Sunday, January 31, 2010



Media Consumption and the Low Information Diet

I was listening to a podcast with Tyler Cowen. Tyler is a brilliant economist at George Mason University, a blogger at Marginal Revolution, and a cultural omnivore. The interviewer asked him how many blogs he subscribed to in his feed reader. The answer was 19. I was amazed at that answer, and I started counting the number of feeds in my Google Reader and stopped counting at 100. Is something wrong with me?

Lately, I've been trying to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, but I fail when it comes to media consumption. I am a high information person. The internet is like crack for me. I want to know everything and read everything. This can't be done, but I have fun trying.

Minimalists praise the low information diet. Less is more. But I can't get on board with this aspect of the program. I have tried. My recent bout of writer's block has come precisely because of this attempt to curb my media consumption. The dirty secret of all writers is not that they have original ideas, but they take old ideas and recombine them in new ways.

Minimalism is fabulous when it comes to material things. You don't need a lot of stuff. It is also great when it comes to design, aesthetics, and writing. You want things to be simple. But when it comes to non-material things like culture, knowledge, and the like, it leaves you with boredom and stagnation.

The best illustration I can give is a museum with plain white walls and open spaces but is filled with art and artifacts. The proportion of emptiness to fullness is such that the surroundings do not detract from the exhibit. This is how your life should be. We eschew some things in order to enjoy others.

Time and quality should be the limits of media consumption. Variety and depth should not. This means turning off American Idol and putting some Bach and Miles Davis on your iPod. These are ideas for formulating a media consumption strategy or an MCS. Here is my MCS.

I divide media into audio and visual. Reading, DVD's, and the internet are visual. They require my eyeballs. Audio does not require my eyeballs. These are things like the radio and my iPod. Because my eyeballs are free, I can listen to things while doing other things such as driving or washing the dishes. The iPod shuffle is the best device for this audio consumption because it is extremely small and unobtrusive.

Reading time is the time I set aside in the evenings for visual media consumption. I do this right before I go to sleep. This is when I peruse my Google Reader, empty out my email inboxes, and read whatever books and magazines I have on hand. I recommend having a backpack to carry your reading and listening materials in. My backpack is a camouflage hunter's backpack I bought from the sporting goods section at Wal-Mart. It is really cheap but rugged. I carry books, magazines, my Sony Walkman, and my iPod touch in that thing.

Saturday nights are for watching DVDs and television. I cancelled my Netflix membership, but I find myself sneaking to Blockbuster to rent stuff. Movies largely suck, but there is a lot of good television and documentary stuff out there. So, I will go back to my Netflixing and perhaps consider getting a DVR.

There is no end to the supply of media, so your limit on the intake should be a time limit. I am guilty of sacrificing my life on the altar of media consumption. Visual media consumption should always be kept on the borders of your daily living. For me, these borders are when the sun has set and all the work has been done. When my MCS is clicking as it should, I find I derive most of my information from the audio sources. (I really enjoy EconTalk while washing the dishes.)

I remember reading in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire that the vampires had to stop sucking blood before the heartbeat of their victim had ceased or else they would be dragged into the abyss of death with the person they had sucked dry. That is a vivid illustration I know, but it is a familiar knowledge to writers, readers, and drinkers which describes Anne Rice quite well. You have to know when to stop drinking the blood. In the case of media consumption, the same thing applies. You have to turn off the flow and step back before you fall into the sleep of death. For me, it is simply sleep. I will consume media until I lose consciousness. Gamers and programmers can relate to this.

I can't do the low information thing. The abundance of media is what makes me rich. But I can keep it from being a bad habit with my media consumption strategy. I just need to be disciplined in turning it off when I need to do other things.

Robert Muir-Wood on the Stern Report

Robert Muir-Wood is quoted in today's Sunday Times on how the Stern Review Report used his work. Muir-Wood was a valuable participant in our 2006 Hohenkammer workshop. It is unfortunate that both IPCC and Stern chose to misuse his work, which has placed Muir-Wood in a difficult position. Here is what the Times reports today (emphasis added):
Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at Risk Management Solutions, a US-based consultancy, said the Stern report misquoted his work to suggest a firm link between global warming and the frequency and severity of disasters such as floods and hurricanes.

The Stern report, citing Muir-Wood, said: “New analysis based on insurance industry data has shown that weather-related catastrophe losses have increased by 2% each year since the 1970s over and above changes in wealth, inflation and population growth/movement.

“If this trend continued or intensified with rising global temperatures, losses from extreme weather could reach 0.5%-1% of world GDP by the middle of the century.”

Muir-Wood said his research showed no such thing and accused Stern of “going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence”.

The criticism is among the strongest made of the Stern report, which, since its publication in 2006, has influenced policy, including green taxes.

Here is Stern's spokesman's odd response to Muir-Wood's comments:
A spokesman for Stern said: “Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.”
My published critique of Stern's dodgy disaster dossier can be found here:
Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 17, pp. 302-310.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Royal H. Mixte Logos

Some of you have asked what the decals on my Royal H. mixte will look like, and I now have pictures. But there won't actually be any decals: the logos are being painted (stenciled) by hand, by Circle A in Providence, RI. I chose these designs out of many that were available, because I thought the aesthetic would suit my bicycle very nicely.

So this is what the downtube logo will look like:

And this is what the headtube logo will look like:

The image may seem a little strange in .jpg form, but on an actual head tube it looks ridiculously beautiful - like an expressionist woodblock print. I remember stopping in my tracks the first time I saw this design on another Royal H. bike, and thinking "I want THAT". Eventually I will get a headbadge made and attach it over the logo, but for now it will be painted. (Meanwhile, if you are a headbadge maker, do drop me a line - especially if you are local.)

The logos will be done in a dark gold (more like a bronze or copper) over the sage green frame. Circle A warned me that there won't be a great deal of contrast between the frame colour and the logos, but that is fine with me; I am not going for a contrasty look. The lug cutouts (or "windows", if you will) will be painted the same gold as the logos, and I've also asked Circle A to do the lug outlining. I can do it myself, but their work will no doubt be nicer, plus it will match the other gold detailing exactly. Here is an example of a fancy outlining job they've done on another bike, but mine will be a toned down version.

So there it is. I think the paint and logos are done at this point and they are working on the lug outlining. I haven't seen pictures of the painted frame yet, but I am sure it's gorgeous. The anticipation is killing me!

Can you Believe it?

Who would of thought it?

A game of soccer in Christchurch could get 19 thousand+

Wasn't even an international, but a club game, that didn't
involve Christchurch.

The Wellington Phoenix must now make this an annual fixture
with Adelaide, to bring soccer to Christchurch.

The night was a 100% success, they double what they thought
they would get, the crowd was singing and chanting, the
game was tense, people of all ages were enjoying themselves.

This is what sport is suppose to be about, the local
council has spent $50 Million dollars of the rate payers
money, so they just cant use this venue for one sport, they
must bring soccer to Christchurch as much as they can.

