Roger Pielke Jr. is a professor at the University of Colorado, as well as a writer on Substack where he focuses on climate policy, sports governance, and the messy “place where science and politics collide.” In his fifth appearance on the podcast, (his last appearance was July 28, 2022) Pielke talks about his recent essay on the “pathological politicization of science,” the mistakes in the latest IPCC report, the “long plateau” in global emissions, adaptation, and why media coverage of climate change is “broken.” (Recorded April 11, 2023)
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. And this podcast we talked about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome back for a record tying fifth time, my friend Roger Pilkey, Jr. Roger, welcome back to the power hungry podcast.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 0:40
Robert, it’s great to be here.
Robert Bryce 0:42
Now, I’ve had you on the podcast before you are the author of the honest broker on substack. But as you know, podcast guests here introduce themselves. So imagine you’ve arrived at somewhere you don’t know anyone you have 60 seconds, please tell us who you are.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 0:59
Well, if I, if I’m sitting on an airplane, and I want to not talk to somebody, I tell them I study climate change. And if I want to have a good long in depth conversation, I tell them, I study sports governance. I do research and writing and do a bit of practice in areas where science, technology, politics, and policy all collide. Usually controversial, difficult, sticky topics, which are fascinating to study, and I think really important for society. Good. Well, I
Robert Bryce 1:27
want to talk about climate, and I want to talk about sports. But I also want to discuss your latest essay, which you wrote. And by the way, you’re the author of eight books, the latest of which is what I’m sorry, what was the latest one?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:39
latest book is The Edge, which is about cheating and corruption in sports. I had a second edition of my disasters and climate change book come out right after that one. But that one wasn’t new. That was more of an update.
Robert Bryce 1:50
Gotcha. And before I go on, you can find Roger roger Pilkey jr.substack.com. Okay, so you had a piece that I wanted to have you on again, because I thought this was a really interesting and I think an important piece, you co wrote a piece with Matt Burgess that was published on the Heterodox Academy site, and the title was partisan sciences bad for science and society. And I want to read this part, because you mentioned you talked about the sticky interface right between science and policy. And we’ve seen this more and more and it particularly with how you wrote about the recent IPCC report and how the public facing documents and what was released to the press and how the press reported it didn’t match a lot of what was in the report itself. And further that the IPCC report had a lot of, well, this word misinformation has been overused but bad, bad reporting, bad attribution. Bad, Paul, Bad. Bad reporting, I guess would be the way to say it. But let me go back to the heterodox piece. You said this push those pushing for science institutions to become more explicitly partisan usually make some version of the following two arguments. Scientists have a trusted and respected position in society, we should capitalize on that authority to advance our shared progressive political views and preferred policies. And second, that scientists are not perfectly objective in science has always been influenced by politics. Therefore, we should be intentional about politicizing science in ways that advance important public positions and policies. But then you said and this is the key thing I think that you and Burgess wrote, put it bluntly, if scientific institutions continue to openly and preferentially support the progressive wing of the Democratic Party’s preferred positions and causes, then we shouldn’t be surprised at public support for the scientific community eventually approximates its support for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, though it’s important point because that it is clear as I look at how the science route or the media reporting around climate, it definitely hues to one preferred position and includes ideas around renewable energy siting, which is something I’ve written a lot about. So how do you boil this down? I mean, I got to the point, you say this bluntly, where are we eroding the faith of science? Is this inevitable? Is this something that’s just the end of a long term trend? How do you put this into context over a decadal? Timeframe rather than just the last few years?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 4:15
Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s a lot to unpack here and therefore really fascinating and interesting story here. But really, the, in the United States, the scientific community, and by the scientific community, I generally mean people in academia, government labs, and so on. There’s of course, a lot of scientists and industry and so on. But those who do the most of the work on publishing and so on, are in academia funded by government money,
Robert Bryce 4:43
and what what maybe public facing science right instead of exactly corporations, right, okay. Yeah. Yeah.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 4:49
I mean, a lot of folks in corporations have their views and politics also, but they’re, you know, they don’t have academic tenure, and they’re not out there. And so, so that’s what I generally mean when I say that but but it was really about winning. Years ago, I mean, it was really during the first Bush administration, George Bush, George W. Bush, in the early 2000s. When the scientific community started being more openly partisan in the sense of favoring democratic political candidates, John Kerry, in particular, received the endorsement of scientists who was a Nobel Prize winner sign on letter endorsing Kerry. And there was this idea that the scientific community could wield some political influence to try to influence you know, big time presidential politics,
Robert Bryce 5:39
and that and that it should, right and that that’s the key part. Right. But not only that, could but that it should weigh in.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 5:45
Right? Well, I think both both the good and the short, are highly questioned when we flash forward, the motivation for my piece with Matt Burgess was a recent study that was released in a nature journal, which looked at the the public opinion consequences of nature. So one of the big two scientific journals endorsing Joe Biden in 2020. And what they found, and this is, you know, public opinion polling, so it’s empirical research, they found that, you know, the first finding was that the endorsement didn’t bring people around to vote for Joe Biden. And the second big finding is that people particularly on the right, decided they couldn’t trust nature anymore. And it actually, the endorsement added to contributed to the polarization of the public, to the extent that people were aware of it, which is, you know, really the opposite of what that endorsement was intended to do. But then, when that study came out in nature followed it up and said, Yeah, we saw that study, but we’re still going to endorse candidates going forward. And so, you know, it’s a kind of an ironic moment, because the scientific community often criticizes people who won’t get vaccinated or deny climate change, and so on, because they get evidence, and then they don’t change their behavior. Well, here’s some evidence that what nature did was pathological politically, and they said, Well, we’re not going to change our behavior either. So So for us, it was it was a good moment to talk about, well, what are the consequences of partisan science in the scientific community becoming more active in electoral politics?
Robert Bryce 7:14
Well, the other part of this, that, to me is really interesting. And I watched the I was in Japan, you know, in February and March, and they were still wearing masks the Japanese, overwhelmingly in public, even outside and, you know, I’m not a fan of the whole mask thing. And I’ve been vaccinated. But I thought, Well, why are these people doing this outside? Right? What is going on here? But there’s a different culture in Japan right about this kind of we take care of each other and we want everyone else but but there’s a cultural issue here as well. When you talk about the the lockdowns and mask mandates in your piece in the Heterodox Academy again, which was called partisan sciences, bad for science and society, which I think is heterodox.org. Is that the website? Yeah. But you point out that despite the there was a healthy debate at the beginning of the pandemic, and in 2020, that was emerging that was quashed. That was really there was a there was a lot of groupthink that was happening. And you say and you wrote in this is really important, I think. Subsequent research suggests that long term school closures had devastating effects on learning, especially among disadvantaged students and jurisdictions. And jurisdictions such as Sweden and Florida that followed the advice of reopening schools earlier, did not suffer greater overall pandemic mortality, but had much better educational outcomes. I wrote this question. So are we losing our faith altogether? I mean, is this this crediting of science and the discrediting of our politicians of our public institutions? It’s all seems to be happening at once where we’re not a we’re the I read it as kind of a loss of belief, generally. And I see it even in my own family, to a certain extent there’s loss of belief and faith in the system. Is that is that my getting close to what your some of what your thinking is about?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 9:05
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s fair. I mean, if you do look at public opinion, polls, it’s not just the United States, but there is a loss of trust and, and belief in the legitimacy of, of organizations. And, you know, whether that’s, you know, public health officials, you know, whether it’s journalism generally, or increasingly universities and academia. And that’s a problem because we need we need experts, we need institutions, we need specialized institutions to actually help democracy run. So so it is really important. And Matt and I make this argument that that the scientific community be viewed and as legitimate and trusted by, you know, the broad spectrum of of the public who has a very disparate political beliefs it’s and if the scientific community decides what we’re going to pick Are favorite, then we shouldn’t be surprised if everybody who’s not in the favorite camp decides they don’t like us, and they don’t trust us. And then then we’re in a world of hurt.
