Checking in on old friends o’ the blog

Roger Pielke, Jr. is a professor of environmental Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. So it says at his profile for Nate Silver’s website. This leaves out Pielke’s singular mission to act like a stuck drum brake on the wheel of climate progress, but does suggest idea why Silver would pay him to contribute to the ‘science’ section of his website. So far as I can tell Pielke has done that exactly once, and not well. Since then, unless you count one correction-slash-defense of that first misfire, Pielke has written Gladwellian articles about sports. Why? Who knows. We could throw chicken guts on a rune-marked flagstone to determine whether someone at ESPN reminded Nate that Pielke is attracting the kind of publicity their marketing ogres do not enjoy, or Nate personally jerked Pielke’s leash out of embarrassment or if Pielke just generally likes sports. But who cares. It fits the site better and it’s a lot harder for Pielke to serve cthulhu with columns about golf.

Not that Pielke has forgot about ol’ cthulhu.

Pielke has a letter in today’s Financial Times about the economics of emissions caps – something I know a fair bit about – that abundantly confirms his bad reputation.

[…] Pielke isn’t claiming that it’s hard in practice to limit emissions without halting economic growth, he’s arguing that it’s logically impossible.

Well that saves energy. Instead of dismissing each climate mitigation policy as it comes along, just write off the entire concept! How you can make that argument and deny that your purpose in the world is basically to be a stuck drum brake on the wheel of climate progress is a mystery to me, but if you paid me enough I guess I could find a way.

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59 replies
  1. 1
    Anoniminous says:

    … professor of environmental at …

    (Use the nouns, Luke)

    I love it when some stupid %^@#$!-$^@! wanker deems phenomena “logically impossible.” It saves time reading their garbage.

  2. 2
    Jerzy Russian says:

    professor of environmental at the University of Colorado Boulder

    Environmental what? Surely not science?

  3. 3
    Tim F. says:

    Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected.

  4. 4
    Shakezula says:

    Why stop with mitigating climate change?

    We’d love to increase the minimum wage, but there’s no way to do it without halting economic growth.

    Sure it would be great if everyone had access to health care, but we have to keep the economic growth moving.

    You say voter ID laws are problematic, but you haven’t demonstrated how they impact economic growth.

    In the interest of spurring economic growth, we’re going to invade, Central and South America. On foot.

  5. 5

    the sky didn’t fall like you told us it would when CWA, CAA, ESA, etc. rolled out, chicken littles.

  6. 6
    Belafon says:

    @Jerzy Russian:

    Environmental what? Surely not science?

    Nope. Science. It’s even better capitalized.

    And he’s got these credentials: A B.A. in mathematics (1990), a M.A. in public policy (1992), and a Ph.D. in political science, all from the University of Colorado Boulder. – wikipedia

  7. 7
    Baud says:

    I found Pielke’s thesis persuasive. I’m going to spur some economic growth by buying copies of the Financial Times and burning them to release the carbon.

  8. 8
    chopper says:

    ah, the greatest, most important issue of our time. just a reminder of how humanity will go out of its way to fuck up everything, even recognizing that it has fucked up everything.

  9. 9
    BGinCHI says:

    The definition of a conservative: to fear change so profoundly that progress must be sabotaged at all costs.

    Def #2: to use the government, or lack thereof, to loot the citizenry by ensuring that capitalism favors only the rich at the expense of everyone else.

  10. 10
    WaterGirl says:

    Okay, now I’m disappointed. When I saw “checking in on old friends o’ the blog”, I thought there would be shout outs to folks we miss on BJ that we haven’t seen in awhile.

    I’m gonna start. Miss you, General Stuck. Also asiangrrrl and a whole ton of other BJ people whose have faded away but have not been forgotten.

  11. 11

    Pielke isn’t claiming that it’s hard in practice to limit emissions without halting economic growth, he’s arguing that it’s logically impossible.

    We have chopped automobile emissions so much that you can’t kill yourself by locking yourself in a garage with a running car anymore. This is obviously why I live in a wattle and daub hut with no indoor plumbing.

  12. 12
    Baud says:


    That would be nice in theory, but we’d probably just hear from old trolls.

  13. 13
    Yatsuno says:

    @WaterGirl: Proper authoritahs alerted!

  14. 14
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Belafon: Shoot me now. I’ll transmit my current whereabouts so you can phone in the airstrike.

  15. 15
    Yatsuno says:

    @Belafon: It’s like an academic circle jerk!

  16. 16
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @WaterGirl: I miss you guys, too! I drop by from time to time, mostly when Cole posts pictures of Sir Willie Whiskertons III (Steve), but I’ve really slacked off since I’ve lost interest in politics. Hopefully, I can get juiced up again this fall for the midterms. ::hugs::

    ETA (‘coz it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t amend my post):

    @Yatsuno: Thanks for the CATsignal, Yutsy!