The sporting public here deserves more and we now have
a venue to enjoy.

So fingers crossed.

Oh by the way Wellington won the game!

Wairarapa Dressage Champs

What a weekend - Saturday, wall to wall sunshine and people nearly toppling off their horses with heat exhaustion vs Sunday, raining steadily all day and raincoats and very wet riders and horses. Crazy summer!!!!

Nicola and Lagan had an interesting competition but can take a lot from the two days and Nicki now has plenty to work on and some goals to work towards for their next time out. Hopefully the two of us will start attending the local dressage group rallies too - I think it would do us both good, I suspect Meg might disagree, mwahaha!

Their first test on Saturday was something of a disaster. A mix of Nicki's nerves and Lagan not being on task made for a fairly hairy test and a score of 43%. Lots of mistakes and a course error did not help their cause. Understandably Nicki was feeling fairly downtrodden so I did my best to encourage her to come back the following day to give it another go - I was sure they could do better!

I think it took quite a lot for Nicki to summon up the courage to return today but she did and all credit to her for doing so. The weather today was, as I said above, heinous! Today's test was 1.3 and I am pleased to say that they did much better. Still low scoring (49%) but SO much better than Saturday. Consequently Nicki is feeling quite a lot better and a lot more positive - Yay!

I re-connected with a rider whose acquaintance I made some years back and took some photos of her on her lovely bay, Louis. Poor Rebecca had a complete mare of a test today - the horse went well and she rode, as usual, beautifully, but the heavens fell down on top of them both - YUCK!

I took some photos, both days. Day 1, I had camera on wrong setting - stupid! Day 2, it was so vile that the photos are, shall we say, atmospheric, haha!

Warming up - Day 1
A smile!
Rainy test - Day 2
Dancing in the rain
Day 2
Rain rain rain!
My lovely boy
Dressage in the sun! Day 1
Day 1
The relieved and happy face of a dressage survivor
Day 1
Poor Rebecca!
Wet but happy!

Pop Quiz -- Who Said What?

How well have you been following the climate debate?

Nature asked six climate change experts their views on the significance of the Copenhagen Accord. Before I provide the link, I've listed the experts below and a passage from each. Your job is to match the expert with the phrase. No cheating!

Feel free to enter your guesses as comments. I'll update this post with the answers after the weekend. Have fun guessing!
A- Mike Hulme, UEA
B- Jonathan Lash, WRI
C- Bill McKibben,
D- Roger Pielke, Jr., CU
E- John Shellnhuber, PIK
F- David Victor, Stanford

1 -“The US and China decided they didn't want these pesky [little] nations burdening the talks with their unreasonable demands for survival, so they cut their own pact. But in some sense, the US and China, having broken the UN process, also bought it.”

2 - “The Copenhagen Accord is a much bigger — and better — deal than many people realize.”

3- “If 'dangerous' is 2 °C, then I suspect we are toast. A lot of people will lament that, but one has to wonder whether this is not a failure of governments but rather a failure of people.”

4 - “It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. [Yet] many in the climate debate seem ready to put the Copenhagen experience out of their minds and gear up for doing it all over again in Mexico City. Insane!”

5 - “. . . we need to set near-term targets that are pragmatic and technology-based, and they should be achievable on the basis of credible social, technical and economic analysis, not aspirational targets driven by IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] science.”

6 - “. . . the many small countries were not the problem in Copenhagen; [the problem was] primarily the United States and China. If those two were willing to cooperate on climate protection then the UN system would also work fine.”
The Nature piece with the full comments from the six experts is here.

More Quiet Post-Publication Changes to the Stern Report

The Telegraph reports today that several sections of the Stern Review report were altered subsequent to its publication, with no formal notice given. Apparently, the quiet change of the hurricane loss error that I recently noted was one of a number of such changes.

The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, which was commissioned by the Treasury, was greeted with headlines worldwide when it was published in October 2006

It contained dire predictions about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world.

But it can be revealed that when the report was printed by Cambridge University Press in January 2007, some of these predictions had been watered down because the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.

Among the claims that were removed in the later version of the report, which is now also available in its altered form online, were claims that North West Australia has been hit by stronger tropical typhoons in the past 30 years.

Another claim that southern regions in Australia have lost rainfall due to rising ocean temperatures and air currents pushing rain further south was also removed.

Claims that eucalyptus and savannah habitats in Australia would also become more common were also deleted.

The claims were highlighted in several Australian newspapers when the report was initially published, but the changes were never publicly announced.

A spokesman for Nicholas Stern explains the post-publication changes as follows:

A spokesman for Lord Stern, who headed the review and is now chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said that the changes to the statements about Australia were made following a quality control check before the report was printed by Cambridge University Press.

He said: "Statements were identified in the section on Australia for which the relevant scientific references could not be located.

They were therefore, as a precaution, omitted from the version published by Cambridge University Press and they were deleted from the electronic version on the HM Treasure website.

"These changes to the text had no implications for any other parts of the report.

"It is perhaps not surprising that in a report of more than 700 pages a few typographic errors and minor but necessary clarifications to the text were identified in November and December 2006 after its launch.

"However, none of these corrections and changes affected the analysis or conclusions in the Stern Review, which is rightly regarded as an important contribution on the economics of climate change."

The attention to accuracy is commendable. That such attention occurred post-publication and changes were then made retroactively and unannounced to the published report (which still has its original publication date on it) is -- as I am quoted in the story -- remarkable. Here are my comments:
"In any academic publication changes to published text to correct errors or to clarify require the subsequent publication of a formal erratum or corrigendum.

"This is to ensure the integrity of the literature and a paper trail, otherwise confusion would result if past work could be quietly rewritten.

"Such a practice is very much a whitewash of the historical record.

"One would assume – and expect – that studies designed to inform government (and international) policy would be held to at least these same standards if not higher standards."

Perhaps someone should ask Lord Stern for a comprehensive listing of changes made to the report since its publication. Better yet, the UK government might publish an "Errata page" detailing the various corrections in order to faithfully preserve the historical record. Too bad no one thought of that before.


Snatch & pulsmäterier

Oa swing 16kg: 10/10 (110bpm)

Snatch 16kg: 10/10 (125bpm)
Snatch 20kg: 5/5 (130bpm), 54/58 (8min, 181bpm), 10/10
Snatch 24kg: 10/10 (almost dead hang snatches)

Oa swing 30kg: 2x 20/20 (161bpm & 163 bpm, respectively)

Ja, jag har alltså gått och skaffat mig en pulsklocka. Jag brukar inte komma överens med kluriga elektroniska inställningar och ville ha nåt billigt - Claes Ohlsson's à 500,-.

Den innehåller ändå för många effekter för min smak (typ förprogrammerade träningsprogram & dito bs), men verkar jämförelsevis basic. En fördel med dyrare modeller kanske är om klockan uppfattar signalerna på längre avstånd; att man kan lägga själva klockan en bit bort när man tränar. Claes Ohlsson-modellen verkar trivas bäst om man bär den på sig, jag fäste den i byxlinningen - det funkade fint.

