ROGER PIELKE, JR.*
Who is he? Environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and a fellow of the university's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences; author of The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics
Chief beef: Hurricanes and the bottom line
Telling quote: "We cannot make a causal link between increase in greenhouse gases and the costs of damage associated with hurricanes, floods, and extreme weather phenomena." —interview with FP
Role: Pielke, whose father is also a scientist and an outspoken critic of the IPCC, is emblematic of just how confusing traditional labels are: For his work questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports, Pielke has been accused by some of being a climate change "denier." Meanwhile, for his work on adaptation, he has been accused by others of being an "alarmist."
One of Pielke's main additions to larger climate debate has been participation in studies and workshops that have concluded, in his words, "We cannot make a causal link between increase in greenhouse gases and the costs of damage associated with hurricanes, floods, and extreme weather phenomena." Whereas An Inconvenient Truth presented worsening storms as reason to support greenhouse gas mitigation, Pielke thinks that increased costs of disasters in recent years are due to "one overriding factor -- more wealth, more people, more property in harm's way." He took issue with the IPCC for one chart in its 2007 report, which seemed to imply causation when there was, if anything, only circumstantial evidence in his eyes. "Mine is an argument against using disasters as a justification for greenhouse gas emissions."
But his refutation of what he saw as sloppy logic certainly does not imply skepticism about climate change and the need to take mitigation and adaptation efforts seriously, he insists. In outlets like The New Republic and Yale Environment 360, Pielke has articulated a more nuanced point of view, often arguing for greater distinctions between debates about scientific integrity and those about public policy. For his part, he thinks, "Climate change is a huge problem, and it's a problem linked to human activity. Greenhouse gases are an important part of that, but it's not only greenhouse gases. And we need to respond accordingly."
*Editor's note: Pielke has informed the editors of FP that he strongly objects to being included on a list titled "Climate Skeptics." The aim of the list was, as the introduction states, to separate "the noise from the serious concerns" with regards to those offering critiques of either climate science or institutions charged with presenting climate science to the public or policy-makers; the article was explicitly not intended to equate the viewpoints of all people contained on the list. Pielke has been quoted in the mainstream media voicing concerns about the IPCC, as in today's Wall Street Journal, as well as questioning sloppy logic on the part of some environmentalists, for instance objecting to overstatements about hurricanes being linked to global warming.