Tag Archives: congress

The Inconceivably Bogus Republican Science Committee Hearings

Last week, House Representative Lamar Smith held yet another masturbatory hearing to promote climate science denial. Smith is bought and paid for by Big Oil, so that is the most obvious reason he and his Republican colleagues would put on such a dog and pony show, complete with a chorus of three science deniers (Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr, and John Cristy). I don’t know why they invited actual and respected climate scientist Mike Mann, because all he did was ruin everything by stating facts, dispelling alt-facts, and making well timed Princess Bride references.

The hearings were called “Full Committee Hearing- Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”

Several others, including specialized climate science writers as well as mainstream media, have written about the hearings:

<li><strong>Dana Nuccitelli at the Guardian:</strong> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/apr/04/inconceivable-the-latest-theatrical-house-science-committee-hearing">Inconceivable! The latest theatrical House 'Science' committee hearing</a></li>

… 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 … 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 has been discussed at length on this blog, see especially this guest post. It is indeed true that back in the 1960s (and a little ways into the 70s) climate scientists considered cooling as well as warming for future scenarios. As Dana points out in his post, this was partly due to the consideration of aerosols (dust) that might cause a cooling effect sufficient to push us into an ice age. But it has been understood for much longer that the most likely scenario was not cooling, but warming, if we keep putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

<li><strong>Ben Jervey</strong> at Desmog: <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/03/29/house-science-committee-hearing-lamar-smith-michael-mann-climate-consensus-deniers">House Science Committee Hearing Pits Three Fringe Climate Deniers Against Mainstream Climate Scientist Michael Mann</a></li>

Ben nots that the intent of these hearings, despite the alt-reasons given by the chair, was to provide a platform for the tiny number of scientists (plus Roger) with positions that must be regarded as firmly in the science denial camp.

Besides Dr. Mann (author of The Madhouse Effect) the other three experts will all be familiar to DeSmog readers:

  • Dr. Judith Curry, a former professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has since resigned to focus on her private business, Climate Forecast Applications Network. Curry has admitted to receiving funding from fossil fuel companies while at Georgia Tech, and she is frequently cited and quoted by climate skeptic blogs and fossil fuel-funded politicians for her stance that the climate is “always changing.”
  • Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and Director of the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the official Alabama State Climatologist since November 2000, who routinely critiques climate modeling and has sung the praises of carbon dioxide.
  • Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., who is not a climate scientist, but a climate science policy writer working at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and who Joe Romm at Climate Progress once called “probably the single most disputed and debunked person in the science blogosphere, especially on the subject of extreme weather and climate change.”
  • “The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat. “Visualize 96 more climate scientists that agree with the mainstream consensus … 96 more Dr. Manns.”

    <li>Dan Vergano at BuzzFeed: <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/danvergano/mann-inquisition?utm_term=.vwArzR8GR#.kaXl5RdKR">This Famous Climate Scientist Just Endured A Washington Inquisition</a></li>
    

    Climate science went on trial on Wednesday at a hearing held by Congress’s notoriously grouchy science committee.//

    The witness list pitted Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann — a lightning rod for energy industry-funded attacks on scientists for two decades — against two scientists critical of their own field, former Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry and University of Alabama satellite scientist John Christy, as well as a political scientist, Roger Pielke Jr. of the University Colorado, who has argued against links between climate change and extreme weather. These three climate skeptics had collectively testified 20 times previously at similar Congressional hearings.

    As Dan implies, the gang of three deniers, and a few others, have been before this and other panels in the US Congress again and again. Interestingly, the short list of deniers available has grown shorter over the years. There are no new ones — that 97% consensus figure works only if you include everyone. If you look only at younger scientists, it is very hard to find any deniers — so there is some attrition for the usual demographic reasons. But also, at least one denier, Heartland funded alt-Harvard scientist Willie Soon, has been taken off the list because his reputation died an ugly death from self inflicted wounds.

    <li>Devin Henry at <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/326336-members-researchers-spar-over-climate-science-at-hearing">The Hill: House Panel Hearing Becomes Climate Change Sparring Session</a></li>
    

    “The current scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is based on thousands of studies conducted by thousands of scientists all around the globe,” committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said.

    … Michael Mann criticized committee Republicans for their NOAA probe, saying it “is meant to send a chilling signal to the entire research community, that if you, too, publish and speak out about the threat of human-caused climate change, we’re going to come after you.”

    Mann sparred directly with Smith, highlighting a Friday article in Science magazine that criticized Smith for speaking at a conference for climate change skeptics. Science magazine is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    “That is not known as an objective writer or magazine,” Smith said.

    Mann replied, “Well, it is ‘Science’ magazine.”