Hittad ett par olika förslag på vad min maxpuls ska ligga på: nånstans mellan 189 bpm respektive 178bpm (LÄNK).

Om mätarens pulsvärden stämmer så borde snatch vara en bra cardio-träning då jag kom upp i 181bpm. När jag kollade under setet så låg jag mestadels på 175-179 bpm. Har alltid haft rätt hög vilopuls, även när jag varit vältränad konditionsmässigt. Förresten, drack en vinare igår - kanske höjer det pulsen också?

Men dagens snatchar kändes inte på långa vägar lika hjärtkrävande som lccj - ska bli kul att se om känslan stämmer.

Intressant var att det gick så fort att komma upp i puls och sedan ligga kvar där, även de korta 10/10 seten verkar visa på en snabb stegring.

Nu är jag egentligen inte så intresserad av absoluta mätvärden utan är ute mest efter att få en bild av intensiteten mellan olika pass. Planen är att börja med lite löpträning där jag ligger en bit under maxpuls, typ 160bpm (det ska vara bra GS-komplement).

Det här är ju underbart - världen är inte längre begränsad till inte bara ranktabeller, pyramider, & rpm - men nu kan man krydda det hela även med pulsslag per minut.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


I did not watch or listen to the State of the Union speech Obama gave Wednesday night, and I don't think I missed anything new from that shithead. It is clear to me and the rest of the country that Obama has learned nothing from the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's old seat. The country has learned something from Obama though. Barack Obama is an arrogant motherfucker who thinks the country is stupid. So, he doesn't consider that his ideas may be wrong. He concludes that he is not communicating them effectively. So, he must dumb it down further for us, simple folk. What a conceited bastard.

Obama is in hubris mode now. Unlike Clinton who changed tack and became a better president, Obama will continue to be a shithead. It is his destiny.

2. iPAD

This might be the next big thing from Apple, or it might be a failure. Critics say the new device is underwhelming. Then again, they were wrong about the iPod and the iPhone. Betting against Steve Jobs has rarely been a winning gamble.

I have an iPod touch, and I like it. I do three things on it--listen to podcasts, listen to music, and read books with Kindle and Stanza. The iPad is the same thing except with a bigger screen. I could see it being a hit with college students wanting discounted textbooks.

I don't know what Apple will do next in terms of gadgets. Television and game development are the only areas where Apple does not have killer products.


This is going to be a dud because people are deciding to make money off of it. This is the first "official" act of the movement in the way of institutional organizing, and I predict it will fail. This is because Tea Party people are a spontaneous movement of people concerned about fiscal responsibility. They aren't a political party or an action group. As such, politicos wanting jump in front of this parade and pretend to lead it will find themselves disappointed.

People are pissed off. Plain and simple. They don't need to be organized. They just need to be heard.


Tony Blair testified before the Chilcot Inquiry that the invasion of Iraq was a jolly good idea, and he would do it all over again the same exact way. Why? To keep WMDs from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda. Nevermind that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Also, we need to invade Iran for the same reasons. Stiff upper lip. Pip pip, cheerio. Time for a spot of tea.


Howard Zinn-- He was a leftard, but he was also honest in his telling of history.

JD Salinger-- He wrote The Catcher in the Rye which I read years ago and promptly forgot. Not sure what people get out of that book.

Pernell Roberts-- Last surviving regular from Bonanza. That was a good show. I call my dream estate the "Ponderosa."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cycling and Weight: Realistic Outlooks

It may be controversial, but weight is such a commonly discussed topic among women (albeit usually in private), that it feels disingenuous to pretend that I do not think about it myself. Specifically, I want to say a few words about the relationship between weight and cycling. In many cycling blogs, I find the recurring suggestion that "cycling will make you thin" - whether explicit or implicit. Transportation cycling is presented as not only convenient and fun, but as a natural form of exercise that can improve your physique. Replacing 20 minutes per day of sitting in a car with 40 minutes of pedaling does indeed seem like a great way to get in shape. But if your main goal is weight loss, what is realistic to expect?

Cycling is great exercise, and exercise leads to weight loss - if (and this is a crucial if) all else remains constant. In other words, if you used to drive to work and now you cycle, while maintaining the same diet as before and the same amount of physical activity outside your commute, you will lose weight.

The problem is that all else usually does not remain constant. For one thing, cycling makes us ravenous, and more often than not we end up consuming enough (or even more than enough) extra calories to make up for the fact that we cycled to work instead of driving. So while we do build up muscle which will cause parts of our body too look more shapely, our weight is likely to remain the same unless a conscious effort is made to also control our diet. This does not entirely coincide with the "cycling will make you thin" narrative - which presents the life of cyclists as filled with tasty foods, beer, and weight loss. If you cycle a lot, but also eat a lot, your weight will stay the same. If you cycle a bit, but eat even more, your weight will increase. That is the reality.

Even if you are not looking to lose weight, but are in the "cycle a lot, eat a lot" category, there are caveats to consider. Over the Summer and Fall, I cycled so much that my diet changed drastically just to accommodate the constant energy loss and hunger pains. Things that I hadn't freely indulged in for years - pizza, ice cream, obscene amounts of chocolate, random snack foods - became regular dietary staples. As long as I continued to spend large portions of my day on a bike, I could feel like a pre-teen at a slumber party again when it came to eating, with (seemingly) no ill effect.

But what happens when that amount of daily cycling becomes unsustainable - due to either the arrival of a harsher season, travel, or a change in work schedule? Once you get used to consuming large amounts of food, it can be extremely difficult to cut down, even after your level of physical activity decreases. The reasons for this are partly physiological (stomach size; metabolic processes), but to an even greater extent psychological. We use food not just for sustenance, but for comfort and for social bonding. Having grown used to eating pizza and ice cream late at night with friends, it can feel sad to give that up. Once we grow accustomed to a lavish diet during a period of intense cycling, chances are we will be tempted to maintain it even during those times when we do not spend as much time on a bike. This can lead to an overall weight gain for those who cycle.

I've had several private discussions now with cyclists who feel disappointed because they hoped to lose weight through cycling, only to have gained it. They don't understand what went wrong. Moreover, they feel ashamed because many cycling blogs do project the image of the "healthy and fit" (meaning slender) cyclist and contrast this image to that of the overweight driver who eats burgers and guzzles cola behind the wheel.

Cycling and weightloss only go hand in hand if you control for the other factors, and that is not always simple. For me it has been effortful to prevent out-of-control weight gain this winter, after my time on a bicycle fell to maybe 10% of what it was in earlier seasons. What has been your experience?

Alito was right. Obama is full of shit.

Rumble at the Ri: Ward vs. Pielke

Next Friday evening in London, I am going to debate Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute at LSE, at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The announcement has just been posted up, and you can see it below. Click here for background on the Royal Institution. Click here for more about the remarkable venue where the debate will be held.

