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Climate Hustle

Inconceivable! The latest theatrical House 'Science' committee hearing

Posted on 4 April 2017 by dana1981

Last week, the House “Science” committee held one of its regular hearings to dispute the validity of climate science research. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) articulated the purpose of the hearing when speaking at a recent Heartland Institute climate science denial conference:

Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists

For that, Smith was rightly called out by Jeffrey Mervis at Science magazine:

the chairman of the science committee in the U.S. House of Representatives acknowledged that the committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community.

Climate scientist Michael Mann was one of the witnesses testifying in last week’s hearing. In the event’s defining exchange, Mann quoted The Princess Bride, and then proceeded to quote Mervis’ condemnation of Lamar Smith:

Smith responded by asserting “that is not known as an objective writer or magazine,” to which the scientific community collectively gasped in horror. This is the magazine associated with Science which, along with Nature, are the two most highly-respected peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world. Mervis has been writing about science policy for Science magazine for 24 years. Lamar Smith, on the other hand is a contributor to Breitbart, entered a Wall Street Journal op-ed into the congressional record, and said this shortly after President Trump’s inauguration:

All theatrics, not much learning

Unfortunately, as is usually the case in these hearings, despite being presented with the opportunity to learn from climate experts, most of the committee members seemed more interested in expressing their beliefs, however uninformed they might be.

At the 2:04:05 mark in the hearing video, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) provided a perfect example of this behavior. He began by asking witness Judith Curry what causes ice ages (Milankovich cycles, which we’ve known for nearly 100 years), so that he could make the point that natural factors caused past climate changes – a point that usually leads to a common logical fallacy (presented here in cartoon form).

Webster proceeded to claim it was “the standard belief of most scientists” in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an ice age. This is another long-debunked myth; in reality, most climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting impending global warming. 

However, some scientists had projected that if the amount of sulfur dioxide pollution in the atmosphere were to quadruple, that would block enough sunlight to cause dramatic cooling. But since that pollution was also causing acid rain, governments developed regulations like the Clean Air Act, and sulfur levels soon declined

The scientists’ projection wasn’t wrong; rather, the scenario didn’t happen because we took action to prevent it, much like if we take sufficient action to cut carbon pollution, we can prevent dangerous global warming. But Rep. Webster spent most of his allotted time expressing his ideologically-convenient beliefs about how clueless climate scientists are, rather than learning from the experts sitting in front of him. Dr. Mann could easily have explained this myth, but wasn’t given the opportunity.

Pleas for climate risk management

Curry spent most of her time exaggerating climate uncertainties, as she has done for years. In his first question to the witnesses, Lamar Smith made it clear that’s why she was invited (emphasis added):

What are the uncertainties, complexities, biases involved with climate science or the study of climate science that need to be considered before we can actually make informed decisions about what to do about climate science? 

To be clear, it’s been decades since we’ve known enough about climate science to understand the need to take action to mitigate its risks. In fact, greater uncertainty translates into greater urgency. When driving a car on a foggy night, slowing down is the wise response to impaired vision; putting the pedal to the metal because of uncertainty as to whether there’s a brick wall ahead would be stupid.

In fact, as Mann explained at the 1:09:36 mark in the video, many climate impacts are happening faster than expected. The brick wall is coming into view. Even one of the Republicans’ own witnesses, Roger Pielke Jr. argued at the 1:57:05 mark for Congress to act:

My view – which may not be popular among anyone here – is that scientific uncertainty is not going to be eliminated on this topic before we have to act ... you guys might think about a low carbon tax

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) half-jokingly called this “blasphemy.” There was also a consensus among the witnesses that the Trump administration’s proposed slashing of climate research funding would be damaging and counter-productive. If Republicans want to argue that we don’t know enough to take action on climate change, cutting research funding would be grossly hypocritical. That’s like turning off the headlights and putting on sunglasses.

Speaking of consensus, Mann was the only witness who accurately represented the conclusions of 97% of climate science research – a point that was frequently raised during the hearing. Fellow witness John Christy, for example, is among the less than 3% of publishing climate scientists who minimize human-caused global warming. His testimony focused on wrongly claiming that climate models have been falsified, using a flawed, debunked graph.

