Roger Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado, is an expert on climate change, sports governance, and what he calls the “messy interface” between science and government. In this episode, we discuss his eighth and most-recent book — The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change — as well as governance failures in sports and politics, cancel culture, the slow pace of energy transitions, and the possibility that college sports will be canceled this fall.
Robert Bryce 0:05
Hi, and welcome to the new edition new episode of the power hungry podcast where we talk about energy, power, innovation, and politics. My guest today is Roger Pielke, Jr, who I think I first interviewed maybe 12 or 1314 years ago, a long time because I was interested in his work on climate change. And so today, welcome Roger Pielke Jr. Thanks for coming on the show. Glad to have you. I could give you a long introduction. You’re a professor at the University of Colorado have been for a long time. But today we’re going to talk about climate. We’re going to talk about sports. We’re going to talk about a lot of other things. And rather than me introducing you, Roger, if you don’t mind. Imagine we’ve just arrived at a dinner party and you’re introducing yourself to the people at the dinner party. No, none of whom know you. What would you say?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 0:56
Well, it depends if I want to engage in a long conversation or not. If I want to shut it down, I tell him I study climate policy and politics. And they’ll go to the bar. Or if they want to chat, I’ll tell them I study the role of science and technology in sport. And then they won’t leave me alone for the night. I’m a professor at the University of Colorado. I’m trained as a political scientist and mathematician. I basically I study the messy interface where science and politics meet across a wide range of topics. The topics are broad, but the issues are pretty common across those issues. And we see that in a lot of detail right now with the response to the pandemic.
Robert Bryce 1:35
I like that idea that the messy interface because it is messy, incredibly, so and and nasty. A lot of times, and we’ll talk about that as well. But on Twitter the other day, oh, and you’re the author, by the way of eight books, is that right?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:51
Something like that. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 1:52
So like that? Well, your most recent one is on my Kindle. It’s the rightful place of science, disasters and climate change and I know you’ve written a bunch of other books, or a bunch of articles as well, which we’ll discuss. But on Twitter The other day you put something on on Twitter about a recent column that had been written by Martin wolf of the financial times in which he talked about the fact that we’re living in a multiple crises. And he talked about COVID and economic disappointment, democratic legitimacy, global commons, international relations and a crisis of global governance. And after I read that, I thought, hey, that’s really talking about, in my view, talking about your work that you’re really a lot of your work is fundamentally about, about governance and in sports and climate policy in how policymakers deal with science. Is that a fair assessment of you talked about messy interface, but is it is your is ultimately Are you really focused on governance issues?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 2:51
Yeah, absolutely. are really the tensions that we see in in 2020. A lot of them surround we want to in many places, we want to Have people involved in democratic governance. That means anybody can participate. But many of the issues that we deal with are really sophisticated, scientifically, technologically, and we need experts. And so how we balance out that democratic imperative to open up decision making to anyone, how we balance democracy and expertise seems to me to be at the core of a lot of the challenges we face in 2020.
Robert Bryce 3:27
So balancing democracy and expertise, and where does that is it playing out most, in your view? And what what arena is that tension? The greatest that tension between democracy and expertise is the lockdowns that we’re seeing now on COVID. I mean, where do you Where do you see this as most acute we see
Roger Pielke, Jr. 3:49
it I think right now with the populist movements in the United States, in Hungary, in Poland, in Brazil, around the world with very highest levels of coverage. After the 2016 election in the United States, the New Yorker had a cartoon. And it was in an airplane. And he was something like, people raising their hands, how many of you want Bob to fly the plane? And it gets to kind of the core of the issue. You know, of course, we want to train pilots to fly the plane. But at the same time, people are saying where they’re going. And so how we balance out who gets to run the the ship of state, where it’s headed, and how we mix those things up, seemed to me to be at the highest level of political discussions these days. And I mean, there’s no better example than the failed response to the pandemic in the United States. The National Academy of Sciences, was asked to set up an expert advisory body early this year in March by the White House and they haven’t, with very few exceptions, they haven’t used these Experts. That’s just one example of experts being pushed to the side. And there is this idea and we see it in Brazil, we see it in Hungary that we don’t need experts. And I think that, you know, we’ve kind of the pendulum swung too far on the in the end of dismissing expertise in government. And so we have to figure out a proper balance for that.
Robert Bryce 5:23
Well, and so how do we find that then? I mean, you said we need to find that proper balance, is it how much of this is due to the politicians and the policymakers being innumerate and scientifically illiterate? I mean, because it seems to me that’s part of it in terms of dealing with the models that are are used and and their unwillingness to trust the models and willingness to trust the trust the numbers, whatever, what how you fix it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 5:48
Yeah. So this is one where we, you know, democracy is is in an ideal state self correcting, and in bad policy outcomes in normal times, you know, Ronald Reagan would say Are you better off now than you were four years ago? And that was kind of an an indicator of you know, do you want change? Or do you want things to be the same? So if people get a sense that things are going wrong, the wrong direction, they have an opportunity to self correct. At the same time, I think we experts, people who are trained in some area of specialized knowledge or the application of technology, we also have an obligation to ensure that expertise is seen as serving everybody’s needs. And if people get the sense that experts whether they’re scientists or doctors or whomever, are serving rich, only the rich are only a subclass, only one political party, we threaten our own expertise. And I think we’ve seen I’ve written quite a bit about this, particularly since really 2000 the 2000 US election in the United States that that academics and experts have been pretty willing to play a political game. The first time I saw a sign on letter from no Well Prize winners in support of a presidential candidate was was john kerry. And if you look at opinion polls for a long time, and this is the same in Europe as it is the United States, scientists, medical doctors, other experts, are the most trusted class of individuals in most countries. So, so we have a resource of trust. And if you look right now with a pandemic, you know, most people trust Anthony falchi, and CDC. And so, so that’s a resource, both for good policy but also for good politics. And so I read
Robert Bryce 7:38
Fauci, I have to interrupt you there because now the White House’s recently issued statements trying to effectively discredit their top guy. I mean, it’s just a remarkable I mean, when does that ever happen right when you got people are supposedly on the same side? Don’t blame him. He’s the he’s the one who’s the problem.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 7:56
Yeah, I mean, this gets to I mean, the you know where to start. The problems with how the White House’s handling they’re experts. But we really don’t want any individual experts to become a personality, a political personality, especially. It would be better if you know, Anthony Fauci is in a very difficult role. He’s a public figure, a lot to put on his shoulders. But really, to get expert advice for anything as complicated as a pandemic. We need a collection of experts. And there are a number of expert advisory bodies that were put in place through congressional legislation over the last 20 years for how to deal with a pandemic when it was coming. You know, the problem is deeper than just the White House is going after Anthony falchi. It’s that the entire infrastructure of expert advice, policy implementation that was put in place over 20 years has been tossed out. So the fact that we are relying on a single individual as the basis you know, as the expert that itself is is a symptom of a deep problem in the current response.
Robert Bryce 9:04
Well, I noticed in your book rightful place of science that you talked about yourself being pressured back in 2001, when you were going to brief people in the George W. Bush administration about climate change, you wrote this, you said, my surprise was that my colleagues were asking me to downplay and to even misrepresent my own research, because it was viewed as being inconvenient in the advocacy effort on climate change. My work had found no evidence of a signal of human caused climate change and the growing toll of losses from floods, hurricanes and other extremes. While I had concluded that actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases made good sense. I also believe that pointing to the latest disasters of advocacy for action went beyond what the science could support and that should be avoided. So you’ve seen this yourself now for 20 years?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 9:54
Yeah, there’s, there’s um, of course everyone wants science on their side. So One thing to the science by science, one thing we can dispense of right away is that some people are anti science or don’t believe in science. Everybody loves science. I mean that the problem is people love science too much.