  17. 17
    KG says:

    Pielke isn’t claiming that it’s hard in practice to limit emissions without halting economic growth, he’s arguing that it’s logically impossible

    No, it’s not. The people in charge of the big oil companies aren’t just going to sit on the sidelines while their profits dry up. They will invest heavily in whatever the alternative ends up being (possibly more than one). Plus, there are all sorts of new businesses that can start up – some of those may end up replacing ones that have to shutter, but it’s not the end of the world. There’s a reason why you see gas stations with electric charging ports and natural gas pumps.

  18. 18
    chopper says:


    ah, eminent climatologist. clearly the guy everyone should listen to regarding the climate.

  19. 19
    chopper says:


    TZ came back for a comment or two recently.

    “to all the commenters i’ve loved on BJ….”

  20. 20
    chopper says:


    I’ve really slacked off since I’ve lost interest in politics.

    man, i wish i were in your shoes. i thought i was out, but they pulled me back in.

  21. 21
    Calouste says:

    I’d like professor Pielke to explain his thesis using examples from history, like how, after the UK implemented environmental regulations following the Great Smog of London in 1952, London turned into a post-apocalyptic hell-hole of poverty where no self-respecting investment banker, Arabian oil billionaire or international rockstar is seen within a hundred miles.

  22. 22
    jl says:

    Pielke cites the ‘Kaya identity’ for his conclusion. The Kaya identity is just that, an economic accounting identity, and one that some argue is seriously flawed because it omits the effect environmental damage.

    Pielke either completely misrepresents, or does not understand, how accounting identities work in economics. You cannot do any kind of prediction, or cost-benefit analysis of a policy intervention using an accounting identity alone. You need a causal model AND the accounting identity.

    So, is Pielke totally clueless or is he knowingly peddling BS? Seems only two choices from what he wrote.

  23. 23
    jl says:


    Edit: if you don’t read some economic arguments carefully, with substantive knowledge of a topic, sometimes it seems like an identity is doing all the work, but if the analysis is sound, then the causal model is kept implicit in the story of how a causal chain of events will unfold as constrained by the accounting identity. One problem with Dean Baker is that he uses that approach to explaining often. But Baker knows what he is talking about, so the causal chain IS there, just not explicit in how he sets out the argument.

    With other economists, if everything seems to run off an accounting identity, there is chance that there is no coherent causal model in the background, and that what you are reading is nonsense.

    Brad DeLong is one economist who is very careful about this when he explains things, or corrects Wrong Things on the Internet.

  24. 24
    WaterGirl says:

    @Baud: The trolls: we shall not speak their names.

  25. 25
    Belafon says:

    @jl: Sounds an awful lot like the people claiming the ACA wouldn’t work because of the added cost of the new people being covered without taking into account that 1) they were already using medical services (the emergency room) and 2) how it’s cheaper to catch problems early.

  26. 26
    Trollhattan says:

    @Jerzy Russian:
    Professor of Environmental Crimes.

  27. 27
    WaterGirl says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Where’s your signature third link?

  28. 28
    WaterGirl says:

    @chopper: “To all the BJs I’ve loved before” has a better number of syllables, but there’s something about it that’s not quite right. Hmm.

  29. 29
    jl says:

    @Belafon: The big problems of starting with an accounting identity and running wild with nothing else, begin when there is more than one endogenous variable in the identity. And nonsense results when there may be a mutual dependence or relationship between two terms that occur in the identify. Then you cannot use the identity by itself to predict anything without a causal model of the interdependencies.

    Not that familiar with Kaya’s work, but from what I have seen, he seems to understand how economic identities work. Why does not Pielke?

  30. 30
    Eric U. says:

    @jl: because he has no relevant training?

  31. 31
    Schlemizel says:

    Interesting, I have a degree in radio broadcasting, electronic technologies and business administration – I guess I am qualified to be a professor of Environmental Science at Boulder also.

    WTF? I thought professors had to have at least studied in their field of teaching.

  32. 32
    gbear says:

    @WaterGirl: The worst thing about that statement is that it puts the Willie Nelson/ Julio Inglesias earworm from hell in my head. Curse you!

  33. 33
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @jl: It sounds very similar to the claims in the hard sciences that assert that everyone in a certain field is ignoring something completely elementary that a high-schooler would know, like conservation of energy.

    That kind of thing always smells funny when it comes up; usually there’s a detail that is being omitted somewhere.

  34. 34
    Anoniminous says:


    Because he is a wanker. As evidenced by:

    Roger’s research focuses on science, innovation and politics and in 2011 began to write and research on the governance of sports organizations, including FIFA and the NCAA.