Get your tickets here before they sell out!
Has Global Warming increased the toll of disasters?

No mainstream scientist would question that human activity has had an effect on the Earth’s climate. Few doubt that it is the major issue facing humanity in the 21st Century. Due to the magnitude of the problem and its consequences, it is no surprise that debate about the extent of its effects and the best solutions has become a hot topic in the media.

A report in The Sunday Times on 24 January claimed that the United Nations climate science panel (IPCC) wrongly linked global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Politicians took this message into the mainstream, with President Barack Obama, saying last autumn: ‘More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.’, but was this based on sound science?

This debate has continued ever since, both in the media and online, with two climate experts coming head-to-head. Roger Pielke Junior, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, has attacked the IPCC for including in one of its reports a reference to an abstract in 2006, that indicated economic losses from disasters increased between 1970 and 2005. Bob Ward, policy and communications Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, claims the link between extreme weather events and climate change is clear, and that criticisms about the evidence for an increase in disaster losses is nothing new and is merely a repetition of criticisms that date back to 2006 because the IPCC's procedures for reviewing scientific work is currently under the spotlight.

We are delighted that these two leading figures in this discussion have agreed to a debate at short notice here at the Royal Institution, so come along to join in the conversation about a key issue for the future of the planet.

Tickets cost £8 standard, £6 concessions, £4 Ri Members.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Randy Newman Losing You

The great Randy Newman.

From Toy Story Three due for release in June.

Science has an extended interview with Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, that is quite revealing. Here are a few interesting excerpts.

Dr. Pachauri clearly indicates that he sees the job of the IPCC to be motivating political action on climate change:
I mean, let's face it, that the whole subject of climate change having become so important is largely driven by the work of the IPCC. If the IPCC wasn't there, why would anyone be worried about climate change? It's also certainly to be expected that there are some interests who would not want to take action against climate change. I mean, I don't want to name a country, but you know during the Copenhagen meeting there was one country that was saying that there should be no agreement simply because the IPCC, after the e-mails, the scandal of the hacking e-mails, the IPCC's report shouldn't be taken as a basis for any agreement. And you know what the motivation behind that statement was and where it was coming from? Are we going to fall prey to vested interests?
On his role as an advisor to companies that stand to benefit from his advice:
I don't see any conflict at all. Science has to be used for decision-making. IPCC's work is supposed to be very clearly policy relevant. How can I establish policy relevance if I shut myself in an ivory tower and say I will not say anything about climate change? I feel totally comfortable in the role of adviser to anybody.
On his freedom from conflicts of interest:
I see absolutely no conflict of interest since I am a salaried employee of TERI and if I provide advice to any organization. You must remember that TERI has been in research on climate change for a quarter century, almost a quarter century, and therefore as a paid employee of this organization, if I am doing work on behalf of TERI and on behalf of the time that I spend over there is something that I am being paid for through a salary, then I see absolutely no conflict of interest. . .

there is no private interest involved in this. This is as much public interest as doing work for the IPCC. I am working for an organization which is a not-for-profit organization, which is not only highly regarded, which abides by all the laws of this country, and it is serving the public interest, it has been set up in public interest. So I can see absolutely nothing which can be mixed up with private interest over here, so I am afraid I should get this absolutely right. There is no private interest involved over here. If I was working for a shareholder company and this was leading to the profits of some individuals, then you could say private interest. We are as much a public-sector organization and an organization working for the public good as any other. So you know there is no conflict of interest.
And then there is this odd ending:

Q: So will the world have a solution to climate change soon thanks to you?

R.K.P.: Well, it's a long haul, it's going to be a tough job, and I took it because it's a tough job and I am doing it because it's a tough job. And somebody has to do it. I have that responsibility: I will do it. And I am certainly not going to relent in these efforts, I can assure you.

Q: Pleasure speaking to you. Thank You.

R.K.P.: I have to hug you! [Gives interviewer a bear hug.]

Cause and Effect Sports Law: Who Dat Style

As a trial lawyer who has seen any number of moves/reasons for a continuance of a trial, fellow members (and future members) of the trial bar take note: sporting events that enjoy the support of a community in which that team or school resides may provide a "basis" for a continuance.
HT: The Volokh Conspiracy.

Father Son Event


Ser lite bättre ut

Oa jerk 16kg, then 20kg: 5/5

With timer,* 1min on/1min rest

Round 1: jerk 2x20kg: 10 rpm
2: jerk 2x24kg: 8rpm
3-4: jerk 2x26kg: 7rpm
5-8: jerk 2x24kg: 8rpm
9-10: lccj 2x24kg: 7rpm
11: jerk 2x20kg: 6 rpm (cooldown)

Oa swing 20kg: 10/10
Oa swing 30kg: 20/20

Tempo-höjningen till 8rpm med 24or funkade bättre idag (provade för ett par veckor sen') - fast det är en drastisk skillnad mot 7rpm.

Swingar - glömmer ju bort eller förtränger dessa i långa perioder. Bra övning.

Intressant insikt - de sista månaderna känns det som att jag sysslar mer och mer med konditionsträning än viktträning. Kanske inte så konstigt iofs då jag inte ökat vikterna på ett par år egentligen.

*Timer-länken igen:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Master Builder: Mike Flanigan in His New Workshop

Last week we visited the new A.N.T. Bikes workshop in Holliston, Mass., and the Co-Habitant took a series of black and white photos of the excellent Mike Flanigan. My job was to take the digital test shots, which were mostly to meter light and try out compositions before the "real thing". So here are a few of these test shots, which A.N.T. fans might find enjoyable.

For those who are not familiar with Mike Flanigan, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that he is a legendary figure in the bicycle industry. Not only does A.N.T. put out a truly unique product, but Mike's background is impressive in itself. He started out in 1989 at Fat City Cycles - one of the early pioneers in mountain bike design, based in Somerville MA. After Fat City was sold in 1994, Mike went on to co-found Independent Fabrication, another Somerville bike manufacturer that has attained international fame. And finally, in 2002, Mike branched out on his own with A.N.T. to pursue his unique vision of "not sport, transport".

Since discovering A.N.T. a year ago, I keep asking myself what exactly makes these bicycles so interesting and unusual? Others make TIG-welded frames. Others offer custom colours. And now that the concept of "city bike" has taken off, others build up bicycles designed for fenders, front and rear loads, and upright sitting. So what does A.N.T. offer that's different?

Ah yes - Personality. And I am not talking about Mike's own great personality. The bicycles themselves have a distinctly ANTian character that transcends the sum of their parts. A.N.T. bikes are the Meryl Streeps of bicycles, if you will. Yes, they are beautiful and their performance is impeccable - but there is something more, isn't there? And that elusive "more" is what we really find captivating.

And then there is the fact that Mike himself is a kind, generous and creative person, who sticks to his principles and follows his philosophy. It is endearing to hear the younger framebuilding generation in the Boston area speak of him. Everyone seems to have a story about Mike having helped them out at some point, or taught them something; he is somewhat of a patron saint around these parts.