Robert Bryce 10:12
Only the science of the day agrees with their view. Yeah,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 10:14
absolutely. I mean, it’s very easy for people to go in and out the best bits of the science that support the case you want to make. I’ve had students come to me often, and they’ll say, you know, I’m writing a paper. And I want to argue that the moon is made out of blue cheese. Can you point me to all the academic articles in the literature that that support that thesis? And I said, of course, I can do that. But do you want the articles that say the moon’s made out of cheddar cheese, or American cheese or whatever? And they’ll say, Oh, no, no, no, that doesn’t help me. And so it for us as experts. Our credibility, our legitimacy is is always enhanced when we play things straight. In an advocate on this side of a debate, or that sided debate wants to cherry pick or frame that issue, The best way possible, that’s their job. But I think we as experts, particularly when we’re advising policymakers have an obligation to, even when it’s inconvenient for our own personal politics or whatever agenda, we want to advance, have to play things straight. And I think, you know, the climate issue is probably pretty extreme. But you know, we can talk about other issues where there are enormous pressures from within the scientific community to, to help advocacy in a particular direction, which means sometimes not playing straight.
Robert Bryce 11:33
Well, and that’s been a lot of the tension around your work, right, particularly when it comes to the to the issue of disasters and climate. But let me step back from that one for a minute. Because I wanted to just put in context, you you’re a mathematician and political scientists, and I wanted this a question. I wanted to tee up right at the beginning. So how do those disciplines work together? What do we is there? Is there a natural affinity there is that, you know, politics and political and voting and seems like it’s much more data driven these days. than ever. How has it affected your you being mathematically based and political science? How do those fit together?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 12:07
Yeah, it’s interesting. I, my father, who’s retired now was a leading atmospheric scientist of his generation. He was one of the, the pioneers in modeling of the of the atmosphere, focus on weather modeling and regional climate modeling. And so I grew up in a household and the apple doesn’t fall or fall fall far from the tree. I always thought I’d be a physical scientist like him. So I grew up learning how to program in Fortran. And, you know, he taught me calculus. So at the dinner table when I was probably seven. So at some point in my academic career, I had a chance to go to Washington, DC, work for the House Science Committee. And I realized that you know, this this, again, complicated, messy interface where we’re science and politics is much more interesting to me. It’s turned out I mean, the social sciences as you well know, are are often incredibly mathematical, sometimes too much. The short story is I got a math degree because back when I was in college, it was the shortest lines to sign up for classes and I was good at math. So I took the easiest path.
Robert Bryce 13:14
Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about canceled culture. And to me that one of the things that was most remarkable in the last few months was this effort by Michael Mann, an academic at Penn State. Josh Fox filmmaker, Mark Jacobson, an academic at Stanford, Leah Stokes, an academic at UC Santa Barbara, to block the screening block the airing of michael moore’s film Planet of the humans. To me, it was just wait a minute, what, why is this? Why are they trying to limit speech from one of the most famous documentary makers in America? How did you read that?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 13:53
Yeah, there’s there has been this unfortunate tendency and it’s it’s everyone’s talking about it. Now. To treat To stop prevent or, or marginalized voices perspectives that this or that group doesn’t like, I don’t think that’s politically new. I think it’s, it’s taken on a new dimension with social media.
I think it’s particularly
egregious when it comes from inside the academy when academics seek to sensory that those who are outside or you know, their colleagues who are inside academia, and I have seen a fair bit of that in my career. But on the on the positive side, one thing, you know, I’ve learned is, there was a time when I would say, you know, 10 years 10 years is excessive, we don’t need to give anybody a job for life. Let’s give professors five year contracts. And if they’re doing a good job, just renew it. I’m a big fan of tenure, because I probably wouldn’t be in my job. Now if I didn’t have tenure here. Big fan cuz you have it, because I have. One thing I realized is, is is there’s a lot of things that can be taken away from you a lot of penalties that can be put on someone who’s whose work is not liked. But you can’t be canceled. I have a huge forum, I have a huge ability to get my views out. My job is safe, they can write to my bosses and, you know, try to marginalize me don’t have me on committees or not participate in IPCC or things like that. But as far as having a voice, that tenured professor can’t be canceled. And so that’s something I take very seriously and have a lot of respect for and it I decided, you know, in my career, I’m going to use it. So it’s one of the few privileges that you have as a as a professor. And it’s one that’s, I think, essential to to open dialogue and getting good ideas out there.
Robert Bryce 15:51
Well, so let’s look at some of your recent career issues because this has affected you, as an individual as a commentator as an academic it was in 2000 In 14, I’m going to say you were cancelled at 538. Calm Nate Silver’s. Then very young website, after you wrote an article that argued I’m quoting here, the increase in natural disaster property losses in recent years can be explained by the world’s increasing wealth, not by climate change. And that there, there isn’t evidence here to support claims that increasing disaster costs are driven by more frequent or intense weather events. And yet, you had were effectively forced out at 538. They didn’t because you there was a whole coordinated effort to get you out of there. Why was that? It was because your narrative is not fitting the orthodoxy.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 16:44
Yeah, it was interesting, because when I when I started writing for 538 in my conversations with Nate Silver, I wanted to move away from the climate debate for exactly this reason, it was kind of poisonous. It was getting to be You’re more personality driven inside science. So I made a deal with Nate that I, you know, he would let me write about some sports topics, I’d contribute some environmental and climate stuff. So the first piece I was asked to do was to summarize the consensus science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on disasters. It’s something I’ve been writing about as at that time for 15 to 20 years, wasn’t particularly controversial, well supported in the literature and in science. And I think the the idea of me writing for Nate Silver was more offensive to certain people in the community than what I actually wrote. If you read it today, it stands up very well. It’s still supported by the IPCC and the US National Climate Assessment. But the idea was that there there needed to be some limits on who had a platform to speak on climate change, and it turns out a few years later, thanks to WikiLeaks, in john Podesta As emails, it was revealed that there was a behind the scenes campaign from the Center for American Progress to have me forced out there. So
Robert Bryce 18:10
and you refer to this in the rightful place of science, but you, you also then told I think it was Keith klore, who wrote about this, you said that you were surprised at, quote, The degree to which the negative response to the piece in 538 was coordinated among some activists, scientists, journalists and social media aficionados. Paul Krugman referred to you as a known irresponsible skeptic. Here’s a Nobel Prize winning economist attacking you you don’t it? I mean, how did it give you the TV reporters question? How did it make you feel?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 18:46
Yeah, I was so I think so. Part of it was, you know, I’d love to think my work and me I’m, you know, I’m also important, but part of it was that I was being used as a proxy for people to get it Nate Silver. And you have to remember at that time, he had just had a fairly The Ugly divorce from the New York Times was standing up his own shop was, you know, looking to make a fortune and left the New York Times on, on great footing. And so there was a lot of people in the media, who I had never talked to with Paul Krugman and others who I think were using me as a proxy to try to take down Nate and his new effort. If an editor doesn’t have your back, then, you know, for me, that’s not worth writing at that place. And I realized, you know, the world journalism is not like the world of academia. Journalists don’t have tenure. So I can see how there’s enormous pressure on people who write at different outlets to write in certain ways. And we see this playing out, you know, just in the last month, couple months at the New York Times. So I get it. I was just ahead of the curve, I guess in the battle over who gets a platform and who doesn’t.