Eventually, Lamar Smith claimed “there is no consensus; the 97% was derived from a small sample of a small sample.” My colleagues and I have a new paper addressing this claim that will be soon be published, so we’ll return to this myth within the next few weeks.

Republicans stand up for the racketeers

There was one particularly McCarthyesque exchange at the 1:28:50 mark in which Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) inquired:

Dr. Mann, are you affiliated or associated with an association called the Union of Concerned Scientists?

Dr. Mann, are you affiliated or associated with an organization called the Climate Accountability Institute? 

This brought to mind a scene from The American President:

Click here to read the rest

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Comments

Comments 1 to 20:

  1. Without putting too fine a point on it, Lamar and his fellow travellers are committing treason, damaging the future of the nation for their personal financial gain.  That it looks like politics-as-usual is a measure of the degree that the Overton Window has shifted in the USA.  They are traitors to the human species. 

    They SHOULD be getting sued.  They SHOULD be getting impeached.  They SHOULD be going to jail.  

    ...and that is not happening and not likely to happen until Mother Nature opens up her can of whup'@55 and lays in all of us in about a decade or so,  for their hubris and for permitting our hands to be tied by such as them.   That will be unmistakably happening by 2030 and we're going to be in dire straits by then.  

    The alternative is perhaps not a march, but a general strike, possibly the first such in the history of the Nation.  The government is in this one specific way, entirely wrong by adopting ignorance as a sacrament.  

    We HAVE to make it clear that a majority of Americans voted for revolution, not for this ignorance, and that we want them to be draining the swamp instead of importing bigger Alligators.   Not just a march now.

    What is necessary is something that kicks them hard enough to actually get their attention.  To get the attention of the media too.  To shift the Overton window on this back somewhere in the vicinity of where we actually live.   A serious threat of secession of some regions of the country could also be appropriate.  Lamar brings his politics to dictate his science.   His ignorance is simply a symptom of the destruction of our democracy. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The use of "all-caps" constitutes shouting and is is prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. If you want to emphasize a word or words, the use of bold font is acceptable.

  2. bjchip@1,


     

    They SHOULD be going to jail.

    Lamar brings his politics to dictate his science. His ignorance is simply a symptom of the destruction of our democracy.

    (comment policy violating emphasis original)


    I note that rep. Lamar Smith is the democratically elected senator in TX. So he (or his ignorance) is the actual product (rather than destruction) of US democracy. And that democracy is working fine to date: e.g. takeover of Congress seats at each term, takeover of WH by successive administrations; all happenning peacefuly according to Constitution, without any hint of voter fraud. I'd add from myself, that the system is working amazingly well, given its recent absurd outcome of installation the biggest imaginable Moron-In-Chief and Psychopath-In-Chief in WH. Rep. Smith is trying to follow the WH example in his absurd denial of climate science but I think he does not quite match the WH lead because it other aspects of life he may be more reasonable and less disconnected from reality.

    My point here is that your logic is wrong in labeling Rep. Smith "a symptom of the destruction of our democracy". Rather, if people follow your calls to sue him and throw him to jail; or "a march, [...] a general strike", and domestic violence is to ensue, then Rep. Smith may be the reason of the "destruction of our democracy".

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Your point on democracy is well made but while this thread is a necessarily about politics, your characterizations are over the line on comments policy.

  3. I think the persistence of people like Smith, Pruitt, and Inhofe is a sign of the corruption of our democracy by 'dark money'.  Anyone familiar with the climate 'debate' knows that if the money went away, or shifted to prefer climate action, action would begin tomorrow.  It is still shocking, however, to learn in just how many ways 'dark money' has permeated every branch of 'our' government, as Bill Moyers recently wrote about concerning 'plain vanilla' Supreme Court candidate Neil Gorsuch.

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  4. My own thoughts on last Wednesday's events:

    The House Science Climate Model Show Trial

    Some highlights from my Transatlantic perspective:

    The denialosphere is of course now spinning like crazy attempting to pin something, anything, on Michael Mann.

    not to mention:

    Why on Earth Judith chose to repeat the “CAI” allegation is beyond me.

    and:

    Given our long running campaign against the climate science misinformation frequently printed in the Mail on Sunday it gives us great pleasure to reprint in full the following extract from [Mann’s] written testimony:

    I'm currently doing battle with Steve McIntyre and other "skeptics" on Twitter over his assertion that "the CV contradicts his lie" regarding Mann's alleged CAI "affiliation/association".