So that is the man we had the privilege to photograph last week, and we thank him for the opportunity.

The Co-Habitant is a photographer, and he is now working on a project that documents different aspects of the Boston bicycle industry - from independent manufacturers, to bike shop owners, to bicycle collectors. It is an interesting thing to help him with and I hope he exhibits the photos when the project is finished.

I enjoyed looking at all the tools and machinery in the A.N.T. workshop, and more than anything I loved examining this fork. It is a segmented fork that I believe goes on the Light Roadsters. There is something about the look of these that I find very cool.

Here Mike explains something to the Co-Habitant, as his Antique Scorcher poses in the foreground. To see some of the other bikes A.N.T. has made recently, have a look at their flickr sets. I wrote a test ride report of a Boston Lady's Roadster here, and I think the latest series of mixtes (especially the gold and the white one) are particularly beautiful. And of course I am very curious to see what Mike will be building for the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show 2010. I think he knows what my fantasy A.N.T. bike is, but that is another story entirely!

3rd Annual Tulane Law School National Baseball Arbitration Competition

The 3rd Annual Tulane Law School National Baseball Arbitration Competition took place this past weekend at Tulane Law School. The event was a huge success, with 38 teams from schools across the country participating in a simulated baseball salary arbitration competition. Special thanks to Professor Roger Abrams and Jon Fetterolf for serving as the judges for the final rounds of the competition on Sunday and for putting on an entertaining and educational presentation for all of the competitors on Saturday afternoon. Thanks also to Armando Velasco, Jeffrey Sundram, Blake Simon, Chris Weema, Melissa Desormeaux, Danielle Moore and the Tulane Sports Law Society for hosting a great event.

All of the judges raved about the quality of the presentations throughout the competition, and we are proud to announce the winning teams:

Semi-Finalists: Suffolk Law School; Ave Maria Law School

Runner-Up: Notre Dame Law School

Winner: Denver Law School

And, to top it off, the Saints beat the Vikings on Sunday night. All in all, a good weekend in New Orleans…

Karen Clark on Short-Term Hurricane Loss Predictions

Karen Clark and Co. have an interesting new report out which evaluates the performance of short-term hurricane predictions issued by the catastrophe modeling industry. In short, they are not doing so well, as the image above indicates, with predicted losses far exceeding actual losses. Here is an excerpt from the report:
Given all of the uncertainties, near term projections do not have sufficient credibility to be used for important insurance applications such as product pricing and establishing solvency standards. In the case of pricing catastrophe exposure, the insurer or reinsurer is faced with the challenge of settling on a specific price for a specified time period for an exposure that has a highly uncertain expected value. While the near term models might be a useful tool for adding insight with respect to the potential range of expected outcomes for the upcoming policy period, the actual results of the last four years indicate that relying exclusively on the near term models to determine a rate can bring an extra level of instability and volatility to an already challenging pricing exercise. Individual insurers and reinsurers should instead consider the complete range and likelihood of possible outcomes in determining product pricing, taking into account the need for both stability and responsiveness in setting a strategy for pricing their products.
The perspective expressed by Karen Clark and Co. is quite similar to my own views, expressed in a paper published in 2009. Our website remains down, due to a concerted attack to deny access, but for anyone interested I'd be happy to email a copy of the paper, the title and abstract appear below.
United States hurricane landfalls and damages: Can one- to five-year predictions beat climatology?
Pielke, Roger A.
Environmental Hazards, Volume 8, Number 3, 2009 , pp. 187-200(14)

This paper asks whether one- to five-year predictions of United States hurricane landfalls and damages improve upon a baseline expectation derived from the climatological record. The paper argues that the large diversity of available predictions means that some predictions will improve upon climatology, but for decades if not longer it will be impossible to know whether these improvements were due to chance or actual skill. A review of efforts to predict hurricane landfalls and damage on timescales of one to five years does not lend much optimism to such efforts in any case. For decision makers, the recommendation is to use climatology as a baseline expectation and to clearly identify hedges away from this baseline, in order to clearly distinguish empirical from non-empirical justifications for judgements of risk.
Also, I participated in an AM Best roundtable discussion of catastrophe risk with insurance experts several weeks ago. The issue of catastrophe models was a part of the conversation. You can read a transcript of the discussion here. That is me below at the roundtable, talking about continued growth of losses based on our work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

West Legal Education CLE on "Guns Up! Legal Issues Surrounding the Firing of Texas Tech Head Football Coach Mike Leach"

Rick and I are hosting an on-line 1-credit continuing legal education tomorrow (Wednesday January 27) from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern Time with West Legal Center to discuss the assorted legal implications of Mike Leach's firing. A number of us on Sports Law Blog have discussed the Mike Leach firing. Here is West's description of the CLE:
On December 28, 2009, Leach was suspended indefinitely by Texas Tech pending investigation of alleged inappropriate treatment of a player. School officials gave Leach an ultimatum--apologize to James in writing by December 28 or Leach would be suspended. Leach refused to do so. Leach immediately sought an injunction that would allow him to coach in the 2010 Alamo Bowl. However, on December 30, Texas Tech fired Leach, calling his refusal to apologize to James "a defiant act of insubordination." On January 8, Leach formally filed suit against Texas Tech for wrongful termination. He claimed that school officials not only fired him without cause, but issued defamatory statements in a willful attempt to keep him from being hired elsewhere.

Rick Karcher and Michael McCann will take you into the world of high profile employment and sports contracts. They will provide an update on the controversy and offer analysis on the upcoming legal process.

For more on Wednesday's CLE, click here. It should be a good event and we hope to keep it interesting and informative.

Phoebe Prince

Phoebe Prince was a 15 year old girl from Ireland,
who moved with her family to the USA.

She was a victim of "Mean Girls" bullying.

She took constant abuse from a bunch of popular
girls at South Hadley High School, they called
her every name under the sun, one day she was
walking home, and some more abuse was hurled
at her from these girls, a bottle was thrown at
her head, she continued to walk home, walked
into a closet and killed herself.

But her bullies didn't stop there, in a memorial
set up on facebook, they wrote abusive messages
about her, and even after her funeral, they kept
on bad mouthing her at school.

Its quite sad that even this girls death, wasn't
enough for the bullies, they still felt the
need to abuse her. How low of a HumanBeing do
you have to be to do that?

They even joked that they played dumb to the police
and the police fell for it, students that gave
interviews to the media about what a sweet girl
Phoebe was, were assaulted by these girls as
soon as the cameras were turned.

What should be done to these high school girls?

There are many suggestions going around the
internet, one they need to be charged with
a form of manslaughter, also they should have
to confront the victims family.

One Journo even suggested that they are made to
look at the autopsy photos (I agree with this)

Phoebe is the victim here, she was a victim
of bullying and took her life, these bullies
have to take responsibility for what they have

It's called Mean girls syndrome, unfortunately
for these girls, mean girls normally end
up marrying their male counterparts.

