ENERGY POLICY AND ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP: RISK MANAGEMENT NOT RISK AVOIDANCE
I was invited to speak at the 2015 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum held annually at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This year's debate was on climate change and environmental policy. My task was to present a paper that would then be responded to by two other invited speakers, Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance and Bill McKibben of 350.org (representing two opposing positions on the climate issue). It being a seminary I organized my thoughts around the parable of the faithful and unfaithful stewards from the gospels. My paper can be downloaded here. The parable of the stewards (also known as the parable of the talents) is a warning against our tendency to exaggerate the downside risks inherent in putting our resources and talents to work, even when we know they have the potential to yield great benefits and rewards for others. I explain why I see this playing out around the climate change issue.
BEIJING FORUM: I was invited to speak to the 2011 BeiJing Forum being held at Peking University, November 4-6. My presentation is here. I also presented on State-Contingent Emission Fees at the Peking University School of Engineering and Environmental Science and the Central University of Finance and Economics.
AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY: Presentation via Webinar, August 28, 2011. The event was in Denver CO and I was in Guelph. I assume there was an audience, all I saw was my own computer screen.
AMERICAN STATISTICAL ASSOCIATION: I was invited to participate in a panel discussion called "Addressing the Evidence for Anthropogenic Climate Change" at the Joint Statistical Meetings of the ASA in Miami, August 3 2011.Other presenters are Mark Berliner, John Christy, Stephen Sain and Richard Smith. We each had 10 minutes for an opening presentation, and then we had a round-table/Q&A for an hour or so. My opening presentation covered 3 topics I have worked on that involve statistical methods in hypothesis testing.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE GENERALITIES
I wrote an invited article in the April 2008 edition of Academic Matters critiquing the notion of an environmental crisis in general and touching on global warming in particular.
This one is a few years old but still presents what is, I think, a sound critique of the general sequence of thinking underlying the present policy quagmire.
HIGH SCHOOL CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE
On May 13 2016 I participated in a debate at the University of Toronto (Scarborough Campus) for Toronto-area high school students on the topic of climate change. The resolution was: "Should we be skeptical about the science suggesting that GHG emissions are the primary cause of global climate change?" I was arguing for the Yes position and my opponent was Dr. Tanzina Mohsin, a climate scientist at the University of Toronto. The debate and the Q&A session went for just over an hour. In the video below, Dr. Mohsin and I each spoke for 15 minutes, then gave a short rebuttal to the other, then presented closing arguments. The audio is not great in places but otherwise the video quality is pretty good. Unfortunately no vote was taken so we don't know if the event changed any minds.
RESPONSE TO BENESTAD ET AL (2015)
Last year, Rasmus Benestad and a list of coauthors published a paper called "Learning from Mistakes in Climate Research." While purporting to be about scientific methodology, the bulk of the paper was a trojan horse-like Supplement that disparages a long list of papers the authors dislike. I first encountered this study in 2012 when I was asked to referee it for Climatic Change. I requested the authors revise the many errors in it, and when they failed to do so, the editors rejected it. I was then asked to review it for another journal, where I again pointed out the same uncorrected errors, and it was rejected. It was also submitted to a handful of other journals where I was not the reviewer, but the editors rejected it based on other referees' comments. Finally the authors (the list of which now includes some new names, even though the content is little changed since 2012) found a willing host in the form of Theoretical and Applied Climatology, which published it last fall.
On September 1 2015 I sent a detailed critique to the editor (Hartmut Grassl) and managing editor (Robert Doe) requesting retraction of the most obviously false statements in the Supplement to the article. I never received even an acknowledgment of receipt of my email, so I have today re-sent it to the journal.
THE CON IN CONSENSUS
I published an op-ed in the Financial Post on May 11, 2015 looking at the reality behind claims of a 97% consensus on global warming. The online version did not include inks to sources. For those, see the PDF version here.
UPDATE: John Cook's response is here. My response to him is here.
ALSO: See this column by Richard Tol on Cook's methods.
THEOLOGY AND THE CLIMATE DEBATE: On May 29 2012 I participated in a workshop at Huron College, University of Western Ontario, on exploring the theological and cultural assumptions for faith groups participating in the climate debate. My presentation was called "The Intrinsic Value of Nature and the Proper Stewardship of the Climate" and is available here.
FURTHER ON THE THEOLOGY ISSUE: The Cornwall Alliance issued a Stewardship Statement in 2000 to which I was a signatory. They also prepared a document in 2006 for communication among religious groups, concerning the need to continue to prioritize development and poverty relief in the face of pressure for climate policies, to which I contributed economic input. Their 2009 statement on global warming has recently been brought to my attention a number of times on the basis of some loaded theological language and the appearance of a priori scientific assertions that ought properly to be matters of empirical determination. Though the signatories are not listed online I am apparently on the list. Reading the 2009 statement now I see a number of places where there is language I would not myself use, so I have indicated to the Cornwall Alliance (Sept 2014) that I am not now an endorser of that statement, and the list shoud be updated to reflect this.
THIRD AGE LEARNING SOCIETY: I made a presentation to a large group of retirees on campus (Sept 28 2011) at the Arboretum, entitled "Global Warming: Who's Disagreeing with What?" My slides are here in PDF format.
DEUTSCHE BANK, ROUNDS I & II: In September 2010 DB released a report to rebut major skeptic arguments on global warming. Several topics in their report related to areas I am quite familiar with. I posted a response that critiqued their handling of the hockey stick and the "hide the decline" email. The authors of the DB report published a response which you can read here. My reply is available here.
In August 2008 I was asked by the Manning Centre in Calgary to speak at a course for journalists on public policy issues. The specific topic given to me was "Questions every journalists should ask about global warming." My presentation was pretty well received (whether it changed the way global warming gets reported on in Canada is another matter).
This one is very short but poses some questions I wish were asked more often.