Robert Bryce 19:53
So this legitimacy, wars I mean, this is one of the things in fact, you have in your book, you have the section why the climate wars are so angry.
Unknown Speaker 20:02
Why are they?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 20:05
It’s it’s a really interesting phenomenon where, where early on in the climate debate,
the issue became
attached to science with the idea that that the science says we must do X, Y or Z.
Robert Bryce 20:22
And then that was monolithic that there was full agreement on the best case or the best course forward.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 20:29
Well, and that there’s that there is the science that I mean, anyone who takes the time to look at the, you know, 1500 page IPCC reports, knows that there’s a wide range of science, yes, climate change is real, it poses risks. And my personal view is we should be doing you know, we should do some substantial action related to energy policy and adaptation. But there is no singular science that is like a catechism that everyone swears allegiance to We’re all make better smarter by learning new things by challenging received wisdom and so on. But early on in the climate debate, there was this idea that science could be used as the lever to force political consensus.
And to some degree network, there
Robert Bryce 21:16
had to be orthodoxy among the scientists, right? There has a, there had to be a consensus that Outworld 98% of all dentists agree 95% of all climate scientists. So that was that was really the effort to to make everyone hue to one one view.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 21:31
I think, I think in the advocacy world, it’s a very simple measure to say, look, the scientific community has a consensus. It supports this what we want to do, and if you’re an academic and elements of that, that received wisdom that the advocates are putting forward. So let me say, the work that I do and I have done has always been consistent with the reports of the IPCC. In fact, it’s cited in the IPCC prominently. And
try to dictate what a scientist or an academic can or can’t say, that’s when we get into some problems, particularly if my colleagues in the scientific community decide, you know, they’re going to start inside with the the views of the activists in trying to paint a, you know, a less nuanced picture than you might get with at a scientific meeting and so on. I think climate science is robust enough to survive. debate, discussion, diversity of views. So I have never been one to think that the enforcement of a particular perspective is necessary or even desirable. But obviously, some of my colleagues don’t agree with it.
Robert Bryce 22:41
Well, even you have a new paper coming out. It’s the title is economic normalization of disaster losses 1998 to 20 2022 year period, literature review and assessment. you conclude that a review of I’m quoting here 54 normalization studies published 1998 to 2020 And finds little evidence to support claims that any part of the overall increase in global economic losses documented on climate timescales can be attributed to human caused changes in climate, reinforcing conclusions of recent assessments of the IPCC. When you said this now for roughly 20 years, you haven’t changed any of your, from what I mean, have your views on these climate losses change? Because what I see and in fact, before we started recording I mentioned I looked at the climate crisis action plan has something like 60 or more references to wildfires that this the conflating the issue of climate change with more dangerous natural disasters?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 23:44
Yeah, there was a time so so let me take a step back. So the work that I did and I helped to pioneer was to ask the question, if extreme events of the past the great 1926 Miami hurricane if they were to happen today, what today is level of building and wealth and population, how much damage would we see from those past events today? And that’s that’s roughly the normalization literature. normalizations, a technical term that just refers bringing past events today, along with Chris lancy, who’s a scientist, and no, we did the first such study in that literature in 1998. Now, there’s 54. And they paint a very strong consensus that if there is a signal of human caused climate change in disaster losses, we can’t see it yet, doesn’t mean we won’t see it in the future. It doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t having an effect. What it means is that we can’t detect that signal. It’s the increase in disaster losses that we’ve seen is is overwhelmingly and you know, there’s no room for anything else due to more people more property.
Robert Bryce 24:51
So just interrupt so there’s more people more property, building close to Miami building close to New York building on the coast, which is where people like to live. So that the increase, I mean, this is of great interest to the insurance industry as well, because this is what they’re where they live. Right. But what you’re the fundamental point, if I’m reading this back to you correctly is that Yeah, we’ve seen the the the level of dollar losses may be going up, but it’s only due to settlement patterns and the fact that there’s more valuable stuff close to where it can be hit by by hurricanes or tornadoes, or whatever the case may be.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 25:27
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And so in this large literature of 54 studies, conducted all around the world, these effects are even larger in places like eastern China, where where tropical cyclones typhoons hit and you know, just look at a picture of Shanghai 1970 and a picture of Shanghai in 2020. And you’ll get a sense of why that matters. There was a time when that type of research that that those findings were pretty popular in the scientific community. I write about in the book in 2016. I got the Roger robell Award from the National Academy of Sciences Roger Revelle was the scientist who introduced al gore to climate change. And I gave a talk at the Smithsonian, there’s 1000 people in the audience. Two months after I gave that talk, Al Gore came out with his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, had a hurricane coming out of a smokestack, little bit of trivia the hurricane spinning the wrong way. But
But then there was a concerted event,
Robert Bryce 26:26
the hurricanes and typhoons spin different directions in the northern and southern hemispheres. Yes.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 26:33
Yeah, so he had a southern hemisphere, tropical cyclone coming out of the Northern Hemisphere. That hasn’t made but there was a concerted effort around 2006 with Al Gore’s movie 2007 when the the advocacy groups and funders for climate action came together, to try to bring climate change home to the ordinary citizen, because if I tell you, you know, the claim is going to change in 50 years. Yours. And it’s going to be subtle. It’s going to shift agriculture. And it could have large risks for extreme events. Most people are gonna say, you know, I got to pick up the kids, you know, bug me in 49 years. So there was a concerted effort among advocacy groups, and that continues to this day to put extreme events at the center of public advocacy for climate action. So, so the interview was
Robert Bryce 27:23
to make them fearful. Right. And I looked again, I just looked at the climate crisis action plan. Wildfires occur 61 times hurricanes 27 times in this document that just was published on June 30. That, that that effort, if I’m, what I’m hearing is, you’re saying that this is part of the concerted effort of we’re going to have meaningful action we have to instill fear in the populace to make them do something. Is that fair assessment?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 27:49
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, I think, I’m not sure fears, the only motivation I think it’s more it’s to make it visceral. Let’s make it salient to make it to bring it home to people to say, you know, this climate change Change is not a faraway thing, it can affect your everyday life. And hey, look on CNN or Fox News, there’s a reporter standing in a hurricane. So people can can can get a sense of what that means and make them care now, and make them care now in order to support action now, now, you know, studies have shown that that type of messaging or that type of argument doesn’t typically get people to motivated to support a cap and trade program or carbon tax or whatever it happens to be. But what that did is it it shifted the focus and by that time I had already been working on I started at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 1993, on a postdoc working on extreme events, so by that time, I was about 15 years into into this topic, so it kind of put me in an awkward position. And having my work my pre existing work then viewed as being contrary to an advocacy agenda is I think one of the factors which turned a lot of attention on trying to not to discredit my work because people rarely actually engage with my my work. I work but to try to discredit me personally, as a person or as an academic.
Robert Bryce 29:05
Well, let’s talk about them. Because one of the things that, well, I like to have people on this podcast, I’m having a great time doing this, right? Because a lot of my career I have to go through filters and you know, filters, other people’s funnels and whatever. Now I can do this directly. So what you said that people tend not to read your work. So what is your call to action? Do you want people to follow you on Twitter? You’re at Roger pilkey Jr. Jr. On Twitter, where what else do you want people to do? When looking at your work? Where should they go to find you? Besides reading rightful place of science? What else should they do?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 29:36
Yeah, that people I would I ask people to do is to read things that I’ve written and not read things that other people write about me. And one of the things one of the most interesting things I guess becoming a minor character in the, in the climate world, is that you get to discover that there are to us. There’s the real you. Here’s me. And then there’s this avatar, cartoon character that is painted by mainly by your opponents, people who want to do damage to you in on social media and online. So I read things that are written about me and my suppose of views. And I think, boy, that guy’s an ass. There’s no place right?