Also they are in for a nasty shock once they
leave high school and are out of their safety net
of their own little group.

Whats going to happen to them when they finally
realize what they done? I doubt they will be tending the
school reunion in 20 years time.

From all that I have read Phoebe Prince was a
sweet girl who will always be remembered by her

While these "Mean Girls" will always be remembered
for the bullies that they are.

I think that is justice.

Hot on the Trail of the IPCC Mystery Graph


I think I have figured it out.

1. The Figure above does not appear in Muir-Wood.

2. A different figure, 1.5 from the SOD, was criticized by reviewers. Figure 1.5 was a scatter plot of temperature anomaly and normalized damage 1950-2005, shown below.

3. In response, the IPCC instead chose to make its own Figure SM 1-1 above at the top of this post, which plotted only 1970-2005 and smoothed the data.

4. The original Figure 1.5 from the SOD is ultimately included in the published version of Muir-Wood et al. in 2008, exactly as it appeared in the SOD, with this explanation:
Without fully controlling for other factors that could affect the trend in losses, we can not draw any firm conclusions about the role of climate change in loss trends. In addition, any conclusions about a relationship between global warming and disaster losses are complicated by the sensitivity of statistical results to a few high-loss data points, the short historical loss record, and the limitations of the normalization methodology.
Hypothesis: The IPCC created a graph that did not exist in the peer reviewed literature or in the grey literature to suggest a relationship between increasing temperatures and rising disaster costs.

In the comments Ian does some brilliant detective work to locate the origins of the above mysterious and misleading graph from the IPCC AR4 WGII Chapter 1.
I spent some time parsing through the FOD, SOD and related comments for this portion of Chapter 1 of the WGII report.

The graph that Hu McCulloch asks about, and which Roger criticizes above, initially appeared as part of the text in the SOD as figure 1.5. It was a scatter graph, with a “Fitted Values” trend line drawn in. At that point, the source was being cited as “Miller et al. 2006” rather than Muir-Wood; I assume, however, that it is the same source (the full reference was: “Miller, S., R. Muir-Wood, et al. 2006: Weather related catastrophe loss trends and the impact of climate change,. In lit. (to be circulated prior to publication).”) (See p. 91 of Ch. 1 of the SOD) [PIELKE COMMENT: YES]

The use of the “Miller” paper drew a number of comments from the expert reviewers. One of those experts was Annick Douguedroit of University de Provence, who commented ( at p. 122)
“Fig 1,5 is not reliable from a statistical point of view because the significant trend is pulled upward by "outliers" (especially 3 points with losses >100000 ) which provoque a pseudo-significancy as it is suggested by the authors themselves in lines 18-21 [of the SOD] "Removing......entirely". So I propose "Since 1970 the global normalized results do not show any statically significant correlationn with global temperatures." and to remove the end of the paragraph and the figure 1,5 because it can mislead a reader not familiar with correlation."
The response from the “Writing Team” was:
“Figure moved to Supplementary Figure and employed a different plot that smoothes catastrophe losses and shows these alongside temperature. After smoothing (that thereby removes the peaks noted) the correlation remains. The text now provides a balanced commentary on this.”
So, it is clear that the graph seen in the supplementary materials to Chapter 1 of WGII, was the creation of “Writing Team”. Perhaps Roger can answer whether the original graph (as shown in the SOD) was the work of Muir-Wood. [PIELKE RESPONSE: SEE UPDATE ABOVE. I FIGURED IT OUT.]

Concerns were also raised by Indur Goklany (US Dept of the Interior), Francis Zwiers (Can. Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis) and Nathan Gillet (University of East Anglia).

Zwiers commented (pp. 121-22):
“I’m wondering if too much space is devoted to Miller, given the inference one draws from Fig 1.5 is senstive to the inclusion of individual outliers (as pointed out in the text) and that it is acknowledged that early data are incomplete. Some additional comment on data quality, beyond just completeness, is probably in order (I'm not expert, but this type of data would presumably be influenced by all kinds of factors, including varying political influences and changes in reporting practices, that might confound any climate signal)."
To which the response was:
“Agreed – will restate the conclusions of this work judiciously to summarize what is revealed and what is uncertain.”
Gillett was concerned about the statistical underpinnings (p. 122):
“Is the statistically significant correlation purely a result of the trend in both series? Does the correlation remain statistically significant if both are de-trended? If not, then this merely tells us that both series contain a trend. More fundamentally, why correlate losses with global temperature? Some justification is needed.”
To this, the Writing Team responded:
“Losses can be correlated with year and also with global temperatures. The correlation with T is a function of both series containing trends with time over this period.”
I’ll leave it to the stats types to argue over whether the answer was actually responsive.

Bob Ward's Big Day

Bob Ward is at it again. It is interesting that no scholars have stepped up to defend the IPCC on the disasters and climate issue, leaving the task to Lord Stern's spokesman. Below is a piece that he had on the Guardian site today, defending the IPCC against claims that it had sexed up its sections on disasters and climate change. Bob is a PR pro, and while there is enough spin in his piece to make anyone dizzy, the piece is remarkable for how little there is in it to contradict my claims. Ward seems to rest his critique on the notion that this is old news.

Below I unpack the key parts of the piece.

The trouble with Pielke's argument is that the work of Muir-Wood and his colleagues was eventually published as a peer-reviewed paper in 2008 (and included as chapter 12 of the book Climate Extremes of Society) and included the same conclusion. It remains the only paper to assess global economic losses from all types of extreme weather events, not just a single source of hazard in one region.

Interestingly, Bob Ward neglects to mention this statement which appeared in the published version of Muir-Wood et al.: "We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses." Maybe that was just an oversight on Ward's part.

Ward also neglects to mention this comment by Muir-Wood from the Times article on Sunday, speaking of his 2006 article: ""The idea that catastrophes are rising in cost partly because of climate change is completely misleading. We could not tell if it was just an association or cause and effect." Maybe that also was just an oversight on Ward's part.

Ward does not mention that the IPCC violated its own procedures for citing grey literature, or that IPCC reviewers had made up stuff, or been ignored. Maybe including these details was just an oversight on Ward's part.

Pielke is right that an increase in the number of valuable properties in high-risk areas is overwhelmingly the primary cause of increased financial losses from extreme weather events over the past few decades.

So I am right. If I am right then when the IPCC links increasing losses to increasing temperatures, it must be . . . ? What?
That in itself is a worrying conclusion given that climate change is expected to lead to changes in the occurrence and severity of such events. Indeed, only last week a paper in the journal Science by researchers at the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected nearly a doubling in the frequency of the most severe hurricanes in the Atlantic by the end of this century.

But it is difficult to tell to what extent, if any, climate change has also already affected past disaster losses around the world. Extreme weather events are rare, so identifying small trends is difficult when losses vary so much from year to year, creating a lot of "noise" in the dataset, and many competing factors contribute to the overall pattern.