    I can only assume that Mr. McIntyre has neglected to watch the above video of the proceedings. I even managed to persuade one of Judith Curry's "denizens" to take on board my point of view about that contentious issue!

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  5. Does anybody else share the feeling that they've gone to bed at night, only to awake the next day and find themselves in the middle of Alice In Wonderland?

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  6. I don't think you can comment about this article without being political, and you should not. This is politics; the intention is to discredit the scientific evidence because the objective is to mislead. The job is not up to scientists, it is up to politicians and political leaders to get us on the right road.

    What we need is a vision of where we want to go and how to get there. That is what is lacking. I feel that the Trupm distortion is leading to a certain debacle, the sooner, and the bigger the better, so as to project us in some direction.

    The direction we want to take is solutions:

        a)  reduce carbon, and shift to renewable sources

        b)  Re-fit cities and social orders

        c)  Develop truly new solutions (what I work toward)

    You will go crazy trying to make sense out of words and deeds that are meant to mislead and obfuscate.

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  7. The hearing was (or should have been) an embarrassment to most participants.  Michael Mann was a poor choice for the Democrats' invitee.  He's much too combative to sway any fence-sitter in his direction. Yes, he was the object of a political witch hunt and has received a great deal of vitriol, but those facts aren't effective arguments for his scientific positions.   Judith Curry was her usual we-don't-know-enough-to-say-anything-about-anything self. 

    An especially telling exchange occurred at 1:08 in the recording.  Rep. Brooks said that sea level ought to fall in response to global warming.  John Christy avoided the awkward moment by deferring to Curry, who hemmed and hawed about East and West Antarctica.  Isn't she a big fan of satellite data?  Not wanting to cross her sponsors, she missed an opportunity to educate them and gave Mann the chance to mention that we have good data showing that Greenland and Antarctica (as a whole) are both losing ice mass.  That was Mann's best moment.

    I'm not a fan of his, but I thought Roger Pielke, Jr came out best.  He kept quoting IPCC, mostly stayed out of the "you attacked me before I attacked you" conversation, and managed to contradict his sponsors.

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  8. Jeff T @7, I have not watched the testimony, and so cannot comment on the relative merits of each performance.  I agree with you that Michael Mann should not have been the witness chosen by the Democrats (if he was in fact chosen by them).  It is very clear that the chair wanted to stack the deck.  Essentially the 97% of climate scientists who agree with the consensus got represented by Michael Mann.  The 1% who are uncertain got represented by Roger Pielkie Jr and Judith Curry, and the 2% who are definite "skeptics" were represented by John Christy.  Whilst the chair insists on an effective gag on the vast majority of climate scientists, the Democrats should invite a different climate scientist to each such hearing.  Over time, this will highlight that the Republicans always invite the same people because they really do not have that many to choose from.

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  9. John @5 - You are certainly not the only one:

    http://AFWetware.org/2017/03/20/a-letter-from-wonderland/

    Reality is now more surreal than the imaginative writers of previous eras could conceive?

    Jeff @7 - I watched the whole show live, and I agree with you (and Tom) that Michael Mann was not the best choice in all the circumstances. Another option advocated by retired Rear Admiral David Titley was a boycott of such hearings by climate scientists:

    Should Climate Scientists Boycott Congressional Hearings?

    In the past, the science community has participated in these hearings, even though questioning the basics of climate change is akin to holding a hearing to examine whether Earth orbits the sun.

    Enough!

    Would such action get the message across more effectively? Or not?

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  10. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Climate Change Denial: the Lysenkoism of the present-day Republican Party by Dr. Kevork N. Abazajian, 314 Action, Apr 5, 2017

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  11. I thought Titley did rather well in the bits I heard from last inquisition. Personally, I would have liked to see Schmidt or Alley there.