Robert Bryce 10:09
Well, so is this natural inclination? I mean, there are many studies that talk about academia, and you’ve spent your whole life in academia. And that your dad was in academia as well. I mean, this is where you were born, you grew up, you’ve spent your whole career there. How has it changed that one of the questions I had here as well, you’ve been teaching for a long time now, what? 25 years? Something like that? 30 years? How long? Not quite 2525 years, have students changed? Have they changed over that timeframe from that? Because I’m going to follow this up with a with a point about I just looked up a Gallup poll about the level of church going among millennials, but have your students changed in terms of their outlook of their their belief in institutions? Have you noticed something in your classrooms?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 10:53
Yeah, I mean, so the students that I have, they’re inquisitive, they’re smart, they, they’re looking for a place where they can be challenged, and they can express their ideas. And I think they don’t always get that in, in academia. You know, one thing I’ve noticed, and I met at University of Colorado, big public school, is that the student population has changed more demographically than intellectually. State schools, like in Colorado, where state support has gone down, increasingly rely on out of state tuition. And so we need, you know, again, to be blunt, we need rich out of state families to send their kids to Colorado. And so something like in Boulder, you know, in a round number 10% of our students are from the top 1% of income families. So I do notice that we have, you know, a more privileged, wealthier class of students, less diversity, maybe then, you know, 15 or 20 years ago, and so that, that does make a challenge for introducing, you know, challenging difficult topics, because the students, you know, they share a lot of similarities with each other, and not a lot of experience around the world.
Robert Bryce 12:10
And the similarities are class similarities. Yeah. Right. Economic, right. Economic right. And this is one of the divides, but I wanted the other thing that I wrote down here about the this divide. So in the class divide concerns me a lot. I mean, we have a very large urban rural divide as well. And that’s somewhat is some some of that’s based on class. But I want to jump back, jump around here a little bit. But this the the other part about this masking and you point out about city long term school closures and Jordan Peterson had an amazing interview with Jay Bhattacharya, the Stanford professor who was who, along with several others, wrote the Great Barrington declaration about their belief on how the pandemic should be handled by public health officials. And they were ostracized in many cases denigrated by their own people, including at Stanford. But the thing that to me is become obvious. And I say this not as any kind of a partisan because I’m not but that the the political parties have become these enforcers of the kind of a dogma where you have the Democrats in favor of lock downs. They’re in favor of very strong action on climate change. The Republicans are the opposite opposing lockdowns, opposing masks, in many cases, sometimes sometimes opposing vaccinations. And you call this out in your piece in Heterodox Academy writing that the pathological politicization of science is a problem regardless of the political agenda being advanced to pathological politicization. But is it mean I guess I’m coming back to some of the same themes about belief and partisanship that we’ve got a very divided country both between urban rural believer, nonbeliever, Democrat Republican, is this what you’re talking about? Here’s just a manifestation of one other aspect of it, or is this something deeper is how do you see it in terms of the broader culture?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 14:01
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I can speak about my community, academia and the scientific community. It’s at some point, leaders of this community decided that that they wanted to play big time politics, you know, and whether it’s the rise of social media, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, or the fact that so many of our issues that we’re grappling with energy policy, public health have a scientific element to them. The there was this idea and it’s, you know, you see it we you know, we teach things like science communication, which didn’t exist 20 years ago, where we teach young PhDs and postdocs, you know, go out and change the world. And you know, the statistic that I share with with students and colleagues and talks, United States there’s 60 million adults with a terminal high school degree. In a round number, there’s about 5 million people with a terminal PhD. The 5 million are not going to beat the state 30 million in electoral politics. And
Robert Bryce 15:04
so and that’s out of a population of net worth 330 million, right? So,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 15:08
you know, what, 170 million voters something like that.
Robert Bryce 15:11
And and so the people with a high school degree or less than or roughly a fifth of the population something like, right, right, whereas the PhDs would be, well, not quite 100. But something you know, a little bit less than that. You’re the mathematician, not me. But so well, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms that you have this, what Joel Kotkin calls the Clerici, right, the the the elite academics, elite universities. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed, particularly when it comes to the climate issue, that there are a very few and it is a handful, I would say, very political PhDs at elite universities who are practicing actively canceled culture, on issues around climate and trying to shut or trying to silence people who disagree with them, and you’ve seen this yourself. But it’s that where does that come from that motivation that that desire to because you’ve been on the receiving end of this? I’ve only seemed a little bit, you know, I’ve been blocked on Twitter by a few people, you know, but there’s, there’s the same time this canceled culture, but also kind of a broadening of the debate and a broadening of the platforms, which were I we can talk about substack later, but where does that motivation come from? Is there some kind of Messianic, complex Messiah Complex among these academics that I know better? And I’m going to tell you what’s good for you.
Speaker 3 16:23
So so so we have been for better or worse, we
Roger Pielke, Jr. 16:29
academics, and those of us who dabble in the public intellectual space, we have an outsized impact on public discussions, you know, you know, I wrote something about baseball and climate change this weekend within, you know, showed up in the New York Post, I had nothing to do, you know, I just put it out on Twitter. And, and so, so there has been this concern, and it, you know, was
Robert Bryce 16:48
in that was the one that was the homerun records with climate change, right, that so this is that climate
Roger Pielke, Jr. 16:52
change is causing homeruns, we could talk about that. It’s, I’m gonna write about it later this week. But there’s this idea that we are so influential, that if we let the quote unquote, wrong, people have a voice, they might have influence out there. And so Reno really starting about a decade ago, or 15 years ago, there was, you know, Keith Claure, a journalist coined this term, the science police, the idea that if we police discourse, you know, in a lot of it was around climate change, and, you know, we call people deniers, we can then limit the public discussion to certain preferred outcomes. And so there have been a lot of bad I think it’s, you know, it’s tamped down, it’s not as crazy as it was. But the idea that if we can, if we can close down improper speech, then we can get the, you know, the quote, unquote, right policy outcomes. I mean, we saw this with COVID. And there’s a deep difference in worldview here. There are people and I’m one of those people who thinks that democracy is made stronger by diversity of views, public debates, public expression, achieving disagreement, it’s fine if there are experts who who have different views on masking or school closings. It’s not to prejudge who’s right. But but we’re all better off by having those debates out in public. So I do think there, there has been this moment, and we’re still with it, to some degree, where we’re shutting down debate is viewed as you know, someone’s theory of change. If we only have the good guys talking, then we’re only get good policies. And then, you know, I just don’t think it works that way, as we’ve seen, I mean, empirically. So, you know, if, if people see scientists trying to silence other scientists, that’s not a good look. And it’s not, you know, it’s not how you build trust in a community.