The absence of a "statistically significant" trend may indicate that no trend exists, or instead that a trend exists but cannot be definitively detected until a longer period of losses is available.

Right. It is difficult to identify a trend. That is why the IPCC should not have sexed up its report. Statisticians have a phrase to describe a a trend that exists but cannot be detected -- "not a trend." If a trend cannot now be detected, then lets just say that. It is honest, it is supported by the scientific literature. Don't sex it up. Seems obvious? Why can't Ward bring himself to say that?
What is clear is that it would be wrong to think of this as another mistake by climate researchers. In fact it looks more like a blatant attempt to dig up an old academic row in order to create the impression of an IPCC under siege.

Old academic row. Cute. Given that Bob had very little time to write this, he probably couldn't come up with anything better. He should get some credit for staying away from the "denier" label.

Bob betrays his recent foray into academia by calling a debate since 2006 an "old academic row." When I was in grad school -- nearly 2 decades ago -- people were debating climate change and disasters. And they will still be when I retire in a few decades.

Only in the up-is-down world of the climate debate is serious academic debate and scholarship derided in the manner that Ward has done. He should be glad that people are looking carefully for the signal of GHGs in the disaster record. Or would he prefer that people just make stuff up?

Lord Stern's Spokesperson Responds

Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, where Nicholas Stern in the Chair, has kindly written in to the comments, responding to my post on how the Stern Review Report misused the Robert Muir-Woods paper and quietly altered a typo that revealed the fuzzy math. Bob's comments are below, with my responses in the inset boxes, with a black line around them. I thank Bob for his engagement.

I see you have taken advantage of the media frenzy around the IPCC to gain more coverage for your gripes on disaster losses. However, I’m afraid there are some serious errors in your public statements.
I am happy to see that we both share an interest in correcting errors. If my statements are in error, then I will correct them.
As you know, I formerly worked with Robert Muir-Wood at Risk Management Solutions and I now work with several of the people who prepared the Stern Review, so I have had the chance to speak to them about your comments. I am providing my comments in multiple entries on your blog as it will not allow them to be all posted at once.
I am happy to give your comments top line billing, as all views are welcome here. Based on these comments, I assume that you are writing as the representative of Nicholas Stern.
First, let me clarify a few points about the Stern Review. You are quite right, and as the UK Government acknowledged, there was a typographic error in Table 5.2 of the version of the Stern Review that was published on the Government’s website in October 2006 –the increased costs, as a percentage of GDP, from US hurricanes was inaccurately printed as 1.3% and 0.6%, instead of 0.13% and 0.06%. The error was picked up by members of the team and corrected before the report was printed by Cambridge University Press for publication in January 2007. The error had not other significance for the report other than in Table 5.2. There was no conspiracy and no attempt to deceive – it was a straightforward typo which was corrected very soon after the Review appeared.
The FAQ page for the report says that an Errata was to be prepared explaining why there were multiple versions of the report available. Can you point me to this errata? The problem of course with multiple versions of the report is that it can cause some confusion, as my peer reviewed critique of the report relied on the older version. Surely the Stern Review should adhere to the same standards as a normal academic publication?
Second, you are also right that the costs of extreme weather events globally calculated as 0.5-1.0% of GDP, and presented in Table 5.2 was based on the 2% trend published in the six-page paper by Muir-Wood, Miller and Boissonnade from the Hohenkammer workshop in 2006.
Table 5.2 explains that the results are for the developed world. So far you have explained that I am correct about 2 of my assertions. I'm still waiting for the errors.
However, it is completely wrong to suggest that “as much as 40% of the Stern Review projections for the global costs of unmitigated climate change derive from its misuse of the Muir-Wood et al. paper”. In fact, the modelling of the macroeconomic costs of the impacts of unabated climate change did not make use of the Muir-Wood et al. (2006) abstract – the costs were projected using the PAGE2002 integrated assessment model, as described in Chapter 6 of the Review. The PAGE2002 model drew upon three major sources of estimates of the impacts of climate change (Mendelsohn et al. (1998), Nordhaus and Boyer (2000) and Tol (2002)) – this is explained in Chapter 6 of the Review and also in this 2007 paper from ‘World Economics’ (see particularly Figure 2):
If the lower bound of Stern Review cost estimates is 5% of global GDP and disasters are responsible for 2% of that total then, that is 2/5 = 40%. Are you now saying that the damage costs of climate change are insensitive to disaster costs? That is, the disaster costs do not matter in the Stern Review's cost estimates? This would be remarkable if so.
Further, the Stern Review points out on page 170: “Extreme weather events are not fully captured in most existing IAMs; the latest science suggests that extreme events will increase in frequency and severity with climate change.” This statement references a technical paper by Rachel Warren and co-authors (including Richard Tol) which was prepared for the Review. It points out on page 5: “Most models do not take into account the influences of extreme weather events which are likely to contribute very strongly to economic impacts; however the top end of the PAGE input ranges do include them as far as the literature allows, albeit that literature on potential changes in the frequency and intensity extreme [sic] events is in its infancy”:
Again, what have you said here? The Stern Review estimates for the damage costs of climate change do, or do not, include the costs of disasters?
You also complain that the Stern Review should not have cited the Muir-Wood et al. (2006) workshop paper because it was not peer-reviewed.
No. The citation is not a problem. The fact that it was not peer reviewed should have led to some caution. The problem is that the Stern Review grossly misused the Muir-Wood paper to imply a relationship of increasing greenhouse gases and rising disaster costs. Further, the Stern Review went beyond its misuse of Muir-Wood et al. to invent from whole cloth accelerating disaster costs, based on absolutly no scientific foundation.
The abstract of the paper states:

“After 1970 when the global record becomes more comprehensive we find evidence of an annual upward trend for normalized losses of 2% per year that corresponds with a period of rising global temperatures. However over this same period, in some regions, including Australia, India and the Philippines normalized losses have declined. The significance of the trend in global normalized losses is dominated by the affect [sic] of the 2004 and 2005 Atlantic hurricane seasons as well as by the bias in US wealth relative to other developing regions.”

The abstract also states:

“What is presented here provides a short summary of the global results of this study. Full results are in course of publication also covering individual peril regions and the exploration of correlations with global temperatures.”

As you know, these results were published in 2008 as a peer-reviewed paper by Miller, Muir-Wood and Boissonnade in the volume on ‘Climate Extremes and Society’. The paper reached the same main conclusions as the workshop presentation: “After 1970, when the global record becomes more comprehensive, we find evidence of an annual upward trend for normalized losses of 2% per year.” A sensitivity analysis revealed that there was no statistically significant trend between 1970 and 2005 if the losses from the 2004 and 2005 US hurricane seasons were removed. The paper concluded: “In sum, we found statistical evidence of an upward trend in normalized losses from 1970 through 2005 and insufficient evidence to claim a firm link between global warming and disaster losses.”
Did you read that last part Bob? The paper states clearly: "We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses."

