger Pielke, Jr. said:

    Thanks Jonathan for your comments. We will have to disagree about whether or not policy makers can simultaneously consider more than one agenda at once. I am pretty sure that this is BAU.

    Many people believe that a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the single most important problem we face. This may or may not be the case, however, given that it will take decades to succeed in this challenge, there are many other decisions that will have to be taken in the meantime in order to create a more equitable and environmentally sustainable world.

    To suggest that a focus on sustainable development distracts from the mitigation challenge has the effect of taking sustainable development off the table. And this I think would be a serious mistake. It simply opens up the tired debate over whether adaptation and mitigation are in conflict. As the IPCC says, they are not and must be pursued simultaneously.

    Further, to suggest that advocacy for sustainable development provides “cover for inaction” on mitigation shows how destructive the debate on climate change has become. So are we only allowed to talk about mitigation all the time, lest we be labeled as giving “cover” to the bad guys? Maybe a useful rhetorical tactic, but hardly useful for thinking about how to build a better future.


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