New Paper: From Green Revolution to Green Evolution: A Critique of the Political Myth of Averted Famine

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Along with Björn-Ola Linnér I have a new paper accepted in Minerva. To understand the picture above and its significance, you’ll have to read the paper. The misuse of science by US presidents is not a new phenomena. Details:

Pielke, Jr., R. and Björn-Ola Linnér (2019, in press). From Green Revolution to Green Evolution: A Critique of the Political Myth of Averted Famine, Minerva.

Here is the abstract:

This paper critiques the so-called “Green Revolution” as a political myth of averted famine. A “political myth,” among other functions, reflects a narrative structure that characterizes understandings of causality between policy action and outcome. As such, the details of a particular political myth elevate certain policy options (and families of policy options) over others. One important narrative strand of the political myths of the Green Revolution is a story of averted famine: in the 1950s and 1960s, scientists predicted a global crisis to emerge in the 1970s and beyond, created by a rapidly growing global population that would cause global famine as food supplies would not keep up with demand. The narrative posits that an intense period of technological innovation in agricultural productivity led to increasing crop yields which led to more food being produced, and the predicted crisis thus being averted. The fact that the world did not experience a global famine in the 1970s is cited as evidence in support of the narrative. Political myths need not necessarily be supported by evidence, but to the extent that they shape understandings of cause and effect in policymaking, political myths which are not grounded in evidence risk misleading policy makers and the public. We argue a political myth of the Green Revolution focused on averted famine is not well grounded in evidence and thus has potential to mislead to the extent it guides thinking and action related to technological innovation. We recommend an alternative narrative: The Green Evolution, in which sustain improvements in agricultural productivity did not necessarily avert a global famine, but nonetheless profoundly shaped the modern world. More broadly, we argue that one of the key functions of the practice of technology assessment is to critique and to help create the political myths that accompany technologies in society.

Please be in touch if you’d like a pre-publication copy.

Review of The Uninhabitable Earth in the FT

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I review The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells in The Financial Times this weekend. Here is how it starts:

In 1842 the German writer Heinrich Heine cautioned that “wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent new beasts” in order to capture our attention. In his book The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells describes a new apocalypse accompanied not by four horsemen but by 12 “elements of climate chaos”.

The book expands on Wallace-Wells’ widely read New York Magazine article of the same title from the summer of 2017. That article, and the book, briefly catalogue a litany of calamities now and in the future that might be associated with climate change — disease, disasters, war and more.

Read the whole thing here.

New Paper: Scientific Integrity and Anti-Doping Regulation

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Our paper (co-authored with Prof. Erik Boye), Scientific Integrity and Anti-Doping Regulation, has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics.

We evaluate recent experience in anti-doping from the standpoint of scientific integrity, and specifically we focus on:

  • Doping prevalence is central to understanding the magnitude of the problem of doping as well as the effectiveness of anti-doping practices;
    Performance benefits and health risks are the two evidence-based criteria of the WADA Code;
  • Errors and inconsistencies in accusation are central to the due process rights of athletes under the implementation of the WADA Code;
  • The evaluation of anti-doping policies is a central element of determining if policies and regulations being implemented are actually working to address the problem of anti-doping.
  • We identify series of systemic shortfalls in the recent use of evidence in anti-doping regulation. A consequence of a departure from grounding anti-doping in evidence is increased chances of inconsistent and arbitrary decision-making, thereby challenging the legitimacy of the international anti-doping regime.

We recommend four options to help improve scientific integrity in anti-doping:

  • Prevalence monitoring by an independent body of experts;
  • Reduce the size of the prohibited list, based on scientific evidence;
  • Strengthen athlete due process;
  • Conduct rigorous policy evaluation of the effectiveness of anti-doping

For a pre-publication copy, please email me.

Correction of Labeling Errors in PTB 2019

fixed figureIn our new paper, Scientific Integrity and Anti-Doping Regulation at ISLJ we note that “Errors are inevitable in research, and when they are identified, they are corrected.” Lucky us. We now have an opportunity to show how that is done.

A colleague (thank you!) pointed out a few days ago that we had mislabeled a table heading and corresponding figure legend. We quickly confirmed that this was the case and have asked ISLJ to correct the paper as soon as possible. Fortunately, there is no impact on our conclusions. We apologize for the errors.

Here is our letter to ISLJ: Continue reading

Global Tropical Cyclone Landfalls, Updated 1970-2018

gtcl1The figure above courtesy Ryan Maue (@ryanmaue) updates our analysis of tropical cyclones which made landfall anywhere on Earth from 1970 to 2018. The dataset starts in 1970 because this is where Weinkle et al. (2012) judged global data to be reliable. Data for individual basins is available back in time much further than 1970 (see the paper, linked below).

Last year saw 17 total landfalls at hurricane strength (S/S Category 1+) — slightly above average, with 4 of those being major hurricanes (S/S Category 3+) — slightly below average.

This updates our 2012 analysis:

  • Weinkle, J., Maue, R., & Pielke Jr, R. 2012. Historical global tropical cyclone landfalls. Journal of Climate, 25:4729-4735. (free to read, here in PDF).

Some summary statistics for global TC landfalls, 1970 to 2018:

  • All landfalls: 15 (median), 15.3 (average), 4.4 (sd)
  • Categories 1 & 2 at landfall: 10, 10.5, 3.8
  • Category 3+ at landfall: 4, 4.8, 2.5
  • Most total landfalls in one year: 30 (1970)
  • Fewest total landfalls in one year: 7 (1978)
  • Most Category 3+ landfalls in one year: 9, (1999, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008)
  • Fewest Category 3+ landfalls in one year: 0 (1981)
  • Most total landfalls over a 10-year period: 177 (1988-1997)
  • Fewest total landfalls over a 10-year period: 120 (1975-1984)
  • Total landfalls 2009-2018: 140
  • Most Category 3+ landfalls over a 10-year period: 65 (1999-2008)
  • Fewest Category 3+ landfalls over a 10-year period: 33 (1978-1987)
  • Total Category 3+ landfalls 2009-2018: 44
  • Total landfalls 1970-2018: 750, (516 were Categories 1 & 2, 234 were Category 3+)

Below is a graph showing Categories 1 & 2 (black) and Category 3+ (red). There are no significant trends in the data.gtcl2