Robert Bryce 30:15
Here, I wouldn’t be around him.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 30:17
Right? how can how can anybody be so dumb, so write those things. And and, I mean, it’s it’s, it happens, it happens not daily, but weekly, where I’ll be mentioned in the media, and someone will refer to me, based on something someone else wrote about being let go at 538. Not to mention that, hey, I’ve had dozens of peer reviewed papers, and several books come out since then. So that what I would ask people to do is just read what I read. And if you have questions, just ask me. I’m easy to find them online. And so your most recent book is rightful place of science, disasters and climate change. But you revise this you came up with it first in 2014, and then reissued it in 2018. Is that right?
Robert Bryce 30:59
So why the revision? And what what was the difference between the first version and the one that I have now on my Kindle?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 31:06
Yeah. So um, I mean, the good news about looking at extreme events is that every day we get new data, new information. So between 2014 and 2018, we have four years additional data, on hurricanes around the world on floods on drought. There’s new assessment reports that come out. I fully expect I’ll do another update in 2022. And
Robert Bryce 31:27
paper designer edition, the same book then in 2022. Don’t need a new title. Don’t need a new publisher. That’s good,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 31:32
efficient. No, it’s your take your graph of Hurricane landfalls and you add them in four more years, because people want to know, you know, what’s the latest data say? What’s the trend? Yeah. And and, you know, when you deal with climate, you’re usually talking about, you know, 30 years or longer. So you don’t see trends emerge quickly. But there is this idea, and it’s common, it’s common in my students, when I give talks to the public, that there has been this dramatic uptick in hurricanes and floods and drought relied in recent years. It’s become conventional wisdom. And it’s just not true. And so I encourage you to look at the data. And it is it is, it’s jarring. When I came to the climate issue, it was a boring topic that old guys at the Illinois State Water survey would collect data for years and put it in their spreadsheets. It wasn’t that exciting. But to get a sense of what climate can do over 100 years, if you want to know you know, what hurricanes can do, just imagine the 1950s, which was tremendously active with hurricanes going up and down the East Coast. The 1920s were Florida was in a bullseye. Once you get a better understanding of climate and climate history, you can get pretty, I guess. I don’t some cognitive dissonance when you realize that we’re actually living in an era of pretty good fortune, things could be and they probably will be again, much worse due to human caused climate change or not. So it It is imperative that we improve our responses to disasters, whatever we decide to do on the climate issue.
Robert Bryce 33:07
Well, so in the bottom line there is that, in fact, other people have made the same point. But I’m going to read back what the what I’m hearing you say is that in fact that not only are the are these natural disasters less costly, they’re not as deadly. There are fewer people dying of extreme weather than ever before. And Alex Epstein is now accepting has done a lot of work on this about Well, it’s because we’re using more energy that we’re safer now, which is the flip. I mean, it really flips that a lot of this argument on the hit on its head about, oh, we need to use less well, no, if it’s, my view is in fact, looking at electricity demand patterns around the world. We’re using a lot more energy and we’re going to use a lot more energy in the future because we were going to need it to stay safe and comfortable.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 33:48
Yeah, one of the great and this is this is really one of the underappreciated scientific success stories of the 20th century. And that’s the dramatic reduction in the human impact of of extremes. We’re not there yet, there’s still a large human impact. But if you take, for example, look at the Indian ocean basin and realize that in the 1960s routinely 10,000 people would die from a single storm annually. In that basin because of a lack of warning, lack of infrastructure 1981, Bangladesh Cyclone saw reported hundred and 30,000 people died. Even in this century, we’ve seen large impacts today in 2020. Those storms are well worn. There’s effective evacuation and protection. And so the way that we’ve been able to cope with extremes has been notable. Now there’s exceptions Hurricane Katrina was an absolute disaster in the United States. We see earthquakes around the world in places where there’s not building codes and pore structures and a lot of people die. So there’s a lot of work yet to be done. But at the same time, we have to recognize that that through the application of Science and Technology You’ve done a fantastic job globally overall over the course of a century, making the world safer for people. And that’s a good thing. And so, studies have shown is a recent study that came out last year that showed for all extreme phenomena, every place around the world, vulnerability has been going down. And that’s great. And that’s, that’s that’s an ambition of the UN sustainable development goals to keep that that trend going in the right direction. And I think that’s the scientific community deserves a lot more credit for that, that it’s probably been recognized.
Robert Bryce 35:35
So you mentioned this issue of technological advancement. And it’s a key part of something that I’ve adopted and used many times of your work of yours about the iron law of climate policy. Tell me please explain what is the iron law and why do why why do we care about it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 35:52
Yeah, the iron law climate policy was in came out of my book, the climate fix in 2010. It’s a simple proposition. It shouldn’t be controversial in a sense, instead If people get a sense that their economic interests come in conflict with environmental policies, by and large, they’re going to pick their economic interests every time. That doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to pay something for environmental outcomes. We see that all the time with clean air, clean water, but they have to have a sense that they’re getting some sort of benefit from it overall. And the idea and this is where the idea that in economics, there’s an argument that we need a large carbon tax to accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy. It works fantastic in theory, right. It’s a wonderful theory. But if you the minute you tell someone, oh, the price of gasoline is going to double, or your home, electricity bills gonna go up or the cost of food, whatever it happens to be, you’re going to find some pretty strong opposition. So there are some some real world with what experts call political economy limits on how high we can price carbon and I see that that’s not a reason throw up your hands and say, well, carbon tax can’t do it is that well, if we’re going to have a carbon tax, we realize has to be a low one. And we have to be able to use that to good effect in our policy
Robert Bryce 37:10
architecture, and to explain why it’s good for consumers, which I think is really the hard part. But I think the thing that to me is interesting about this iron law is in particular, because I’ve been looking at electricity lately, right. That’s been my focus, but that the coal market globally remains strong, right, particularly in southern Asia that coal fired power plants are being built. Today in Japan, Germany just recently opened a new lignite fired power plant, which is the lowest ranked coal, therefore the highest co2 emissions. So Japan’s building are planning to build 22 new coal fired power plants that the country that gave us the Kyoto Protocol is saying, well, we’re going to prioritize economic growth, not climate policy, it seems to me is, is that an example? My question is, is that an example of the iron law at work?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 38:00
That is in a sense,
this this that’s
national self interest, not individual. But in Japan is a great example that given the choice, you know, a bunch of islands with not a lot of domestic energy resources, given the choice of politically unpopular nuclear, which is very low carbon, or turning the lights out or not having air conditioning in the summer in Tokyo, they’re going to pick the energy. And they’re going to pick the source that they can most readily deploy. To me that says that things aren’t going to change. We’re not going to accelerate our decarbonisation until we have the technologies at scale, and economics that can be deployed in places like Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, elsewhere, to provide large scale modern energy services to people. And if you don’t want them to be carbon intensive, then we have to advance the technologies a bit further than they are.