Robert Bryce 18:33
But yet, that’s exactly what we’ve seen. And I’ll name names here, Michael Mann. Michael and Mark Jacobson from Stanford actually suing his his his critics and court for $10 million. I mean, this unprecedented level of vitriol and effort to silence that I’ve never seen in my lifetime, but I think that hits close to it that, oh, we can’t let the wrong people have the forum. We can’t let the wrong people talk about these issues. But it to me, it’s, it goes. I mean, we’re talking basic, US constitutional foundational principles here about speech and who will be heard, and we’re even seeing it play out on Twitter in terms of now, you know, Elon Musk limiting who what can be linked to whether it’s substack. I mean, it’s not it’s not necessarily directly first amendment right. It’s his, it’s good to own your own newspaper, I suppose. Right. You know, you can control who gets who gets heard. But it seems to me that this is, lies near the heart of some of the biggest challenges facing the US about like you said, the ability to achieve this achieved disagreement is there. It will let me jump to substack for a minute, because you’re putting a lot of effort into substack. As as MI, is the rise of substack a reflection of this declining faith in the institutional media legacy media, how do you see would that rise of that platform because you’re putting a ton of effort into it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 19:57
Yeah, I mean, it’s really interesting because substack as a platform is decentralized in a way that Twitter is not Facebook is not. I think, you know, everybody’s seen on Facebook, if you write about climate, then you know, they’ll stick a sticker on there that says, you know, this, that or the other thing. Twitter, I, you know, who knows exactly what’s going on behind the scene, I don’t know what to make of the Twitter files thing. But, you know, I’m pretty sure that in my decade on Twitter, you know, there have been block lists passed around to try to, you know, not have people see my stuff, my work has been deemphasize. substack is interesting, because people get to vote with their subscriptions. Right. And, and for me, there’s clearly a, an interest and appreciation for the sort of stuff that I do. One of the most interesting things to me as people subscribe to my substack, and then they come in the comments, and they want to argue with me, which is great. I mean, it’s so it’s not just a, you know, a coalition of the like minded. I think people are actually hungry for places they can go, they can learn, they can disagree, they can challenge. And so, you know, I think it’s an experiment. But for me, substack has been really a breath of fresh air. I’m not just you know, to publish, but also to read other people’s views on an enormous, you know, every topic under the sun. And I do feel like I get more educated by being exposed to views that I some I agree with some I disagree with. And I think people think about me, and probably you as writers in the same way. And so substack is, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I think it’s a really neat innovation in this kind of social media space.
Robert Bryce 21:41
Well, and I think I mean, for me, as I think about it, it’s that I’m not using another platforms brand, which is something I’ve done my whole career, right. I’ve never had a real job. I’ve been a reporter my whole life, right? But I’ve always had to publish under someone else’s under their platform, right? Whereas now the platform is yours, right? And you make a spelling error or whatever, will you make spelling error? Right? It’s, it’s on you, right? And so there’s a certain level of care and responsibility, because if you’re careless, and not responsible, you’re not going to get positive traction. So well, that’s interesting. So you argue with your own subscribers on your own platform? Yeah, I
Roger Pielke, Jr. 22:19
mean, I mean, obviously, if you write about things like climate change, you know, people have a diversity of views. But if they’re paying you, if
Robert Bryce 22:25
they’re paying you to argue with you, then that will then that I’d be more inclined out my sister substack is free right now. But I’m, I’m disinclined to argue with anybody who’s not paying me something, right. Just like, sorry, I don’t have time for that.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 22:38
Right? Well, I think and it’s, you know, it’s different. I mean, it’s so far, it’s different than I’ve seen on Twitter, and Facebook and other platforms, blogs, people have a name, they show up, you know, they have an identity, they have to give their credit card in order to, you know, sign up and be a paid member. And they’re much more respectful with each other. They they engage in, in disagreements, I have people you know, who in the comments who are, you know, we need to be net zero by tomorrow. And I have people who say we need to be net zero by never. And I get to watch them engage. And part of it is they want to be part of a community where they can have those discussions. Some of it, I guess, is they would like to interact with me. But it kind of takes a life of its own. And they don’t need me, they just need a place where they can go and you know, have some challenging ideas and then interact with each other.
Robert Bryce 23:30
Yeah, well, I think it’s a it’s a now, just in the last few days. substack has launched notes, which is I think, kind of a, Nope, it’s a direct competitor with Twitter. But it is something that is interesting. And in the way the format works. And it’s native to substack. And I think they have now something like 35 million subscriptions, and, you know, subscribers, 2 million or so are paid. And it’s growing and growing pretty rapidly. I see it. And I know I asked you this, but I think it’s a reflection of the declining trust, as we talked about earlier in institutions, right? And that people are locating people that they believe in, right instead of institutions that they believe in because it’s much more of a bilateral kind of, well, I know that guy and I’ve read his book or his thing, he has his own brand. I’m going to invest in that because I know that that’s a trustworthy, go back to my Enron days, trusted counterparty right, you know, they talked about their, their clients or their, you know, their customers. They were counterparties right, but it’s trusted counterparties that people know they can interact with and get reasonable information from but I want to jump back now. We’re gonna jump around a bit here. But one of the questions I wanted to put to you about then in your in your Heterodox Academy piece, you point out the number of dissin dis invitations or retracted invitations for visiting speakers on campus and this goes to the what was the book the closing of the American mind it’s on fire was the fire.org. But I came across this database of dis invitations of speakers and they were all dis invitations from the left. And one of the one of the two Well, there were two dis invitations of Riley Gaines. And I want to talk about this because I find this fascinating and equally fascinating and horrifying are that Leah Thomas and Riley Gaines has talked about this that Lea Thomas was this male who declared herself a female and according to rally against they were in the locker room she said hit is a fully intact male competing against us and she there’s this great you know, amazing photo of her watching Lea Thomas accept a trophy. Well, they apparently tied had the same exact time and some meat. And Leah Thomas got the trophy and Riley Gaines didn’t then she’s standing there. You’re looking at Lea Thomas going and wait just a damn minute. And so she’s this is I read it a an unlikely spokesperson on on the issue of gender and sports, right, but one who’s been personally affected and standing up to be counted, and yet, she’s being disinvited both by the University of Pittsburgh and San Francisco State. What do you make of this?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 26:12
Yeah, so there’s a couple things to say. So one is, you know, as you know, I’ve been deeply involved in issues of gender and sports now for over a decade. And we could talk about the substance of that. But the more general principle you’re raising here is that on university campuses, and, you know, fortunately, I haven’t seen this on my campus, but you know, probably one speaker away on any campus, there are efforts to either D platform or not give voice to a speaker with with, you know, some politically controversial view on any side of a particular topic. I do think it’s more on the left, because universities are inhabited by more people on the left. And, you know, including students who self select, like I saw recently interesting study that students are increasingly choosing universities either in the south or in California, according to how they view the political orientation of the campus, which is an interesting concept itself. But there is this idea, and it goes back to the same thing we talked about, like on Twitter and elsewhere, that if you D platform voices, that you find objectionable, or on the wrong side of an issue, that makes it more likely that your side is going to quote unquote, win in politics. And that, to me, is just a flawed theory of how political change actually occurs. It’s not because you silence your opposition, and don’t allow them to, to speak at a university or write an article. So So yeah, the you know, what we
Robert Bryce 27:47
said, Instead, you should be winning or or prevailing on the the substance, the merits of what your arguments, your policy that?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 27:55
Yeah, you know, and I shouldn’t
Robert Bryce 27:56
say it shouldn’t be, that shouldn’t be the case. Right?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 27:58
Yeah. And, you know, when, when I have these discussions with people, you know, sometimes people will say, Oh, so you’re gonna allow a Nazi to speak it, you know, and it goes to the very most extreme, and we can all you know, you know, pedophilia or you know, pick your topic, we can all find something that’s probably over the line. But democracy means being very careful where we put those lines, and it’s very easy to have some slippage there. And, you know, I have been disinvited from given talks before where I was going to say, things like, you know, accurately the US hasn’t seen more hurricanes and so on. And so I think there’s a big difference between talking about different views on gender eligibility in elite sport, and hurricanes and climate change from being a Nazi. And so I do think that, that we have created cultures of intolerance in our public spaces for, you know, who were willing to listen to, who were willing to, quote unquote, allow speak. And for me, that’s problematic. I mean, it’s problematic in science, but it’s also I think, problematic for the practice of democracy.