With hindsight, at the very least, it should be clear that the use of the Muir-Wood paper as it was by Stern was simply incorrect.

Further, elsewhere I've seen you complaining about cherrypicking starting dates for assessing global temperature trends, such as when people claim that global warming stopped in 1998. You are engaged in your own cherrypicking here, when you focus on 1970-2005. There are no residual trends 1950-2005, and you can bet 1950-2009.
The paper also noted several factors that should be taken into account when interpreting the results, including “changing vulnerability over time”. This means that losses from US hurricanes and other extreme weather events did not separate out the impacts of changing building standards between 1970 and 2005, which of course, would tend to obscure any trend towards increasing losses from an increase in hazard (ie frequency and/or intensity of weather events).

Of course this limitation also applies to your paper with other co-authors in 2008 on normalized losses from US hurricanes, which simply states: “As strong codes have only been implemented in recent years (and in some cases vary significantly on a county-by-county basis), their effect on overall losses is unlikely to be large, but in future years efforts to improve building practices and encourage retrofit of existing structures could have a large impact on losses”. Although you dismiss any potential impact from improvements in building standards, and so do not take it into account, you will no doubt know that these standards improved after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and their impact on reducing damage has been documented, for instance, in this report by the University of Florida:

It seems to me that your analysis may have missed the impact of changes in Atlantic hurricane activity on losses (such as the increase in frequency since 1995) due to reductions in vulnerability of US coastal properties. Surely, some research is required to justify the neglect of the impact of changing building standards? Certainly you would be advancing an important area if you were to investigate this issue more thoroughly.
I welcome your thoughts on our work. We have indeed explored the possible biases that might be introduced into the hurricane loss record, and we don't see any such biases. Trends in the damage record match up perfectly with trends in landfall frequencies and intensities -- there are no such trends! So while there may be an effect, it is not large enough to appear in our dataset.

But if you are not convinced, try out this experiment. Take our loss data for 1900-2009, which is readily available online. Simply assume that all Florida (or all US for that matter) hurricanes would have been 10%, 20% or whatever percent more damaging except for those really effective new building codes. (Engineers and planners, it is OK, this is a thought experiment, of course I know the building code effect would not be so large!) Then look for a trend in the dataset since 1900. You won't find one.
Similarly, your conclusion that increases in exposure and value at risk completely explain the trend in rising losses from hurricanes is not shared by other authors. For instance, this paper by Silvio Schmidt and co-authors on US hurricane losses, published last year in the journal ‘Environmental Impact Review’, concluded: “In the period 1971-2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.”:
What Silvio did, quite responsibly, is offer up a conditional, speculative statement. If GHGs are responsible for the increasing US landfalls since 1970, then yes, there is a GHG signal in the loss record. Unfortunately, attribution of US landfalls to GHGs remains unknown. As I wrote about in a recent paper on hurricanes, there have been no trends in landfalls, or in the region where landfalls occur, over the period of record. Silvio's recent papers and those I have been invovled in are in no way contradictory. It is fine to hypothesize or speculate about a GHG-disaster loss relationship. But the ultimate arbiter is the data.

Finally, you should be careful presenting only part of the story, as you will be found out. Here is what Silvio's paper actually says: "There is no evidence yet of any trend in tropical cyclone losses that can be attributed directly to anthropogenic climate change."
As I am sure you appreciate, it is important that public debate about climate change is well-informed with accurate information. Unfortunately, your inaccurate and misleading comments on your blog have now generated misleading coverage elsewhere. I urge you to exercise greater care in future to avoid making further mistakes similar to those I have outlined here.
What mistakes?
Best wishes,

Bob Ward
Thanks again.

IPCC Statement on Trends in Disaster Losses

The IPCC has issued a statement in response to the Sunday Times article on errors in the IPCC treatment of disaster losses and climate change. The IPCC statement (PDF) is a remarkable bit of spin and misinformation. Here it is with my comments:
Geneva, 25 January 2010


The January 24 Sunday Times ran a misleading and baseless story attacking the way the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC handled an important question concerning recent trends in economic losses from climate-related disasters. The article, entitled “UN Wrongly Linked Global Warming to Natural Disasters”, is by Jonathan Leake.

The Sunday Times article gets the story wrong on two key points. The first is that it incorrectly assumes that a brief section on trends in economic losses from climate-related disasters is everything the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) has to say about changes in extremes and disasters.
RESPONSE: This is pure misdirection and is irrelevant. The issue here is specific to how the IPCC handled the rising costs of disasters and its relationship to increasing temperature. It is not about the general theme of extremes.
In fact, the Fourth Assessment Report reaches many important conclusions, at many locations in the report, about the role of climate change in extreme events. The assessment addresses both observations of past changes and projections of future changes in sectors ranging from heat waves and precipitation to wildfires. Each of these is a careful assessment of the available evidence, with a thorough consideration of the confidence with which each conclusion can be drawn.
RESPONSE: All of this verbiage is irrelevant to the issue.
The second problem with the article in the Sunday Times is its baseless attack on the section of the report on trends in economic losses from disasters. This section of the IPCC report is a balanced treatment of a complicated and important issue.
RESPONSE: Asserting balance does not make it so. The facts here are what the IPCC should respond to: The IPCC report highlighted a single non-peer reviewed study to make a claim that (a) that study did not support, and (b) that was countered by the entirety of the peer reviewed literature (much of which went uncited). My work was misrepresented in the text and in the IPCC response to reviewers. The latter included an outright lie. The only balance that was achieved was between misrepresentation and error.
It clearly makes the point that one study detected an increase in economic losses, corrected for values at risk, but that other studies have not detected such a trend. The tone is balanced, and the section contains many important qualifiers.
RESPONSE: This statement is remarkable for its untruths. (1) The "one study" did not detect a trend over the full period of record, only a cherrypicked subset, and when that paper was published it explicitly stated that it could not find a signal of increasing temperatures in the loss record, (2) The IPCC report did not note that other studies had not found a trend, except when citing my work in passing, and then undercutting it in error by mistakenly citing the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons to suggest something different (and untrue). (3) The Chapter includes the following figure, which has absolutely no scientific support whatsoever:

In writing, reviewing, and editing this section, IPCC procedures were carefully followed to produce the policy-relevant assessment that is the IPCC mandate.
RESPONSE: Carefully followed procedures? Let's review: (a) The IPCC relied on an unpublished, non-peer reviewed source to produce its top line conclusions in this section, (b) when at least two reviewers complained about this section, the IPCC ignored their compalints and invented a response characterizing my views. (c) When the paper that this section relied on was eventually published it explicitly stated that it could not find a connection between rising temperatures and the costs of disasters.
This press release from the IPCC would have been a fine opportunity to set the scientific and procedural record straight and admit to what are obvious and major errors in content and process. Instead, it has decided to defend the indefensible, which any observer can easily see through. Of course there is no recourse here as the IPCC is unaccountable and there is no formal way to address errors in its report or its errors and misdirection via press release. Not a good showing by the IPCC.