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  12. Sorry about the caps,  I learned to do this before there was a convenient way to bold a comment...  :-)   

    Chriskoz@2  -  I disagree.  To have Smith and other anti-science pro-ignorance people and parties being elected is a symptom.    The role of ignorance in the demise of a democracy was understood by Jefferson

    "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be"  - Jefferson

    ...and has not changed.  It takes people who are ignorant to elect people who are ignorant, and ignorance is caused by a failure of the news and the schools to inform people who have been transformed into consumers rather than active participants in the governance of the country.    The news is not required to be accurate, it is required to gain viewers and sell advertising.    The "Free Market" is in fact, the rope with which the Capitalists hanged us all.   Recognition of its limitations has never been a common thing in the USA. 

    Which is why Smith is a symptom, not a cause, of the problem.  

    He and the T-rump are symptoms and as reprehensible as they are,  one has to look for the root cause of this problem and work through the solutions available.  

    I did that and moved to New Zealand over a decade ago   :-) 

    I still think that any action by the scientific community alone will fail.   Contempt of Congress is what you get with a "failure to appear" and that's not a reasonable risk for a man with a family.    I think that instead the action has to be broader and more definite.  The nation is more divided, more polarized, than it has been at any time since the Civil War.   The people who have done that to it are now "in power" and have promised more and greater errors.   

    There comes a time when one simply has to leave. 

    "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."   - Jefferson

    The choices available are pretty stark.

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  13. Trump is doing the inconceivable - making NZ politicians look good. I didnt realize how good parlimentary systems are. Wonder when US congress will get a headline like this: Government surplus almost $1 billion ahead of forecast as business profits boost tax take

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  14. Good article, but I struggle with a political article that then says don't post political comments. Doesn't make sense.

    Some moderation is very good and improves the signal to noise ratio, too much will deter anyone from posting anything, and strays into censorship.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Moderators find this incredibly tough too. Rules are more relaxed on political threads but firing off partisan insults is still going attract moderation. "All republicans are stupid" or "All democrat are secret commies" dont contribute anything to discussion. Criticism needs to be specific, factual (and referenced if an assertion is being made) to make a worthwhile discussion.

  15. Michael Mann was ambushed. He walked straight into the Clay Higgin's trap (Association of Concerned Scientists, Climate Accountability Institute). A minute on Wikipedia and youtube  ("Don't Be Throwing Rocks - Congressmen Clay Higgins") and he might have known not to answer. (Copy Judith Curry: "We don't know".)

    Elizabeth Esty knew what was going on and how to deal with it. You can't argue with Lamar Smith, you go around him.

    The fundamental problem is the person speaking for science has to know everything in the book and a denier needs know only one question, which may not have a simple answer. So a scientist is going to come off second best against a lawyer or politican.

    It is a game and maybe there is something to be said for not playing.

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  16. bjchip@12,

    Our disagreement is most likely the result of different understanding of the word "democracy". Hence my understanding of democracy is at the very basic level:

    government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

    In US, the elected agents are state electoral college system. And it works precisely to the above definition.

    That the outcome of the system is not the one that Jefferson envisaged, is a different issue.

    If you take a more specific definition, e.g. "political or social equality", you may argue that US electoral college system has failed because it produced an absurd outcome despite a broad "political equality" (popular vote) disagreeing with the result, favouring Clinton.

    Or if you take another angle of the definition, e.g. "people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class", you may argue that democracy has eroded because special interest groups (FF or other vested interests) have created the rules (e.g. electoral college boundaries) where they maximize their voting gains, they also (e.g. via control of mass media) supress the "inconvenient" science and brainwash people who are deceived into voting the candidates that do not represent their interests.

    But that would be your definition of democracy. And I would agree if I accepted it but I don't accept it in this context. I just say that the US democracy is working as it's supposed to work. No doubt it would work differently (maybe better and did not produce an absurd outcome as it did this year) if it was changed. If Jefferson was alive he would likely want to change it, too.

    It turns out we have a lot in common: I have also done a move identical to yours. I moved from US over a decade ago (to Australia so almost the same), one of the reasons of my move was the reality of US politics and social life were not entirely to my liking.

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  17. chriskoz @16:

    "Our disagreement is most likely the result of different understanding of the word "democracy". Hence my understanding of democracy is at the very basic level:

    'government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.'"