Robert Bryce 38:59
Well so then what Is that then what is that it Give me your technological assessment then what is that? What does that mean to you? But about that that new, large scale the gigawatt terawatt scale innovation, what does that look like to you? What? Give me some names?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 39:15
Yeah. So so in the climate fix I advocated This is a popular either for a stance of what I call a technological agnosticism on energy policy. In You know, this is probably better than most anybody. Every energy technology has a constituency for and against it. It’s it’s, I don’t know, it’s it’s almost like the English Premier Li again, the people you know, they they cheer for nuclear, they cheer for wind, solar, geothermal, you know, they’re, they’re elite runner. I mean, it’s, and then there’s fossil fuel that gets carbon capture batteries. Yeah, you name it. And then they form these political constituencies. They argue with each other and they’ll say no, we can solve this problem with 100% of my favorite technology. In my view very much is and if you look at the history of technological innovation, picking technological winners on a century timescale is impossible. Let’s just say that. So I argue that we need a broad based portfolio of investment in, you know, it’s called energy innovation. But it includes things like deployment include things like government subsidies, regulation, there’s a whole suite of policies, a lot of people have written intelligently on this and see what we can do to push the push the technology frontier forward across the range of technologies, who knows where the breakthrough is going to come through? Maybe it’s modular nuclear reactors, maybe it’s large scale battery storage. Politics plays a role too. Right? I mean, if you try to build a new dam for hydro power in the front range of Colorado, it’s not going to happen. Try building a nuclear power plant in Australia.
Robert Bryce 40:58
So so maybe some more turbine wind turbines near the flat irons. Maybe that would be here. There’s windy there.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 41:05
Yeah. So So I mean, that’s a perfect example that that we have to meet this balance of what’s going to be politically acceptable and what’s technologically possible. And we don’t know in 2016 2017 2018 what that where that sweet spot is going to be. Maybe all of a sudden Germany becomes a nuclear leader. They flip flop before, maybe Japan goes back to nuclear, maybe not maybe we come up with new generations new types of battery storage, maybe we come up with really cheap carbon capture and storage technologies direct air capture. So the argument I make is that the reason we would have a carbon tax is to raise funds for doing this sort of energy innovation. It’s kind of a virtuous cycle.
Robert Bryce 41:51
But Are you hopeful that that I mean, because I go back and forth, honestly, I mean, whether we’re really going to see, you know, nuclear energy technology, really the only thing that’s new In the last several hundred years in terms of new energy, you know, solar and wind, these are ancient technologies. This is not something that’s new. And the other part that makes me skeptical is just the enormous scale of global consumption. So are you really hopeful about that? Because everybody, you know, innovation, we need more innovation? Well, of course we do. But are you really hopeful about that? Are we where you come down on that?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 42:25
Yeah, I think I think it’s perfectly fine to have aspirational long term, calm, hopeful, goals, or targets. But in too much of the climate debate has become about longer term targets. What I’d like to see is alright, so if if we’re decarbonizing at a rate of say two to 3% a year, be optimistic. The question is, can we get that to three to 4%? Four to 5%. So the rate that’s needed now to hit the ambitious targets, save of the Paris Agreement are 678 percent per year. There’s no use talking about 8% if we can’t hit 4%. So I’m very big on marrying short term pragmatic, practical policy options with longer term aspirations. And so when there is a plan, like the massive plan that’s put out by Joe Biden, which has a fantastically ambitious goal for, you know, 100% carbon free us electricity by 2035. The question, Alright, fine. That’s a big goal. But don’t stop there. What are you going to do next year, and one of the trends I’ve seen in climate policy is that as the timeframe for targets is shortened, it used to be 2100. Then it was 2050. Now we’re talking 2035. But we’re getting to the point where accountability is going to finally the put on policy politicians who are making promises in the shorter term. So I think that’s positive for policy development. And, and the only way we’ll know how fast we can go is by two
Robert Bryce 44:01
Let me interrupt you there because I posted something on Twitter. In fact, it was one of the things that I wrote down that about Biden’s energy plan. And I wrote a short thing on Forbes about it in terms of the cost and land use, right? Because those are things that I really care about, right. We can’t have regressive taxes on the poor and the middle class, this is bad policy, just full stop just bad policy. We need to keep energy affordable and as clean as possible. Absolutely. But California is the object example or lesson in in some of these policies that are dramatically increasing energy prices. But I digress. But you you you have used this graphic before, but you showed in a graphic you posted on on Twitter about what reaching this decarbonizing the US electric grid by 2035. would require I can read off the numbers. But what I’m sure you remember these broad broad terms, is reducing those 2700 terawatt hours per year of hydrocarbon fueled electric per year, what would that require to zero it out by 2035?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 45:05
There’s two sides to it. So there’s one side, which is the deployment side. So we’re going to deploy a new carbon free energy. And the other side is what I call the decommissioning side, we got to shut down a bunch of fossil fuels. So we need to have a sense of what’s the what’s the pace on both sides of that equation to actually hit the target. And in a round number, and I use I use nuclear power plants as a measuring stick. I don’t have a problem with nuclear. I’m not a big nuclear advocacy guy. But everybody knows basically what a nuclear power plant
Robert Bryce 45:38
roughly 1000 megawatts, one gigawatt,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 45:40
right, one gigawatt hit joe biden’s target the equivalent of carbon free energy of one nuclear power plant every two weeks, starting January, all the way through 2035. At the same time, we have to retire every two weeks. A fossil fuel power plant of one gigawatt size and I Till I see the plan for how this deployment occurs, and at the same time, and this is the part nobody ever talks about, what’s the plan for shutting down existing infrastructure, or attaching a carbon capture and storage that doesn’t exist? facility onto each one of those? I don’t take the plan seriously. You can talk all you want about subsidy reform and creating incentives and so on all those things may be wonderful things. But until you have a plan that translates the target into a deployment schedule and a decommissioning schedule. We don’t have a policy proposal yet.
Robert Bryce 46:38
Well, that’s what you said it was on the slide that I’ve just snapped I screenshotted it here you said any netzero plan needs to show its carbon free deployment and fossil fuel retirement schedule, or it is just not plausible. And that’s the part where I you know, I’ve done interviews with people about this. Oh, we need an aggressive target. You know, we need aggressive target. Well, okay, yeah, you need made me That, but what is being discussed here is just in in fairytale land, I did my own calculations, you know, you spurred me to do some some of my own math. If you you use wind turbines, 3400 megawatts of wind turbines every two weeks, that’s at 88 gigawatts every year for 15 years. Well, okay. So Ada gigawatts, the United States today roughly has about 100 gigawatts of wind. So in other words, you’re going to have to replicate the existing installed base of wind energy in the United States right now. And replicated again every year for the next 14 or 15 years. I mean, to me, that’s just it’s, it’s it’s ludicrous on its face, and yet, it’s being promoted by the Democratic nominee for the White House. And it to me, it’s just like, Well, I know it political malpractice or is just because the public wants to hear this. But it goes into this realm of, as you say, not not even plausible.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 47:58
Yeah, we’re in Era
Can I think we see this probably on steroids with the Trump administration, where we’re appealing to certain political elements has outstripped the importance of policy. policy is wonky, it’s nerdy. And I know you don’t win presidential elections on policy, but somewhere after you, you know, serve up the red meat, you got to have got to have the details and a plan. And it made if you look at the current pandemic, everybody knows what the goal is we want to get out of the pandemic. The failure isn’t that the Trump administration has a bad plan for doing that. The failure is the Trump administration doesn’t have a plan for doing that. So and I could you know, Biden’s nowhere like Trump’s Don’t get me wrong, but the climate plan has a nice target and a lot of associated policy elements but no clear plan for how are you going to hit that target? Right, I think it’s incumbent and again, this may, this is again, not in the with politics in the realm of a policy where the experts reside, if you don’t have a viable plan to achieve the target, you’re going to have a political problem. Maybe not today. But in four years, if Joe Biden hasn’t made progress towards his 2035 plan, that could be a liability for him among people who support him in 2020, because they like the target, because that 2035 target will either be closer or further away in 2024. And I’m pretty sure if it’s further away, or the same distance away as it is today, certain certain supporters of Biden are not going to be happy with that. So this is where we have to marry policy and politics. And again, it gets to this marriage of expertise in the political now, that’s good.