Robert Bryce 29:09
But then it’s problematic in the academy itself, which should be the place for the most robust debate and yet this seems to be was it Jonathan Hite? Was it his book The closing of the American mind that we’re not if you don’t allow it on campus where the
Unknown Speaker 29:24
hell you’re gonna allow? Right right well,
Robert Bryce 29:27
so then let me ask about Riley Gaines. How do you view her because I you know, she she’s a very appealing kind of you know, she’s blonde and pretty and you know, she’s got a you know, this grievance that she’s airing saying, how did we come here right and that’s that that’s my brief take on what how I’ve seen and I haven’t taken a deep dive. I mean, how do you see her as a as a public figure now because she has become one and a reluctant one. I think what? And you’ve been immersed in the gender politics of sports for a long time. How do you see her
Roger Pielke, Jr. 29:59
go? Yeah, I think I mean, she’s, she’s one of a number of very prominent female athletes, Martina Navratilova is one of them. Nancy Hawkshead, makaras, another, who are very outspoken in their views of, you know, what’s, you know, biological essentialism, the idea that there are men and there are women. And that’s it. You can’t, we don’t we don’t change categories in elite sport. And my view is that it’s a lot more complicated and nuanced than that. If you’re, if you’re in the sport of boxing, then issues like strength and body size, are a lot important, more important than if you’re in archery, or shooting. And, you know, to simply say, we’re going to ban a class of individuals, for me is, is probably the wrong way to go. What we want to what we want to address is unfair advantage. And unfair advantage is a complicated concept in sport, and what that actually means. And, you know, can unfair advantages, say in sprinting be mitigated through testosterone suppression? I don’t know. You don’t know. Riley Gaines doesn’t know because we haven’t done the research. So So for me, it’s this is the sort of issue where I’m happy, as you know, as John Dewey said, you know, part of thinking, well, is to exist in a state of uncertainty for a long, long time, until you get the evidence and sort things out. I don’t think we know the answer to you know, what an unfair advantages in certain sports and disciplines. Can that advantage be mitigated through medical interventions? Or treatment? And how does it vary across different sports, it’s going to be different in synchronized swimming from diving from long distance swimming, and so on. And so I think everyone needs to take a step back. And I think the problem for sport is that this gets caught up in a bigger cultural political issue, focused on transgender individuals in society. And sport is just just an opportunity to have those politics play out. Sport is dealing, you know, in the Paralympics, with athletes who run on cheetah blade, dealing with classification issues all the time, it’s nothing new, you know, involves a lot of science. Sometimes it’s, you know, you go to sleep, it’s for if you’re not really into these issues, because it’s so boring. But if it wasn’t for the hot politics, of the cultural issues associated with gender, you know, people wouldn’t be paying attention to this. I mean, I’ve seen
Robert Bryce 32:31
there because I think sports is, I mean, this is this is such a clear reflection of society, right? It’s where we’ve seen big gains, right, particularly, you know, and whether it’s Jackie Robinson, or, you know, the integration of sports, but this. So let me ask about Lea Thomas, should Lea Thomas have been allowed to compete as a as a female.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 32:53
So I mean, this is where you go back to the rules. So one rule that I’ve proposed, I’m stealing a terminology from the world of soccer. So the world of soccer has this rule. It’s called the cap Thai rule. So a cap, like a hat. Oh, right. Right. Yeah, the cap Thai rules. If you play at an elite level, for one country, you are tied to that country, you cannot then change nationalities. It’s a, it’s a cap tie. And I have proposed a cap tie rule for elite sports, whereby if you’re a man or a woman, and you’ve competed at an elite level, in a particular sport, you are tied to that gender forever. So for LEA Thomas, if the NCAA had a cap tie rule, then Lea Thomas would not have been able to go from the men’s swim team at Penn, to the women’s swim team.
Robert Bryce 33:48
Where does the elite that where does the word elite then kick? Is that age 15? Is that high school? Where do you
Roger Pielke, Jr. 33:56
think’s in regulation? It’s a political question. So where do we want to draw that line? I’m pretty sure it’s not in the third grade.
Unknown Speaker 34:03
But beyond that, Professor,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 34:05
alright. So and I’m pretty sure it is at the NCAA level
Robert Bryce 34:10
College, much of which once you get to be 18 there as a freshman in college, then were that age where you have the potential to be professional, right? Yeah, occasionally, where
Roger Pielke, Jr. 34:20
you know, it’s what’s called senior level competition in sport, you know, whatever that happens to be so adult competition at that at that right so
Robert Bryce 34:28
I’m just thinking about you know, what age do you know athletes go pro? So I mean, there are a few a few exceptions. You know, Moses Malone, maybe I went he went pro. Or Bron James LeBron, or, you know, but that set, the cutoff would be 817 18. But
Roger Pielke, Jr. 34:44
But here’s where it’s, I mean, this is where people get get upset about a rule like that. So if Lea Thomas had never swam at the NCAA level as as a man and came in, you know, under that role, she would have been eligible in my view. To compete on the women’s team, because she hadn’t competed at a high level. So, so it’s the same person, same characteristics, just a different story, how they got to where they’re going. You know, there’s other potential rules we can talk about. And, you know, there’s a lot of talk about testosterone suppression, and does it actually mitigate performance or does it not. And again, you know, it’s going to be different in the running heart.
Robert Bryce 35:26
But that says that gets kind of gray in terms of that, whereas the cap ties are much more of a clear demarcation line where it’d be much easier to enforce without syringes, and, you know, all kinds of testing. And,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 35:41
in my view, a Kaptai rule takes care of like 98% of controversial cases on this issue. And I know, there’s a lot of transgender activists who don’t like the idea of a Kaptai rule. But you know, it’s all negotiable. But I think you will have a hard time finding. I mean, one thing people don’t understand is that elite women are out of this world athletes. Yeah. And you’re not going to I mean, just because, you know, I have X, Y chromosome doesn’t mean I can compete with the elite women in anything. And so the idea that a man is going to change genders and all of a sudden be able to compete with elite women, without having been a some sort of an elite male competitor. To me, it’s kind of ridiculous. People just don’t understand how how, how phenomenal these women are. And, you know, gaining entry to that is not easy. And it’s not determined just by your chromosomes.