    That definition covers a multitude of sins.  To start with, what is meant by "free".  To me it implies that the choices in electing are free.  But an uninformed in ill informed choice is not free, in the relevant sense.  On the first basis, it is widely held that you cannot have a genuine decomacracy without free speech.  It should also be held, on the same basis that you cannot have a genuine democracy where the citizens are poorly educated (as is the case in much of the US).  On the second basis, widespread reporting of 'fake news' such as by Breitbart or Fox News impars the democracy, as does the continuous lying by Trump himself.  (As an aside, I believe that a person seeking or holding elected office in a democracy, who lies to the people to assist their aim of being elected, has committed treason.)

    On the second point, the Electoral College is not so constituted that it will typically reflect in its membership the proportion of votes for each candidate.  That means their claim to be elected representatives is dubious to start with.  That claim is further weakened given that the number of electors in the electoral college for each state is not proportional to the number of citizens eligible to vote in each state.

    On a more technical point, supreme power is not vested in the Electoral College, but in the President.  The President is neither the people, nor an elected agent of the people; but rather an elected agent of the electoral college.

    Given the mendacity with which he campaigned, the active interference of foreign powers, the active interference of non-citizens in the form of corporations, the barstadized rules governing elections to the Electoral College, and that he did not secure a plurality of votes, Trump's claim to be democratically elected is just another of his lies.  He is President, but that is because the rule of law is an even more fundamental principle of good government than is democracy.

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  18. Tom Curtis@17,

    Indeed, your "multitude of sins" is happening in US (also to the lesser extent in other democracies such as Westminster system) and the sinners are largely immune. I'm not talking about people in power abusing their parliamentary priviledges but about ordinary people. Example: the libel lawsuit by Michael Mann against National Review is going on for many years and not proceeding. NR are citing First Amendment in their defence, so far successfuly. It's no brainer to most people who understand the case that it's a classic example of obstructing the truth with an intention to defame by NR, and the judgement in favour of Mann should be swift, yet under the strong protection of First Amendment, NR are still avoiding the penalty.

    Your definition of freedom "implies that the choices in electing are free", and access to free and objective education, which, if I understand your point, means self-correcting process similar to scientific discourse be applied to all other discourses of life, esp. political discourse. We are clearly seing that it does not happen in the real world, and US in particular. The funders of First Amendment conceived it to protect defendants in cases like Mann vs. NR. But nothing was invented to protect people against fake news we are experiencing today. Funders thought if people are given unlimitted free rights to discuss whatever they like (but no obligation to stand behind their words and no penalties for failing to do so), the objective truth would emerge from the discussion. Obviously, it did not work and culminated in total erosion of GOP from reality. Yet, amazingly, they're still functioning (togethr eith their President!) and call themselves democraticaly elected representatives, according to Constritution.

    They're still spreading blatant lies to the public. The very setup of the hearing we're looking at, is a blatant lie: 1 mainstream scientist (Mann) vs. 3 "sceptics", while the real setup according to the available evidence should be 30:1. And they get away with this lie because of their parliamentary priviledge and First Amendment. And uneducated people continue having a wrong picture that there is still a signifficant uncertainly on th etopic of AGW. I haven't watched the hearing (no time) so one thing I don't understand while Mann did not raise this false balance lie to the microphone. That would be his "biggest moment" if he did. Yet from what I know he complacently answered the same questions as he did 15-odd years ago, as if he accepted the false setting of that discussion. Likely the procedural restrictions did not allow him to say anything but stick strictly to the questions. Well, he could have broken that procedure in the name of the 'freedom' in your sense, yet he chose not to. He was likely so compromised by the procedures, that I suspect even First Amendment would not protect him. We might even talk about a suppression of truth in this case.

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  19. Chriskoz @18, the hearings on climate change involving Mann reminds me of a "kangaroo court" that is one of your Australian expressions, for a jacked up court with bad rules, and stacked to ensure a certain result!

    Trump sure likes to use his right to free speech. He forget's that with free speech (and I'm a big supporter) comes responsibilities for accuracy, fairness, honesty. He obviously couldn't care less, or is so dumb he just doesn't get it. For democracy to work optimally, it requires people understand both rights and responsibilities.

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  20. Adding to that excellent link ( 10:  John Hartz )  would be this

    http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/27/14395978/donald-trump-lamar-smith

    The T-rump taking an obvious place in the Lysenko comparison, and more obvious now than ever.  

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