Robert Bryce 49:47
I’m going to finish this part about the legitimacy wars and I want to talk about modeling and then and then shift to sports and you know, and this has been great I love this stuff. And I know you do too. So I you know, I could we could talk all day, but we won’t be said Toward the end of your book on the rightful place of science, that the legitimacy wars will of course, continue. But for those interested in practical actions with consequential efforts, there is a pragmatic, positive way forward. And what I’m repeating that because what I’ve heard you just say is that, that that positive that pragmatic positive way forward includes having plausible policy that is, make some sense on the ground in terms of concrete and copper and transmission towers. Is that a fair assessment of what you’re saying there?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 50:33
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what I want to see is when people can come up with their targets for 2035 for 2030, I want to see what what’s the goal for 2021 2022? What legislation is going to be presented to Congress to pass that’s going to make these things happen? Because the policy has to be in the form of a
Robert Bryce 50:53
bill right and has to have some, some targets, right, that are actually going to say, Well, this is what we’re going to do.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 51:00
This is what we’re going to do. It can’t be this is how much we’re going to spend. It has to be, this is what we’re going to do, of course you spend to achieve to do. But on climate, if we’re going to actually take on this challenge in a much more serious way than we have, then it has to have a bipartisan in the United States of bipartisan consensus. I haven’t seen it yet. And a lot of people were it’s not because you know, it’s sitting out there. And it’s, it’s obvious, it’s a hard problem, obviously. But the fact that we haven’t opened up discussion and debate to a wider range of views and perspectives, leads me to think that, you know, a lot of people are happy with this being merely political, not a policy challenge.
Robert Bryce 51:43
Okay, so let me let me shift on to the issue of modeling because we kind of talked about that a little bit early on, and you’re a co author of a recent recent paper on the ethics of modeling and you talk about your critical of the misuse of models. You’ve been particularly focused on the RCP 8.4 Five. So what is that? It just run me through what the the recent paper on the ethics of modeling and then let’s shift to the 8.5 if you don’t mind,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 52:11
yeah, along with a group of I think it’s 23 or 24 colleagues from around the world. Led by Andrea Santelli, who’s at University of Bergen. We did a paper in nature on trying to make the argument that modeling is a social activity. It we have technical people who write code and do models, but in order for models to serve a productive social function, social purpose. There’s a number of dimensions, they have to be transparent. They have to be understood, understandable by policymakers. They have to be placed into context. They’re not crystal balls that show us the future. This is summarizing a literature in a perspective that a lot of people have developed over over many decades, but we see it With, with with COVID. And the pandemic, that, you know, the model that gets put out from the University of Washington is the latest greatest number. And it’s the understanding that models are quantitative tools that should be used qualitatively is often a difficult one to get across. Models provide us insight about the consequences of our assumptions that we bring to the table. And they do more to open up futures to let us see what’s possible and to tell us what we should do or what we have to do. That makes sense.
Robert Bryce 53:34
So let me shift to the to the RCP 8.5 you’ve written a lot about that about the this this scenario is put out by climate modelers was the worst case scenario and yet it’s been the one that so many people have latched on to is that. Am I typifying this correctly?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 53:54
Yeah, I mean, so so in order to have a sense of what our long term climate future might look like, when To have a sense of well, how much carbon dioxide and other chemicals in and forcings is the technical term Are we going to put into the atmosphere.
you need to know that because that goes into your physical science climate model, and that helps to produce scenarios of a long term future. We don’t know how much carbon dioxide the world’s going to produce going forward. So historically with the with the climate science community has done is they come up with a range of scenarios. Long story short, in the most recent iteration of producing those scenarios, which was started in 2005. A while ago, a decision was made, we’ll put in the passive voice to anoint the the most extreme scenario as our most likely scenario. So this one has an expansion of coal consumption worldwide, a per capita growth something like six or seven times from what it is today. Everyone who has expertise in energy systems looks at that and said, well, that’s bonkers. That’s crazy.
Robert Bryce 55:06
I’m just holding us has actually been falling slightly.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 55:09
What kolisi been falling, particularly in the OECD countries, there is supplies we’ve talked about before, there are some areas of growth. But there is no indication that we’re going to get rid of wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas and replace everything with coal, and then, you know, double or triple it. The other thing is, is that the population basis for that scenario, and 2100 is something like 12 or 13 billion people. And the most recent projections have come out and it’s about 40 45% less than that. So this is a scenario of a very populated world using coal seems implausible. We could debate whether that should be included in the range of scenarios. The beef I have with its use is that it’s been anointed as our Most likely future. This is what this is where we are headed. Now there are uses for a very extreme scenario, if you’re doing climate modeling, you want to this is a direct quote from a climate model where you want to shock your model, you want to hit it hard with carbon dioxide and see what that signal is, what does it do to Hurricane? What does it do to rainfall? And the bigger that shock is to the model, the easier it’ll be for you to see what that signal is going forward. Fine, fair enough. But if you present it as this is the future, we’re going to and it’s in a very extreme future a lot of climate impacts. Um, it does a number of things. It makes it look like the cost of mitigation
is going to be very small compared to the the impacts avoided
Robert Bryce 56:43
the catch the catastrophic impacts of this of this scenario.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 56:47
So, so it makes it look like we don’t even have to do the short term cost benefit analysis, because if we aggregate over the next 80 years, the the benefits are so large, it doesn’t matter. what it cost next year? And to me that that is profoundly unhelpful? Because in politics, really all that matters is what’s going to happen next year. That’s an overstatement. But But people don’t
Robert Bryce 57:14
know how the next four years right next to the world doesn’t exist beyond that, right?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 57:20
Right. People are not doing a discounted cash flow analysis of the net cost of climate change based on the climate model to 2100 in their either in their policy deliberations or their personal deliberations. So it doesn’t help it actually distracts from, from what’s needed. But also it’s it’s created a very large literature, painting a picture of a future that is highly implausible. And that itself is not a great basis for for making decisions today. So it’s great if it’s a hypothetical study, we’re exploring hypothetical worlds, but somewhere along the line we translated 100 probable future into our most likely future. And this has, I mean, it’s caused all sorts of problems for the interpretation of climate research. And it’s one where there’s so much momentum in the community to use these scenarios, to have consistency with the last set of scenarios, that it’s proven really difficult. Number one, to get acknowledgment that it’s a problem, much less figured out. How do we change course, but that adoption of that most extreme scenario then goes back to what we talked about earlier about, well, you’re, you’re amping up, the fear amping up the possibility of danger. So then maybe you get more political buy in because you’ve outlined the most dramatic possible outcome and that this is the foregone goal. But this is what it’s going to put this out. It’s going to turn out. Yeah, we have this strange dynamic. So we’ll have you know, a hurricane will hit Puerto Rico, Maria. And immediately afterwards, you’ll see news reports, you’ll see scientists claiming that well, this hurricane wasn’t caused by climate To change, but this is exactly the sort of thing we expect in our models to see in 2100. And there is this conflation. This is compression of the timeframe. I mean, honestly, if we’re seeing things in 2020, that we expect to see in 2100. And that means our models are really wrong. That’s that’s what that tells you. So, so there is this, this promotional aspect that this certainly the extreme scenarios fulfill.