Robert Bryce 36:36
Right? Well, well, let me ask you, you know, University of Colorado, you’ve been you’re there your whole career since where you’re on sports right now. So what’s your prediction for the Colorado Buffaloes football team this year with Deion Sanders coming in, and arguably one of the most high profile I mean, there have been a lot of high profile coaches coaching changes in recent years. But Deion Sanders brings a different kind of flavor in this and I’m, you know, I’ve watched him and I’ve become a fan, right? And him he’s one of the as a, as an athlete in sports, he was one of the most compelling one of the fastest individuals ever to play professional sports. Is he gonna? Is he gonna change things in Colorado? Is he already changed things, what’s your perception? So and this is all colored by NFL, right, which is a whole nother kind of, were this much more professionalism of the college game than we’ve ever seen before that he can essentially create his own draft and bring players with him. And so I just wanted to add that, because that’s the other part here that I think makes this a different story than what we’ve seen before.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 37:40
Yeah, I mean, what I think Dion is doing is he’s, he’s laying bare, making it inescapable, the mercenary nature of big time, college sports, and, and, you know, so So, who knows what’s going to happen this year or next year? I don’t, you know, I, he might be here for years, but he might not be. And you know, the story for the University of Colorado is, you know, what happens after everybody enjoys his fun ride? Right? He brings in some, some athletes, they’re here for a year, two years, maybe, maybe they get some NFL money, maybe they don’t. But when he goes away, they go away. And you know, Colorado’s back to where they were, they were. So it’s a really, I mean, we do this with grad students and other students too, you know, I mentioned, you know, we recruit rich out of state students. You know, colleges are pretty mercenary places, they do that with faculty and, you know, whoever can bring in the most money, but it he’s making it clear and obvious that, you know, it’s not, you know, it’s not whatever people’s picture of, you know, idealized college football, Fridays at the stadium with the student athletes who you know, or in, you know, calculus the day before, and then they show up, but it’s not like that. I mean, it’s a fully professionalized endeavor, which is fine. But, you know, Sanders is making that inescapable
Robert Bryce 39:04
that the, that this, this cloak of the student athlete, and at least in Division One is over, right, that this is yeah, I
Roger Pielke, Jr. 39:12
mean, it’s been over for a long time, but now it’s, it’s an escape away, it’s, it’s obvious and it’s, you know, more power to them if they can make some money and, you know, eventually I’m sure there’ll be employees and they’ll make a lot of money particularly at you know, places like Alabama and Ohio State and maybe Colorado but good for them. And they should because they work hard, it’s a job and Sanders is just revealing that we have a you know, another professional sports league and it’s division one college football, which is fine.
Robert Bryce 39:40
Well, and it’s interesting nobody who was the star of the Iowa Hawkeyes, Caitlyn Oh, she was their star player. She was in the they were in the finals and lost to LSU
Roger Pielke, Jr. 39:51
Oh, yeah. Yeah, rumors Yeah.
Robert Bryce 39:55
She was gonna make a million a million dollars right this year. And I mean, one of the players There’s it’s been recruited to play at the University of Texas. Archie Manning’s grandson, I think that he was going to come in as a freshman making at the University of Texas, maybe not even as a starting quarterback potentially making a million dollars a year. I mean, this has fundamentally changed the economics of the whole game. And I’m not I don’t know that I’m opposed to it. I think these kids are, you know, they’re talented. Why shouldn’t they get paid? Let’s let’s, let’s write why is the coach making $10 million and they’re making, you know, they’re getting a buck, you know, you know, a bottle of Gatorade and some Nike shoes. I mean, this isn’t a fair deal. Right. Right. But it is much more mercenary now than ever.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 40:39
Yeah, well, I don’t really take a look at you know, college basketball in the no recent
Robert Bryce 40:44
scandal. Caitlin Clark, isn’t that right? Yeah.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 40:46
Yeah, yeah, Caitlyn cart, and Iowa. But you take a look college basketball. I mean, there’s been money changing hands for a long time. But part of it is I mean, this is just an economic I mean, college. It’s an it’s an amazing story. College Sports and interstates are fully socialized endeavor. They are completely controlled from the top down. You know, there’s something like 65 teams in the power five conferences, which means there’s 65 head coaches. And so if there’s more money from TV contracts, and so on, going into athletic departments, that money has to go somewhere. And if you prevent the workers, the athletes from getting compensated, of course coaches salaries are going to explode and go through the roof because it’s a, you know, it’s it’s a marketplace that is completely top down, controlled and limited. You know, a lot of barriers to entry. And, you know, once athletes start getting paid, you’re gonna see coaches salaries, stop going through the roof, because you got to pay the talent.
Robert Bryce 41:47
That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms. But yeah, right. It is a very constrained market where the big barriers to entry and only a few people, a few dozen will be considered for those plum jobs. Let me go back to this issue about you know, science, and about this the politicization of science. And as I was reading your piece in heterodox, that we started talking about the piece that you wrote with Matt Burgess, called partisan science is bad for science and society, is this politicization of science. Just another example of politicization that we see in sports politicization that we see in religion, right, because I’ve, I’ve listened to listen to Jordan Peterson, I don’t listen to many other podcasts. I listened to some of his he had a very interesting discussion with veck Ramaswamy, who, of course, is running for president and, and Jordan Peterson said that. He said for the left now climate is replacing Christ, right that the activism around climate change is replacing traditional religious affiliations. And so is the question is the politicization of science with regard to this kind of belief system, because it is a belief system, just as religion is a belief system is that politicisation inevitable that because it is a church in a sense, that it’s inevitable that the church would be politicized that this would happen.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 43:11
Yeah, you know, I think, you know, to some degree science has, you know, it’s a reflection of the broader society. But, you know, in talks I give, when I talk about the politicization of science, there’s, there’s good survey data from the 1950s and 1960s, that looked at the political leanings of, of academics. And people in the humanities have always tended to be more on the left. But the social scientists and natural scientists, excuse me, in in the 50s, and 60s were much more evenly balanced. And you see today. And so I do think that there is a long term trend. And it this is not necessarily by itself a bad thing. I mean, if you look at the military, you know, most people the military lean more towards the right. And that doesn’t mean the military still functions really well. And so, but I do think that there’s been a failure of leadership in academia, in science. And I think there’s this rush, it’s, it’s gone to, you know, to some degree that people’s heads that, you know, oh, I’m in charge of a big journal, or I’m leading a scientific society, maybe I have political influence, maybe I have political power. The reality is, you probably don’t, because, for a lot of reasons, but I mean, the, you know, there’s a reason why science informs decisions and doesn’t make decisions. So I do think that that the leaders of the scientific community in the last couple of decades have gotten a little bit too heady. The idea that they’re, you know, instead of serving society, we’re going to lead society, we’re going to help people to make what we think are the right decisions, and democracies don’t work like that. So I do think that we’ve lost a sense of purpose in academia. I think this happened journalism, also where we see a lot of activists, journalists, And I mean, just just you as, as I mentioned earlier, when, when the study came out, you know, a few weeks ago about the impact of nature’s endorsement of Biden, the editor in chief of science, so sciences, the other big journal. He said, Well, it’s right that the scientific community endorse candidates because the public doesn’t even want science. This is probably put out on Twitter. They just want information that confirms their beliefs. And it was such a disdainful, haughty view of his view of an ignorant public. That it’s to me It spoke volumes for you know, what’s wrong with with the scientific community, if we look down on the public as getting in the way of making good decisions, and that’s just a wholesale rejection of the demo of how democracies actually work, because the public is in charge, not us.
