AMS [American Meteorological Society] Policy Statement on Inadvertent Weather Modification Illustrates Fuzzy and Flawed Thinking on Public Policy
By Indur M. Goklany
The AMS has a new policy statement on Inadvertent Weather Modification (H/T to Prof. Roger Pielke, Sr., 11/4/2010). In this post I will not address its recommendations. I will, instead, focus on fundamental flaws in its two sections on mitigation and adaptation which, in my opinion, are related since they flow from a common misconception error in its policy “analysis” of global warming.
Below, I reproduce these two sections with changes in CAP-and-strikeout format that would have finessed these flaws. [CAPS indicate INSERTS into the text, and strikeouts indicate — well — strikeouts.] Also, I have inserted commentary in bold within square brackets where the rationale for my inserts and strikeouts is not self-evident.
As you can see from my inserts, strikeout and commentary, the AMS policy statement reveals fuzzy and, sometimes, fundamentally flawed, thinking.
Mitigation or avoidance, of these unintended impacts requires:
- Application of new knowledge to curtail pollutant emissions and adverse land use changes and to mitigate their impacts.
- Advancement of scientific and engineering understanding to elucidate the causes of atmospheric changes and to lay the foundation of knowledge for countering their adverse impacts.
- A SHOWING THAT, AT A MINIMUM, THE MARGINAL GLOBAL BENEFITS OF ANY MITIGATION WILL EXCEED THE MARGINAL GLOBAL COSTS AFTER CONSIDERATION OF THE OPPORTUNITY COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THAT MITIGATION. [COMMENT: Realistically, such benefit-cost analysis will have to be qualitative rather than quantitative. That is, not everything needs to be, or should be, reduced to a common metric such as dollars. In essence, benefit-cost analysis is shorthand for requiring a weighing of positive and negative consequences without using dollars (or anything else) as the common metric.]
- A SHOWING THAT THE SAME LEVEL OF BENEFITS CANNOT BE OBTAINED MORE SURELY, EFFECTIVELY AND EFFICIENTLY VIA ADAPTATION OR ENHANCED RESILIENCE. [COMMENT: See Is Climate Change the “Defining Challenge of Our Age? Energy & Environment 20(3): 279-302 (2009), particularly, Table 5. This paper shows that through the foreseeable future, the benefits from adaptation exceed the benefits from mitigation, and they cost less and are more certain to be obtained.]
Achieving these objectives requires, AMONG OTHER THINGS:
- Documentation of anthropogenic weather forcings.
- Process studies (both observations and simulations) of how such forcings affect meteorological conditions.
- Simulations, USING VALIDATED MODELS, of the extent to which such local and regional forcings influence hemispheric-scale systems, such as the subtropical and polar jet streams, AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNCERTAINTIES ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH SIMULATIONS.
Adaptation is necessary when impacts cannot be fully mitigated
[Comment: This reflects the conventional wisdom per most warmists that mitigation-to-the-extent-possible should be the policy response of first resort. If and only if that’s insufficient, should we turn to adaptation. But this is based on fundamentally flawed reasoning. First, consider if climate were to change but have zero impacts, then there would be no need for any climate change policies. Similarly, if the impacts of climate change were all positive, we would not be concerned about mitigation (i.e., reducing climate change) either, although we ought to try to make the most of the opportunities that climate change might provide. But the latter requires adaptation. That is, if all impacts are positive, we would be concerned with adaptation but not mitigation. What this tells us that the objective of climate change policies should be to reduce the net negative impacts (or net damages) from climate change by reducing its damages, taking advantage of its benefits, or a combination of the two. But there are two methods of reducing damages — specifically, through mitigation or through increased resilience (a form of adaptation) — and one method of taking advantage of opportunities, namely, adaptation. Thus, as a general matter we have to resort to both mitigation and adaptation, and we cannot a priori favor one over the other.]
[COMMENT CONT’D: Second, climate change impacts, in general, are heterogeneous with some impacts being positive (e.g., higher biological productivity or greater water availability or winter stress in some areas) and others being negative (lower water availability or greater summer stress in other areas). However, because adaptation can be tailored to each locality, it allows humanity to capitalize on the positive impacts while reducing its negative impacts. By contrast, mitigation reduces all impacts — good and bad — indiscriminately. Thus, once again, there is no reason to favor mitigation over adaptation. So how do we select which mix of mitigation and adaptation policies cost the least and provide the most benefit? One approach is discussed in the paper, Integrated Strategies to Reduce Vulnerability and Advance Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development, Mitigation and Adaption Strategies for Global Change DOI 10.1007/s11027-007-9098-1 (2007). See Section 5.]
[COMMENT CONT’D: Essentially, the difference between mitigation and adaptation is analogous to a free market with individuals making decisions based on individual circumstances and centralized one-size-fits-all decision-making.]
[Now back to the AMS policy statement.]
Adaptation ALLOWS SOCIETY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE POSITIVE EFFECTS to the unavoidable components of unintended weather modification, WHILE REDUCING ITS NEGATIVE IMPACTS. IT requires, AMONG OTHER THINGS:
- Consideration of environmental impacts of inadvertent weather modification as part of development and planning processes, e.g., crop adaptation, management practices, and water utilization.
- Implementation of strategies to enhance depleted water resources in response to reduced precipitation (e.g., through desalination).
- Evaluation and planning of public response to risks from inadvertent weather modification that can influence severe weather events.
Unfortunately, the fuzzy and flawed thinking on mitigation and adaptation noted above is the norm for climate scientists and not just for the authors of the AMS policy statement. It suggests that scientists as a group have no comparative advantage in policy analysis of climate change.