Robert Bryce 59:28
Okay, so let’s, let’s shift to sports. And before I shift to the sports, I want to just talk about where you are in the university because one of the things that I’ve been, I’ve been following what you’ve been been writing about in Twitter and what what’s going to happen with the University in higher ed in general in the wake of COVID, because the destruction that’s underway here, I see this is a father of a child who’s going through, excuse me going through. He’s facing his last two semesters in university and we’re facing a big tuition bill for him, maybe taking classes online. So is you let me talk about the sports part of this first and then let me ask about the broader issues at higher ed. Because you’ve been at this game for a while. Are we going to see college football in the fall? And if not, what does that mean for all the women’s sports and all the other sports not that all of them are completely funded by football, but football is the cash machine that funds almost all of the rest of college sports. If we don’t see college football this year? What does that mean for for university sports in general?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:00:31
Yeah, well, let me say, I don’t have any inside information. But if I’m a betting person, no, we’re not gonna see college football this fall. We’re not gonna see college sports at all this fall. And we already see you know, some going in that direction down that slope, whether it’s the Ivy League or the Patriot League or the decision by the power five schools to go conference only. They’re already reducing and we’re going to get to a point my my hypothesis is we’re gonna get to a point where athletic directors and university presidents are going to see this reduction in the fall schedule, and the reduced revenue that comes with it. And they’re going to roll the dice there is all right. Let’s do an spring, cross our fingers, maybe we’ll get 80% 100% of our revenue. I do think greed is a big factor in the decision making. So I think once we get to 50% schedules, that’ll probably be a tipping point to, to push things off. I mean, then they’re putting all the chips in the middle because maybe spring gets canceled. Also, and how you would do the logistics of football in the spring and what it means for the students as a whole whole mess. It’s going to be devastating. The university athletic departments are driven by football in almost everywhere, few places get significant basketball revenue, but what that means for college sports, I mean, but what this done is it’s it’s revealed what most of us in the area know to be the case, but it’s revealed that college athletes, mainly football players. Some basketball players are the economic driver 10s of millions, hundreds of millions, billions of dollars. And so if that doesn’t open people’s eyes to some of the fundamental problems in college athletics, probably nothing. Well.
Robert Bryce 1:02:23
So that’s that’s one part of the university question now. But what about the broader? What about the broader sustainability of the university model? I wrote about this in my book in 2014, you have a decreasing number of qualified incoming students who are coming into the system. Now you have that that’s been ongoing for a while you have the university system over that is generally over built and overstaffed? Or is this a much needed correction and how not asking you for your crystal ball but you’re in a state funded University which may be a little safer. Who’s which schools are most vulnerable here?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:03:04
Yeah, I think, Well, obviously, private university with small private universities are enormously vulnerable. Because as you said, you know, maybe if you’re a Harvard or Princeton, people will pay to zoom from their room. But there’s a lot of schools where, where people will say, you know, what, it’s the cache associated with this particular private school isn’t worth 10 times 20 times what I’ll pay at my community college. Right. So that’s, that’s a big risk. state schools in Colorado, where I’m at, as one of them have had become increasingly dependent on out of state students paying more than a market price to subsidize in State students, as state governments have decreased their subsidy of higher education. So I call this a deal with the devil. We, Colorado are tremendously vulnerable because we lose money on in State students. So if we see a big shift from out of state to in state, it’s going to create a huge budget issues for us. Part of this is political, the state legislature has to decide, you know, do we do we support this in state out of state model that state universities have, which is in law. One thing that state universities might, you might see them start doing is going towards a more market based price for tuition. How much does it actually cost to deliver that on campus, big and state school experience, including education, but obviously, there’s a lot more than education, football games, the Rec Center, food halls, dorms and all that. If the state wants to subsidize it, they can send a track directly to the student and their family. And so I Colorado in a round number, we charge in State students like 15,000 a year and out of state students like 40,000. And so that the market price for us is like $21,000. So It would cost more for in State students
Robert Bryce 1:05:02
in the lobby, one of the long term effects here is just that. Universities are going to have to shrink, but they’re going to have to charge more.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:05:11
They’re going to have, so they’re going to have to charge more, but they’re going to the cost is going to stay the same, if that makes sense, because one set of students are subsidized. So the in State students pay below cost to attend out of state students pay above cost. So they they are subsidizing. So I think that what I would predict is who knows which direction will go but a more market based reality is going to hit state schools, particularly hard. Gotcha.
Robert Bryce 1:05:42
But a lot of states have seen a really sharp decline in the the support from from the state and that’s gonna force them to become more realistic. Yeah, that’s definitely true here in Texas that the funding for higher ed has been slashed. Okay, so last theory that I want to talk about. And then just a couple of personal things after that in terms of what you know who you’re paying attention to now. So, sports and sports governance has been a big issue for you. You were in the sports department, I guess for a while at CU Boulder. You’ve done a lot of work on the issue of both doping and sex identification. And you were involved heavily in the Caster Semenya, I think I’m saying that right, in your case. So the question that I wrote down is, is the boundary between male and female when it comes to sports, or more generally, is that boundary between male and female? as clear as we’ve thought, or is it very much up to interpretation?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:06:43
Yeah, I mean, this. It’s like, I guess
Robert Bryce 1:06:46
we could talk about this for a very long time, but it was one that you’ve worked on this and I thought, well, I you know, from an interview, I want to ask that question.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:06:53
Yeah, it’s a great question. I will say I did a I did two podcasts on this one with Lance Armstrong, one with Cara Gallagher. Find him. It’s probably about three hours worth of stuff on Caster Semenya. It’s a fascinating, interesting topic. She’s a wonderful person. The answer is it’s complicated. And it’s more complicated, particularly people of our generation. were brought up thinking, right, there’s a men’s room is a women’s room, you go to the right one, why is this hard? And it turns out that that biology is complex. Society is complex in biology and society are mixed up. And it’s the sports world has tried to deal with this really, has made a hash of it. And right now, caster, Semenya is banned from participating in women’s sport. And right now it’s sitting before the Swiss Supreme Court. Not many people are optimistic it will get turned over, but it’s something that we’ll continue to see sport grappling with. And this doesn’t even get to the issue of trans athletes and individuals who want to change lanes from one category to another, which it presents its own sort of complicates That’s not the Caster Semenya issue, but it’s also a hot hot issue in sport right now.
Robert Bryce 1:08:05
Sure. Well, the other one that seems a long, okay, it’s a different issue, but in terms of the governance and uses, we talked about this messy interface, is the issue of doping. And that is it. I guess, you know, look, I’m from Austin. You know, I was Lance Armstrong deputy, I thought, Oh, what a great story. Well, it turned out it was a story. Right? And he was doping the whole time. He was cheating the whole time. Okay, so I’ve had to come to grips with the fact Well, okay, the guy i thought was a hero, not a hero. In fact, he’s just a cheater and a liar. Okay, well, another, another dream dashed. But is it possible that we can have doping free sport because I’m kind of given up on this idea that it’s even possible because the dopers and the science and the way that the science, the doping regimens and the ability to evade detection are are so sophisticated that it seems like the cops are always going to be behind. I mean, what’s your view on that? Are you jaded about this? Now?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:09:08
I think the difference between jaded and realistic is probably a lot smaller than I thought it was. If
Robert Bryce 1:09:18
you look really, really common, like no matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up. Right?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:09:25
If you look at studies and there’s not many but if you look at studies of the prevalence of doping in elite sport, in around number, there’s a lot of variability and this is based on the study of track and field but in around number 50%. One at a every two athletes that you see at the Olympics is is breaking the rules This is really creates an unfair situation for athletes because there’s a lot of them who are playing by the rules. But the the degree of breaking the rules and doping in sport is so great, that for the casual observer, you could excuse them for being very Deeply cynical about any record or victory and so on. So the quest for doping free sport, it’s just not going to happen. So it’s a little bit like a, you know, expecting college students to socially distance when they come back to campus, different topic, but it’s just not going to happen. So the question is,
what kind of doping Do we want in sport.