Robert Bryce 45:51
You know, when you said that, what popped into my head was, so I wrote a piece a long time ago on Karl Rove when George W. Bush was running for president, right, not George HW Bush, the elder, George W. was running for governor. And I remember interviewing Karl Rove back then. And now this is scotch 30 years ago, talking about the importance of political operatives, like him political consultants, and he said something stuck in my head. He said, Well, you’re assuming the masses are acids. And I’ve never heard that. Right. But that that line right to the masses are so that they don’t know what’s good for them. But the other thing that popped in my head when you were talking about that is this idea that then the scientist as priest, right, as the scientist, as if science is replacing religion, right, as a institution, right as a church. Then the leaders of those churches are priests. They are the, and you see this with some of the climate alarmists, and, you know, one, Jeff Gibbs on the podcast a few years ago called Bill McKibben, the environmental Jesus. Right, which, I mean, as I see some of the way that Mckibben has was gonna be on the podcast. He’s delighted. Now, two more months. I don’t know whether he’s ever going to actually come on the podcast. I was supposed to interview him on April 10. On April 7, he had someone write me saying, Oh, no, he’s sick, or he’s in some can’t do it. How about late June? And I’m thinking, Okay, well, is this ever going to happen? Who knows? Right? But he’s kind of the one of the priests of this climate movement, climate tourism, I would call it Yeah. But does that does that ring true to you that these that they have become a certain select few, and Mckibben is an academic as well. He has a job at Middlebury, that these academics view themselves as priests and they have a flock that they are going to lead to their certain preferred outcome just as a priest in a religious affiliation. What does that mean? Does that make any sense to you?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 47:45
Yeah, there’s I mean, there’s a great article, it’s by a, an academic named Michael Barkin from I think it’s 1983. So 40 years ago, talking about the rhetoric of the apocalypse in in US culture, and how, at some point, we went from talking about a religious Apocalypse to a secular apocalypse. And the secular apocalypse is governed by computer models that predict the future, and experts who make pronouncements. But it’s still fulfill some of the same societal functions as the religious Apocalypse did. And I think it is, again, for some elements of the climate movement, that that climate has become a reduction, littlest, totalizing kind of worldview. It’s not everybody, I mean, you can view climate as very much a technological problem that has a technological solution, like a lot of other things out, like, you know, like vaccines and other things in society. But like a lot of things that are really complicated, and help people to explain the world, whether it’s natural disasters or home runs, or whatever, you know, climate is available, there it is, well, you know, it’s warm out in Boulder today, that’s climate change, or
Robert Bryce 48:59
this. So this helps explain extinction, rebellion, and just stop oil that these are the followers of this apocalyptic worldview. So
Roger Pielke, Jr. 49:06
um, I think that’s a fair statement, not again, not everybody in the climate movement. But I do think in a lot of the vocal participants in it, you know, it gives meaning and purpose where, where didn’t exist before to people, so I get it, I understand that, you know, it’s not, you know, it’s not just climate, there’s other issues in society that fulfill that role. The climate is certainly one of them,
Robert Bryce 49:27
and mimics and it mimics some of those traditional Christian, you know, beliefs around sin and redemption. And for sure, and absolutely,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 49:35
that change your lifestyle and repent and believe and, you know, the world would be a better place. You know, the, the challenge is climate change is real, it’s serious. There’s a lot of policies that make sense. So, how to separate out, you know, the technological the policy aspects from a real issue from those who would turn it into some sort of, you know, reduction was totalizing Excellent. Shouldn’t for everything in the world. I mean, I think that’s where it gets really complicated these days.
Robert Bryce 50:05
One of the things that I was just looking for the, I want to talk about one thing we’ve talked about many times, and I stole this idea from you, as I told, you know, confessed many times that John Lennon and Pablo Picasso have been attributed this, amateurs borrow professional steel. So I stole the idea of the iron law of climate and coined the iron law of power density, and also the iron law of electricity. But now the iron law of climate is 10 years old, 12 years old now, something like that,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 50:32
yeah, 13 years,
Robert Bryce 50:34
13 years. I thought I thought of it a few weeks ago, because the International Energy Agency released its latest report co2 emissions in 2022. Here are the key quotes global energy and co2 emissions grow point 9% reaching a new high of 36.8 Giga tons, co2 from coal Rose co2 from emission from oil rose, biggest sectoral increase came from electricity and heat generation where its emissions were up by eight 1.8%. And then they also publish a telling graphic showing that over the last one year, co2 emissions are just showing this relentless increase. comment for me, it would have just on the iron law of climate, because it seems to you know, what’s my take away from the IEA numbers? And what all we’ve seen with the inflation Reduction Act and efforts, climate mitigation, mitigation that, yeah, we can spend a lot of money in mitigation, but the reality is, we’re gonna have to spend a lot more and a lot more focus and a lot more public acceptance of the reality of climate adaptation. Is that does that ring true to you?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 51:34
Yeah, I mean, so the iron law, climate change is an economic concept. It’s the idea that, you know, people around the world are willing to spend something for climate, environmental benefits. But that willingness is limited, which seems like a kind of an obvious sort of observation. But it’s interesting that people have debated it for a while. I mean, it’s like, you know, in France with the yellow vests, protests, that was only over a few euro cents increase in the price of petrol. When people usually on the right, they come out, and they say, Well, you know, climate policies are going to cost $50 trillion, is going to make everybody’s electricity bills go up, I don’t worry too much about those things, because people aren’t going to let that happen. I mean, if you want to, you know, mobilize people politically, then increase their energy costs. And there will be a quick corrective that comes in, and that’s going to happen in Europe, it’s going to happen in Asia, it’s going to happen everywhere, because people don’t like higher price energy, because energy is a basic input cost to everything, you know, including food, transportation, and so on. So, people notice in the United States, it plays out, you know, when the price of gasoline, even though the gasoline intensity of economic activity has gone down significantly over decades, it’s a very public representation of energy costs. And when it gets up to $4 a gallon in the United States, the President feels like he has to do something about it.
Robert Bryce 53:02
And that’s partly a reflection of the fact that those prices are available and are on Billboard’s I was driving. And the price was in three foot high letters, right? It was three, it’s like, right, you cannot miss I don’t know what I paid for milk the last time but I know I paid $3.15 per gallon for the last gallon of gasoline I bought. Right. So it’s a very public understanding of that. But you know, I will, the way I explained the iron law of climate is that when forced to choose between economic growth and climate, economic growth will win every time, right that policymakers are not going to take action on climate over economic growth. And that you put it at the policymaker level, I think, you know, what I did with electricity is just saying people aren’t going to sit in the dark, they’re going to do whatever they have to do, because they, they don’t like sitting in the dark. They know what electricity brings. So But back to the adaptation, then because this is also one of the become one of the words, it’s, as I view it, you kind of wonder, Oh, you’re not supposed to talk about that, because we have to wait to reduce have to cut have to read, you know, we have to spend trillions, right? We have that inflation Reduction Act, which, you know, now the cost could be not 370 billion, but in fact, maybe 4x, that, according to Goldman Sachs, that this cost of this effort at mitigation was ballooning, but may, in fact, if you look at just the IEA numbers, because the US numbers aren’t really that important anymore, in terms of the overall global numbers that they’re being swamped by the growth of co2 emissions in the rest of the world is that how do you see that, if that makes sense to you when I have repeated what I see?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 54:37
Yeah, I mean, I mean, it’s, my view very much is that the world has and I say, I coined this term, you know, three, four years ago, but we’re entering a long plateau and emissions. So if you look at economic growth, and you look at, you know, sure, India, China, maybe Indonesia or expanding coal production, but maybe they’re not. I mean, it’s It’s, I was just in India for several weeks. And you know, it’s an incredible country quickly growing, they need energy, they need electricity, they’re going to get it if they have to from coal. But if you look at what’s happening in the rest of the world with the United States and Europe, coal is going down. And so we’re kind of at a, you know, it’s not clear to me who’s going to win out going forward. And if natural gas replaces coal, we can have a lot of increasing energy consumption without a lot of the emissions growth. So we’ll see where that winds up deep decarbonisation is a huge century long challenge. So I view policies like the inflation reduction act as experiments. Yeah, a lot of money’s gonna get moved around is gonna be a lot of winners and losers are going to be a lot of lobbyists who love that sort of, you know, large Yes, that’s, that’s granted. And then, you know, in five years, we’re going to know if it worked, or it didn’t work. And then, you know, I, I have very publicly said that, you know, on emissions reductions take the under, I don’t think it’s going to hit anywhere close to the Biden administration goal of 100% decarbonisation of electricity sector by 2035, or the 50 to 52%. Overall, right on a wide reduction by 2030.