  35. 35
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Given the Reichwing’s allergy to any science whatsoever, the title seems strangely appropriate.

    @Belafon: … and all of those confer the ability to grok environmental science? oh – right… it’s the political bit that does that. I forget what wankers Reichwing PoliSci nerds can be.

  36. 36
    boatboy_srq says:


    science, innovation and politics

    Rove has a Piled higher and Deeper in that discipline, yes?

  37. 37
    WaterGirl says:

    @gbear: It’s not my fault. Chopper started it!

    (If I’d added “mom” with two syllables at the beginning of that sentence, I would sound just like a 10 year old girl.)

  38. 38
    catclub says:

    @WaterGirl: I want an update on the credenza!

  39. 39
    catclub says:

    @boatboy_srq: Yep, or as much of one as Al Gore.

  40. 40
    Anoniminous says:


    Pielke’s Ph.D is in Political Science. He is also a S.f.B (Shit-fer-Brains) but that he acquired legitimately.


    ETA: I don’t know if Rove has a Ph.D.

  41. 41
    WaterGirl says:

    @catclub: Faxing it over to you right now.

  42. 42
    catclub says:

    @Matt McIrvin: You mean the second law of thermodynamics does NOT predict that evolution cannot have happened, and that we can only be running downhill from the perfection of Eden?

  43. 43
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Anoniminous: IIRC Rove never finished his Bachelors degree. He was in too big of a hurry to start fucking things up.

  44. 44
    Baud says:

    OT: Gay badgers can now get married.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Baud: About time. Link.

  46. 46
    Sir Laffs-a-Lot says:

    moar Max pix

  47. 47
    Schlemizel says:

    My guess is there will come a time, when it is much too late that people will panic in a big way & asshole professors in Environmental Science will have some dandy ideas about massive efforts we could take to really fuck things upsolve the issue. Of course it will cost hundreds of billions of government dollars but it will sound sexy and simple and painless. It will of course speed the destruction of human life on this earth.

  48. 48
    jl says:

    So McCain is calling people who accuse him of flip flopping as ‘liars’. Is that civil, or pro-active insult as a tactic, or just McCain’s sincere righteous wrath and indignation bringing bitter bile to his throat (that last is a paraphrase of St Reagan)?

    Fact checker at WaPo says McCain flip flopped.
    Now, I think and have said repeatedly on this blog that the fact checker cottage industry has become kind of a scam.
    So, more important than the fact checker’s bottom line buzz word, is what quality of evidence and argument was used.
    I think of the fact checker columns as a kind of free research service, rather than an argument from authority.
    I think the WaPo fact checker did a good job in this case. You read and you decide.

    Fact Checker: Despite What McCain Says, He Flip-Flopped On Bergdahl Swap

  49. 49
    jl says:

    @Schlemizel: Actually, we can do that now. Just repealing all air quality laws might delay things quite a bit, some scientist think so..

    Pump a shit ton more old fashioned particulate pollutants into the air, it’s like a bunch of man made volcanoes.
    Only problem is that, even if it does work as some think, the half-life of smoky pollution is so short compared to global warming gases, that it acts like a flow and the CO2 and others act like a stock.

    So, as the stock of global warming gases in the atmosphere grows, we have to pump smoky crap into the air ever more rapidly to keep the effect of the growing stock of global warming gases at bay. Which might not be the best thing. And then, it might not work as expected.

    I am surprised the GOP has not suggested it. Maybe when they cannot deny the role of humans in global warming and admit that modern physics works, they will propose it.

  50. 50
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    On Wisconsin!!

  51. 51
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    On Wisconsin!!

  52. 52
    catclub says:


    I am surprised the GOP has not suggested it.

    Since it appears to be what the Chinese are doing at the moment.

  53. 53
    Hobbes says:

    @jl: If only there was a cheap last minute solution to the problem.

  54. 54
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Every time anyone buys a Tesla, it’s like a little mini-recession!

  55. 55
    Howard Beale IV says:

    “Some of the most stupidest people on the planet have Ph. D’s. I have one!”

    Leo Buscaglia

  56. 56
    cthulhu says:

    Listen, I don’t need Pielke’s help to destroy humanity. I’d rather not associate with those contrarian types. Just saying…

  57. 57
    SFAW says:

    Tim –
    I thought you were going to give us an update on Freddie deBoer’s latest opus! I’m so disappointed!

    But: Gladwellian: is that the new word to describe superficial, incorrect theses which are based on shoddy interpretation of the evidence at hand, backed up by Pantloadian-quality “research”? Or is there another meaning?

  58. 58
    SFAW says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member?

  59. 59
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @SFAW: That all depends.

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