And right now, just to give an example, Wada international organization that regulates doping, they have more than 300 substances and methods on their list that are prohibited. They can’t police that. It’s too much. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have the drug testers. As you said, there’s advanced regimens that can be used to evade detection. What I argued in my book was, we need to shrink down the prohibited list to something that’s manageable. What are the big ones? Is it EPO? Is it steroids? Is it amphetamines were the ones we definitely want out of sport. I use what I call the caffeine. So caffeine, as everybody knows, is a fantastic performance enhancer. I don’t pop with caffeine every morning 5am it works. If a substance has less of an effect on human performance in sport than caffeine, why are we worried about it because caffeine is legal. So there are some tests we can put that are probably pretty practical. Makes sense. The other thing is, we should let athletes have a much bigger role in deciding what’s prohibited and not prohibited in international sport, the Olympics and so on. Anti doping is something that that officials do to athletes. But if you look at the PGA or the NFL or Major League Baseball, anti doping is something the athletes do to themselves through their players, unions and representatives.
Robert Bryce 1:11:53
In the NBA, where which I view is much more player dominated. Player controlled has their own The doping regulations and in my view are much more player friendly than the other leagues. Is that how you see it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:12:06
Do that again, it was a broke, you froze up
Robert Bryce 1:12:10
there. Oh, sorry. Well, so the NBA among those, you mentioned major league sports, that among those major league sports, the NBA is much more dominated. The players have much more power in determining what what how they’re regulated that they’re, that the doping regulations in the NBA are much more favorable to the players than in the other leagues. Is that fair?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:12:31
Well, I mean, if you could make an argument, you know, is the NFL more lacks for its players and or MLB. One thing that I think is safe to say is that in those circumstances, where athletes have a large say, in how anti doping is implemented, they are much more relaxed about anti doping than you see in the international sporting world. So for example, if you get caught with testosterone in the NFL You might serve a four game suspension. And it won’t be announced you just be suspended in the Olympics, same substance you’ll be suspended for four years. So in the NFL, the testosterone tests that they use is not state of the art. It’s a generation old. So giving athletes a greater voice having a greater role for actual science and evidence. And then focusing anti doping on the things that really we care about are three steps. We could take realistic and more transparent and have the sport that people can say, Alright, I get it, people cheat, but it’s not as rampant or wholesale as it might be today.
Robert Bryce 1:13:40
Gotcha. Okay, so just a couple of closing questions for you. So you’ve been at this game for a while. Who work do you admire on these fields that you’re working on? Who do you read? When you want good information? What do you what do you like to read? What and what books are you reading now?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:13:58
What books Am I reading now? I’m reading So I am focused on economic growth, technological innovation. So I’m reading a set of books, I just got the new Thomas Piketty book, which is, you know, 8000 pages that’s on my, on my bedside table. I, I have to say that that I come from a area of scholarship that’s, you know, variously called science and technology studies, or Science and Technology Policy. And these are scholars who study things like trust and democracy. So like Stephen Hill gardener or Sheila Jackson off, these are just academic names that people know they know them, but they can they can Google them. JACK still go in the UK James Wilson. There are there’s an impressive amount of scholarship that hasn’t really hit the mainstream, I guess. Looking at messy questions about modeling Information trust and democracy that I think this is what I included my my my syllabi for my graduate courses to introduce people to the fact that we don’t have the science and the politics and we keep these worlds separate, that they’re messy mixed up together. There is there has been, and I often promote people on my Twitter feed an impressive amount of voices that are new to me in the COVID world, from epidemiology, who have focused on trying to make epidemiological models accessible, understandable to people to know their limitations, to put them in place. My close colleague, Dan Sarah wits. He’s the editor of a journal called issues in science and technology, which has every month is a set of really interesting provocative articles by people at this space. One thing that you’ll Finally, when you get into this literature, it’s not often political red meat. It’s complicated. It’s nuanced. You don’t know the political orientation of your readers. They delve into policy issues. And you may come away thinking, wow, this is really complicated after you read it, which for me is, you know, that’s the purpose of, of education. That’s where I spend most of my time these days. So, last question,
Robert Bryce 1:16:25
I promise this will be less than what gives you hope. What are you hopeful about? What are the things because now I look around sometimes I wake up in the morning, I think political system is problematic. You know, we started with talking about Martin Wolf and all the all the things that are challenges that are facing us in terms of democracy and governance and dealing with the coronavirus and economic the economic depression that is facing us and joblessness and what gives you hope.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:16:55
Yeah, I think and I often
have these discussions with with my students that that if You are to be a practicing policy scholar or a policy analyst,
you probably have
to have an optimistic disposition to carry on in that field. Because,
because otherwise, otherwise you give up and throw up your arms and
say Screw it. Um, so, I mean, my sense is, I mean, I’m not gonna, you know, be around the bush, it has been a rough time under the Trump administration, for people who care about competency, expertise, effective decision making. And this is not this is not a left or right statement. This is just this is a pure competency statement, that the things that we expect government to do, like follow a pandemic plan, to provide data and so on. It’s just failed miserably. So I guess the you know, the optimistic view is within an election coming up, maybe we’ve seen the bottom have that. And maybe, and that’s not to say that, you know, electing joe biden’s gonna fix everything it’s not, but maybe we’re going to be entering into, you know a renewed culture where we recognize policy matters, expertise matters. We have to start, you know making good decisions because we’re going to have some severe economic consequences from this pandemic going forward. We have severe public health consequences. And there’s a lot of fixing that needs to be done. I’m optimistic because we have people who care who are experts who can work well, in political settings. We just need to get past this. And it’s really it didn’t start with Trump. But we need to get past this era where people substitute political values disputes, for effective outcomes, things they care about in the policy room, and I am optimistic that maybe we’ve you know, we’re about to turn that corner and outcomes are going to matter to people because they’re going to be some bad ones down the road.
Robert Bryce 1:19:02
That’s good. I like that. I’m optimistic to Mali. Ivan said this great quote, I’m optimistic to the point of idiocy. Just think that Yeah, we face some challenging times, but I’m still bullish on the US. I just think America has a lot of advantages. But look, I didn’t I that was a great closing line from, from my guest, Roger pilkey, Jr. Tune into him on twitter at Roger pilkey Jr. He’s also easy to find on the interweb and I’m also easy to find on the interweb if you’d like this podcast go to rate this podcast calm I know you’re dying to rate this podcast.com slash power hungry. And tell your friends about it. But yes, chicken jack Rogers new book or most recent book, the rightful place of science. Thanks again for listening to the power hungry podcast Tune in next week. We’ll have another episode. See you then. Thanks again. Roger.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:19:58
Transcribed by https://otter.ai