Robert Bryce 56:13
And let me interrupt you there, because I’ve seen that claim, and I’ve heard John Kerry make that claim, and oh, yeah, we’re gonna we’re gonna completely decarbonize the electric grid, and we’re gonna do it by 2035. I mean, like you I’m, you know, I’m, I can only do basic arithmetic and the most basic kind of spreadsheets and the most basic kind of PowerPoints, but I’m just looking at the numbers, I think, why are you saying this? There is absolutely no chance none zero, you know, as my father, you said, is that chances are slim to none and slim left town is not going to happen. And yet they are compelled to keep repeating that claim. And I’m wondering why I mean, what why would they continue to say that when there’s the network simply can’t change that fast the system? They can’t change that fast? Is it just pure politics? Why’d Why did that? Why does that rhetoric in this administration more than any that I know of repeat such a claim that’s so obviously unattainable. There’s,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 57:10
there’s a larger dynamic going on that I see in climate policy and climate politics. And that’s, that’s a reduction in the in the timeframe for promises. We’re almost we’re not there yet. We’re almost to the timeframe of political accountability. So it used to be alright, we’re going to reduce emissions by 80% by 2080, then it’s 50% by 2050. Now, we’re talking 2035 2030. You know, Joe Biden is not going to be president in 2030. But we’re getting close to where the promises made by if the Biden administration has a second term, we’re going to know if their promises are on target or not. And so that’s, I think that’s a healthy new development, you know, over the last decade, and climate politics is that we’re getting much closer to reconciling commitments, and promises with timescales of democratic elections. And so I think we’re gonna see a lot more realism and pragmatism and climate politics going forward. That’s my hope. But also, it’s my expectation, as people realize that it’s not just virtue signaling. It’s not just you know, long term promises made by politicians who will be long gone in 2050, or 2080. And that’s the only way we’re going to drive more realistic targets, timetables and policies. And I think we’re, you know, for me, that’s a positive sign, because again, again, the public’s not going to go to allow lights go out, not going to allow their gasoline to go up to nine or $10 a gallon, they’re not going to do so. So I think it’s a really interesting period between now and 2030. In the climate policy, because it’s, it’s, you know, it’s becoming climate policy is becoming real, not just a talking point. So,
Robert Bryce 58:56
is that application still a dirty word?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 58:58
Adaptation is, I mean, one of the great success stories, and you know, we could do a whole episode on this is, over the last 100 years, the decrease in deaths from natural disasters overall, but you know, strictly weather and climate, the decrease in the number of people affected, even as you know, have exceeded a billion people on the planet. The world has never been as safe a place for humans, with respect to you know, craziness of weather and climate ever, in the entire history of humankind. And that’s a success story. That’s due to a lot of things like building infrastructure becoming wealthier, but also forecasts, warnings, satellites, communication, the internet, and it’s an incredible story,
Robert Bryce 59:43
air conditioning, heating, better mobility, better buildings, all of
Roger Pielke, Jr. 59:47
that and not everyone you know, has those benefits. But But I mean, if you just look at Southeast Asia, you look at you know, India, Bangladesh and tropical cyclones typhoons in that region. It was not uncommon in the 90s 60s for 10s of 1000s of people to die every single year from from poorly forecasted, or
Robert Bryce 1:00:05
because they didn’t, because they didn’t know what was coming.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:00:08
Right. And you know, people weren’t very vulnerable, low lying places. And today the same, you know, storm of same magnitude. You know, there are still large disasters, but much less frequently than there was back then. I mean, it’s a huge success story of science and technology that I think people are afraid to talk about, because how to reconcile improved adaptation with visions of climate apocalypse is a difficult thing for people to to put forward at the same time. So they just don’t talk about the adaptation successes.
Robert Bryce 1:00:37
And the catastrophe and that catastrophists went out or get though dominate because it’s much more it’s an easier story to tell,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:00:44
or when everybody loves to talk about catastrophe. It’s
Robert Bryce 1:00:48
so let’s talk about that, since IPCC and we’re close to an hour already, Roger, and I don’t want to keep it too long. My guest, again, is Roger Pilkey, Jr. You can find him on substack Roger Pilkey jr.substack.com. He’s the honest broker on substack. You wrote a lot recently on your substack, about Roger Pilkey jr.substack.com. About the IPCC report, which was yet another example of what I would say alarmism and you criticized it severely. You said on your substack that the IPCC quote made several misleading claims related to tropical cyclones. The IPCC failures are both obvious and undeniable. And we’ll walk you through them in detail, and then you go on mistakes can creep into massive assessments to be sure, but the failures I document below are absolutely unacceptable. And you talk about the one that they made a significant error in terms of the attribution on cyclones. Can you summarize that fairly quickly for us?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:01:45
Yeah, I mean, the IPCC. So let me just first say IPCC is really important. I mean, we need a body to assess 10s of 1000s of climate science papers. The problem now, as I see it with the IPCC, is that you need to be an expert, to be able to go into the report and separate out the good stuff and the bad stuff, it should all be good stuff. It should all be solid, and well done. And in this case, there was a few errors, but the big one was that they misinterpreted a paper that was looking at hurricanes. And there was a study of observations of hurricanes. It wasn’t a study of hurricanes themselves, somewhere in the game of telephone, the IPCC confused an observation of a hurricane with a hurricane, which is a you know, it’s a basic mistake in an elementary meteorology course, you get sent back to redo your analysis. But it persisted. And it made its way all the way to the summary for policymakers and the synthesis report. So it became one of the most important findings, the idea that there are more intense hurricanes as a proportion of all hurricanes. And if you look at the data, which you can do in 10 minutes, just Google it, it’s not true. And so for me an error of that magnitude, which, you know, and I put that out a couple of weeks ago, no one’s complained or said, I got the analysis wrong, which they would have, I’m sure if I had gotten something wrong, it’s so obvious. It’s a failure in the basic processes of peer review and evaluation of the IPCC, which shouldn’t happen. So for me, I, you know, I say the IPCC needs to exist, but it needs to be reformed so that we can trust it. Because not everyone is going to be an expert in the IPCC, otherwise, we wouldn’t need it. And it shouldn’t allow errors like this to creep in. And you know, and since I published mine, there’s been a number of other people. Patrick Brown at the breakthrough Institute, who have, you know, who went through and published another series of errors made in working group to, for an organization that claims to be the most authoritative, peer reviewed assessment body in the world. That shouldn’t happen?
Robert Bryce 1:03:54
Well, it seems like this is just an echo of what we’ve discussed now for the last hour that this politicisation that this lack of precision, this lack of accountability, because I’m assuming the IPCC has not issued a correction, right? That this is part and parcel of this broader kind of again, a catastrophist mindset that Oh, and what was that? I forgotten? The Antonio guttatus said, the alarm bells are ringing, right that this was another report where the media legacy media reports generally said, Yeah, see, there you go. We got to make a radically reduced society dramatically cut hydrocarbon use, all the things that aren’t happening should happen and how it here’s yet more proof. But yet the fundamental basis of those claims was flawed, and yet there’s no accountability in that system either. So again, are we going back to where we started about declining faith in institutions and the fact that we’re our faith is declining for a reason? Because they’re because they’re becoming less trustworthy?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:04:56
Yeah, I mean, this I mean, you get to the nub of what is one of the most The insidious consequences of the politicization of science, science. I mean, we all make mistakes, I make mistakes, IPCC makes mistakes, it’s fine, it happens. But what what science has a unique claim to is that it is supposed to be self correcting over time. We put our data out there, somebody else does the analysis, if we did it wrong, they will correct it. And over time, we get better. And we get smarter on these things. The politicization of science is a problem when it’s short circuits, that self correction process. And so if the IPCC or individual scientists are afraid to speak out to say, Oh, here’s an error, let’s fix it, because they’re worried about the political consequences, you know, what will the UN say? What will the climate skeptic say? So we’re not, we’re not going to correct it, we’re not going to acknowledge that there was an error made, then that’s a problem for science, because that that then defeats the strongest part of science, which is self correction.
