Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tierney and Pielke Jr.'s wild exaggerations about Holdren and Hansen

Mostly outsourcing this one to Joe Romm. Several additions:

Pielke Jr. says "[scientists] pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense." He's apparently referring to John Holdren and likely to Jim Hansen. The article doesn't give any examples of those two pretending to be above the political fray. My guess is they'd admit they're taking political sides, so Pielke doesn't make sense. His arguments about exaggeration or "stealth science" is an underhanded way to pretend to support a prior statement that's wrong.

Second, Tierney repeats Pielke's pollyannish views on open-air carbon capture. To support this, Pielke announces:

Who else thinks air capture is important?
Lots of people. Jim Hansen is a notable example. In my paper I quote him as follows:
‘‘a feasible strategy for planetary rescue almost surely requires a means of extracting [greenhouse gases] from the air”

Pielke repeats it (page 5):
Of course, there is no guarantee that the installation of air capture facilities would be any les controversial than new nuclear plants or coal facilities with CCS. Even so, Hansen et al. (2007) suggest that the fate of the planet depends upon successfully deploying air capture technologies, ‘‘a feasible....(repeats quote)"

Pielke also lists Hansen as among those paying attention to open-air capture (page 1). Only once does Pielke drop the veil, slightly (page 2):
The most straightforward means of air capture is simply through photosynthesis. Hansen et al. (2007) propose that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants fuelled with biomass might be captured at the source and then sequestered in the deep sea.

Pielke's being sloppy - Hansen actually says "well beneath the ocean floor" (page 1950), a different process with less environmental risk than deep-sea injection.

Pielke also omits Hansen's central point in Hansen's paper - that we are in so much trouble already with current concentrations of greenhouse gases that we HAVE to pull the gases out of the atmosphere. Unsurprising that he'd omit this, since Pielke spends every possible moment fighting efforts to slow emissions (he'll claim differently though), and because of the fantasy that open-air capture would allow emissions to proceed mostly unchecked.

The most misleading aspect is that Pielke allows the impression that Hansen supports open-air capture in much the same way as Pielke. For all I know that may be true, but Pielke's never shown it while implying otherwise. Biomass generation with sequestration is a very limited concept that has little to do with Pielke's ideas, and the buried citation in one spot, with no clarification that this is all that Hansen talks about, does not eliminate Pielke's misleading.

My not-worth-much opinion is that we're in so much trouble over climate change that we need to be open to and spend some money on crazy ideas like geoengineering and open-air capture. The primary effort should be controlling emissions though. Pielke is no help.

UPDATE: edited to tone down a bit. Must find the right tone....

UPDATE 2 (Feb. 2010):  well, this is ironic.  I approved Roger's counter-attack comment below from the moderation queue, and now can't seem to be able to post my reply in a followup comment.  So here it is instead:
Roger, your cites to Hansen had the effect of avoiding a direct lie, but gave the impression that he was a supporter of chemical capture.  I didn't say that you expressly claimed he supports chemical capture, but that you misinformed people to use him as validation.
The definition you use isn't from the paper I critiqued - it postdates that paper and my critique.
To accuse me of semantic twisting in this context is quite a stretch.
And you still haven't addressed your mistake on sequestration "in the deep sea". 

1 comment:

  1. I came here from your NYT comment.

    You say that I claim that Hansen supports chemical air capture and is misrepresenting Hansen's position. I have never claimed any such thing. I define what I mean by "air capture" quite clearly:

    "Most discussion of air capture centres on chemical removal methods, but there have been other proposals for biological and geological options."

    I view biomass sequestration as a form of "air capture." Maybe you define the term differently, but it is clearly you have taken my words and twisted them to mean something that I did not intend and then are using that semantic twisting to spread lies about me at the NYT.

    A correction from you at the NYT would be appreciated.


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