Inhofe's Myths on Maddow
Posted on 21 March 2012 by dana1981
Skeptical Science was recently referenced on The Rachel Maddow Show in debunking the Climategate-related 'hide the decline' myth prior to an interview with Senator James Inhofe. During the interview (which you can see here: Part 1 and Part 2), Inhofe repeated quite a few climate myths, which we will debunk here.
Since Rachel Maddow introduced the interview by debunking Climategate myths, Inhofe started out the interview by doubling-down on those myths.
"Climategate was a big deal...you can't find anyone who's whitewashing this thing but you...everyone you named was someone investigating themselves"
There have been 9 separate investigations into the Climategate emails, each of which found the scientists guilty of no significant wrongdoing. Some of the investigations were conducted by the universities employing the scientists whose emails were stolen, but certainly not by the scientists themselves. Additionally, investigations were conducted by:
Inhofe was factually incorrect to claim these groups were all investigating themselves, or that the investigations were "whitewashed." Inhofe also cited a few media articles which chastised the Climategate scientists; however, it is rarely if ever a good idea to take the word of a mainstream media article about a report or investigation over the report or investigation itself. The source documentation is far more reliable than the media's spin of that documentation.
Inhofe also attempted to link Climategate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
"Everything that is coming out in terms of regulation, or I should say, over-regulation, is going to be predicated on this [IPCC] science..."
However, the Climategate emails had very little to do with the IPCC reports. Some of the scientists whose emails were stolen have been IPCC lead authors; however, few the emails themselves were even related to the IPCC report. The IPCC reports are summaries of the best and most up-to-date climate science research, and none of the 9 investigations found that the scientists involved inappropriately manipulated data.
Climate Mitigation Will Help the Economy
Inhofe revealed that his denial of the body of climate science research is motivated not by science, but by a misunderstanding of economics.
"the cost to the American taxpayers [of climate legislation] would be between 3 and 4 hundred billion dollars a year...Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found what it cost"
First, it should go without saying that it is inappropriate to base one's opinions about a scientific issue on its economic costs. The physical reality is that humans are causing global warming, regardless of whether the solutions to the problem cost a trillion dollars or save a trillion dollars. The science is the science, independent of the economics.
"...the cost of waiting fifty years to begin reducing CO2 emissions is $2.3 trillion in 2005 prices. If we bring that number to today’s economy and prices, the loss from waiting is $4.1 trillion....The claim that cap-and-trade legislation or carbon taxes would be ruinous or disastrous to our societies does not stand up to serious economic analysis."
The flaw in Inhofe's argument is that he's only considering the costs of CO2 limits and ignoring the benefits. In a valid cost-benefit analysis, we must consider both, and economic research consistently shows that the benefits will far outweigh the costs (Figure 1).
Scientific Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming
Later in the interview, Inhofe denied that there is a scientific consensus about anthropogenic global warming.
"this 97% [of climate scientists accepting human-caused global warming], that doesn't mean anything. I named literally thousands of scientists on the floor...and these were top people."
"That's not true [that a majority of scientists accept human-caused global warming]...everyone believes that because it came from the IPCC."
There are undoubtedly thousands of scientists who doubt the anthropogenic global warming theory. There are millions of Americans with scientific degrees, so finding a few thousand who are climate "skeptics" is simply not noteworthy. Inhofe may refer to this list compiled by his former employee Marc Morano which boasts "More than 1,000 dissenting scientists." However, as documented by Barry Bickmore, even the scientists most prominently highlighted on that list have little to no climate expertise.
As Rachel Maddow noted, there are very few "skeptics" amongst scientists with climate expertise. It is indeed true that 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, as demonstrated by Oreskes 2004, Peiser 2005, Doran 2009, and Anderegg 2010.
Additionally, contrary to Inhofe's assertion, the IPCC report summarizes the most up-to-date climate science research, but does not discuss the scientific consensus.
Inhofe specifically named one "skeptic" climate scientist, Richard Lindzen.
"I know that you get tired of hearing from Richard Lindzen from MIT, but he's the guy who was talking about the severity of this. He said...regulating cap and trade is a bureaucrat's dream. If you regulate carbon, you regulate life."
As a climate scientist, we're not sure why Lindzen's opinions regarding legislation are particularly relevant. Nor are we sure what "regulating life" even means. Perhaps the implication is that CO2 limits will regulate breathing; however, this is simply false, because breathing does not contribute to the increase in atmospheric CO2, nor has any proposed climate legislation even suggested that "life" or breathing be regulated.
It's also worth noting that Richard Lindzen has a very long history climate contrarianism, and a very long history of being wrong on his climate positions.
The Flawed Climate Shift Report
Inhofe then made a series of false claims about a rather controversial report.
"There's an article...in Nature magazine, a very liberal publication, or publication on your side, and they talk about this thing from American University, and they analyze it. They say 'why is it that we on the global warming side are not winning? We're spending more money, we have the media on our side 8 to 10, and 80% of the media is on our side, and yet we're losing'...the environmentalist groups raised - and this is in the period of 2009 to 2010 - $1.7 billion as opposed to the other side $900 million...this is in their article"
Inhofe refers to a 2011 editorial in Nature magazine, which is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, not a political publication. The editorial discussed a report by American University professor Matthew Nisbet, regarding the reasons behind the USA's failure to pass climate legislation.
However, the report's conclusions are controversial, as documented in detail by Joe Romm at Climate Progress. One of the report's reviewers, Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University had his name pulled off the report’s list of expert paid reviewers when he finally saw the whole finished report. Brulle said the study has "many flaws," and “selectively used the literature," and that "I gave him refereed articles that countered his thesis and he ignored them."
The flaw in Nisbet's numbers resulted from counting the entire lobbying budget on all issues from major corporations like BP, Bank of America, GE, and ConocoPhillips, in the total of what was "representative of the capacity for power and influence" that the environmentalists supposedly had to bring to bear on the climate bill debate. However, in reality these corporations only spent a small fraction of those budgets on climate issues.
In fact, a re-analysis of Nisbet's data suggests that opponents of climate legislation outspent proponents by approximately 10-to-1 on election spending, 8-to-1 on lobbying and Congressional donations, and 4-to-1 on advertising.
Nisbet's media coverage conclusions were also only based on a few select print media sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN's online site, and The Wall Street Journal), but did not include television media coverage. The report's results are simply not accurate or reliable.
Educating vs. Brainwashing
Finally, the interview concludes with Inhofe accusing public schools of brainwashing children with climate science.
"my granddaughter...she was in a public school. Everything came from the Environmental Protection Agency brainwashing my grandkids in school. this is my goal to stop, that is unelected bureaucrats taking positions, contrary to the elected officials in brainwashing our kids."
While some of the administrators at the EPA may be described as "unelected bureaucrats," there are also a great many scientists working at the EPA. If educational material in public schools comes from the EPA, it undoubtedly originates from those scientists, not bureaucrats. Indeed, educational scientific material should come from scientists, not bureaucrats or politicians, contrary to Inhofe's wishes.
The Hoax of the Climate Hoax
Ultimately, Inhofe's climate "skepticism" derives from his conspiratorial thinking, as is evident from the title of his book. He admits that his opinions are based not on science, but economics (and a misunderstanding of economics at that), and rejects the vast body of climate science literature which contradicts his beliefs. In short, Inhofe is probably the last person anybody should rely on for accurate climate-related information.