Robert Bryce 1:05:55
So this is what the attitude is, we’re just gonna brazen it out. Right, that this is something that I’ve seen in newspapers, right in New York Times or The Washington Post or others that they make a fundamental error. I mean, I saw this in, you know, when the, you know, attribution by a Washington Post reporter to work done by Mark Jacobson. In fact, after he’d sit, no mention of his slap suit, no match. And then they just will they just brazen it out. Right? Well, we’re not going to acknowledge that we’re not going to acknowledge any of that no correction, or they’ll make a correction not acknowledged that they made a correction, which I saw with the New Yorker as well. I mean, they’re just things like this, that seem to me are undermining this overall faith and institution. So like the last few questions, and so you work with Matt Burgess, you, I think you’ve featured as well, one of your former students, who Jessica white wykel Isn’t Jessica Winco? Yeah. Winkle at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who I saw testified before a Senate committee fairly recently about how climate finance is being affected by climate reporting, which I thought was an interesting issue that, in fact, I’m going to be writing about because of Jamie diamonds, recent points about using eminent domain to seize land for wind and solar projects, which is a whole nother set of discussions. But who’s worked on on these issues do you admire? Yeah, let me say,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:07:12
I’m Jessica Winco. She’s at North Carolina, Wilmington. She She just started up her own substack look her up super smart. And she’s going deep into climate and finance. some really interesting things. And Patrick Brown, at the breakthrough Institute has he’s been active on Twitter, and he’s been writing a lot of things. He’s a climate scientist, and has bravely taken on some of these issues, where people often would just prefer, you know, just be silent. Don’t Don’t, don’t don’t rock the boat. I do think that the climate beat in journalism is problematic because people earn their salaries by emphasizing stories that that magnify climate. And I think this climate in baseball, you know, it’s an interesting little paper that was in Bolton, American Meteorological Society, and, you know, taking it at face value, they said they can attribute, you know, point oh, 4% of homeruns to climate change. Alright, that’s fine. But then you have the wash, because
Robert Bryce 1:08:08
because the temperatures higher, and that it because then it’s it changes
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:08:12
the air density and the ball falls further. Right. Okay. And I’ll be writing about this. I don’t mean, take it at face value, it’s fine. But you know, if you take it at face value, what it says is that, well, climate change really isn’t that important in an era of race stitches on baseballs and steroids and stronger pitchers and stronger hitters and analytics and bat swing angle. So, but instead, the stories are written that Oh, climate change is going to change baseball over the next century. And so I think the incentives we’ve created by by creating a quote unquote climate beat means that we have to magnify climate change in all of our discussions. And, you know, in some cases, it’s really, really important, but in others, it’s just not. And that’s okay.
Robert Bryce 1:08:56
Yeah, we’re alert, we’ll I’ll put it a different way that the alarmism is rewarded. Right. But you know, it goes back to well, maybe it was your line or someone else but no, nobody ever got elected by saying things are gonna be just fine. Right? You know, it’s the other guy’s gonna mess up the way Right, right. Right. Okay, so the last two questions, Roger, what books are you reading? Now? What do you got on your what’s on your list that’s at the top of the pile. So I just read
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:09:19
a book about the escape from model land. Which is a fascinating book, I forgot the author’s name America. It’ll come to me. But she’s at in the UK. And it’s an excellent book for non experts, but also for modelers, and, and the escape from modeling is that that we, we believe that we can capture the world and computer models, but sometimes we confuse the computer model for the real world. And so it’s easy to get our heads into the computer and she talks a lot about COVID models and climate models, economic models and her advice He says, you know, how do we how do we escape from, from model land and realize that models aren’t the real world. And you know, where she winds up is expert judgment. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s frustrating and unsatisfying, but it’s I think it’s real. It’s that, you know, there is no no algorithm or formula to escape from from model and the models are controlled,
Robert Bryce 1:10:21
that ultimately you’re gonna have to have somebody who’s a, you know, a wise head, a gray head, somebody who’s has experience to say, Okay, well, you know, it’s interesting. I was just one quick point. I was met a guy at a recent it was a wedding. He’s a former Marine pilot, and he helicopters and he said that, oh, well, you know, there was a helicopter. And one of the guys one of the deckhands said, Well, there’s something wrong with that plane. It doesn’t. That aircraft doesn’t sound right. And the this guy, he was a Marine officer, he gets the pilot on the deck and says, Well, you got a problem. You need to shut it down. Now in the past, you know, everything’s fine. And he said, No, it’s not fine. It doesn’t sound right. We have to stop now. And they’d found out the engine was, in fact damaged. And so, but it was that experience that this guy had for 1000 hours or something like that. But it was that, no, there’s a certain point where you have to make a judgement. But it harkens back to this point that we talked about earlier about the rise of substack, the rise of the individual journalist in a way that now people are individual writers are deep platforming themselves and saying, Well, you know, you can trust me, and here’s where I’m going to be. And this is what I that makes sense to me. So my last question, you know, what’s coming at? So what gives you hope? You know, I’m, and you’ve just been around the world, by the way, right? You’ve just been traveling. I’ve been? Well, yeah, I’ve
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:11:39
been on sabbatical. For the last. I mean, it’s coming to an end, sadly. And I’ve been to, like 17 countries on five different continents. And
Robert Bryce 1:11:50
all in all, in last two months or so. Right?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:11:53
Well, in the last fall, I was in Europe. I was I was in Norway. Okay. Yeah. And, you know, just seeing people around the world, busting their asses working hard, trying to make life better for themselves. And I got to meet and talk to an enormous range of people from, you know, people in Cambodia, we’re cooking on, you know, with fire, to, you know, a billionaire in Norway. And I am, I am encouraged by just you know, how good people are. Yeah, there’s a lot of crap out there. And we see a lot of things on the news that aren’t great. But boy, overall, you know, people are great. And so I’m, I’m pretty optimistic about the future. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s going to be a hard slog, you know, people fight with each other, and they don’t like each other, but at the same time, there’s a lot of good and a lot of good people out there. So, so for me, you know, the sabbatical has been great. It’s been reinvigorating, you know, if you do policy work, I tell my students, you better to have an optimistic view on the world because it’s slow progress. And sometimes it’s two steps forward, three steps back one step back. But I’m pretty optimistic about that the state of the world these days.
Robert Bryce 1:13:01
Good. Well, that’s a good place to stop. My guest has been Roger Pilkey, Jr. Making his record tying fifth appearance on the power hungry podcast. Roger, it’s always great to talk to you can always fun. Thank you. Welcome. Welcome back to the US. That sounds like a great trip. Okay, well, we’ll stop there. Thanks for tuning into this episode of the power hungry podcast. You want to learn more about me or my work? You can go to Robert bryce.substack.com. And then of course, you need to follow Roger roger Pookie jr.substack.com But until the next episode of the power hungry podcast, see you soon