    This part, which is also discussed in the above referenced piece at the Guardian, was amazing. When Smith called the United State’s primary science journal a biased source, I could hear the sound of jaws dropping in unison across the world.

    <li>Rebecca Leber at Mother Jones: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/03/michael-mann-lamar-smith-house-science-committee">A Scientist Just Spent 2 Hours Debating the Biggest Global Warming Deniers in Congress</a></li>
    

    Michael Mann lamented that he was the only witness representing the overwhelming scientific consensus that manmade global warming poses a major threat.

    “We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one—myself—who is in the mainstream,” he said in his opening testimony.

    Mann blasted Republicans for “going after scientists simply because you don’t like their publications of their research—not because the science is bad, but because you find the research inconvenient to the special interests who fund your campaigns.” He added, “I would hope we could all agree that is completely inappropriate.”

    <li>Emily Atkin: <a href="https://newrepublic.com/minutes/141716/house-republicans-held-insane-hearing-just-attack-climate-science">House Republicans held an insane hearing just to attack climate science</a></li>
    

    The Trump administration has been nothing if not a master class in gaslighting—the art of manipulating people, often through lies, into questioning their own sanity—and its pupils on Capitol Hill have clearly been taking notes. On Wednesday, the Republicans on the House Science Committee held a three-hour hearing on the merits of climate change science, a cavalcade of falsehoods so relentless and seemingly rational that one might well need psychiatric counseling after having watched it.

    I’m going to disagree with Emily on the ordering of things. The Republicans were already very good at doing this. It may be that Trump learned from them, or it might just be that governing from the conservative agenda and real estate both involve a lot of gaslighting.

    But, she is right; this is gaslighting. EG:

    At one point, a Republican on the committee even tried to pin the label of “climate denier” on Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist the Democrats had called to defend mainstream science. Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk asked Mann if he though it was possible, even in the slightest, that humans are not the main driver of climate change. Mann said that based on the current data, it’s not possible. Loudermilk concluded: “We could say you’re a denier of natural change.”

    Dave Levitan at Gizmodo: Today’s Congressional Hearing on Climate Change Was a Colossal Train Wreck

    It was, overall, a horrendously depressing display of scientific illiteracy, but there were some odd bits of optimism to be found. The witnesses all agreed at various points that yes, the climate is changing and that humans play a role (though they disagreed, contrary to overwhelming evidence, on the magnitude of that role), and they also agreed that the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to Earth-observing systems at NASA, NOAA, and elsewhere are a monumentally dumb idea.

    What’s more, perhaps the best point was made by one of the GOP witnesses, Roger Pielke, Jr.: “Scientific uncertainty is not going to be eliminated on this topic before we have to act.”

    In other words, not knowing everything is not a justification for doing nothing.

    One of the more disturbing moments during the hearing was when Republican representative Clay Higgins asked Mike Mann if he was a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. At first, I was surprised to hear the answer: “No.” Then, I realized, that if you are a smart witness, often called as a witness, then other than the major professional societies, it is probably better to not be a member of anything.

    It was even more shocking when Higgins, who is clearly not the sharpest bullet in the chamber, demanded that Mann provide proof that he is not a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Mann indicated that he had already provided his resume, which does not say that he is a UCS member, but would be happy to send a second copy.

    Sorry, Mike, that is not proof that you are not a card carrying member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. You will need something better than that. Here, for example, is a valid Not a Member card:

    Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 1.28.08 PM

    You’re welcome.

    I have placed the YouTube video of the entire hearing at the bottom of the post.

    Starts at about 15 minutes:

    US House Votes Against Clean Water, Gives Big Oil Big Gift

    Congressional Republicans, voting party line, will end an important provision protecting streams and rivers from coal waste, and a requirement that oil companies report payments to Foreign Governments. The former is blatant hippie punching anti environmental evil. The latter is a fully expected out come if you elect a Russian puppet president, and appoint a Secretary of state whose main job will be to exploit Russian oil fields. So, if that happened, and this happened, then everything is falling nicely into place for the oligarchs, both American and otherwise.

    The House has already voted as of this writing, the Senate will be voting shortly, so there is still time to call your Senators

    The Sierra Club has set up that will patch you through to your Senators: 888-454-0483.

    This is from Feb 1 press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:


    House of Representatives Votes to Block Rules Protecting Rivers From Coal Waste

    Also Votes to End Requirement That Oil Companies Report Payments to Foreign Governments

    WASHINGTON— In a party line vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to rescind Obama administration rules to protect streams from coal waste and requiring mining and oil companies to report payments made to foreign governments. The vote was done through the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used statute allowing Congress to overturn federal rules enacted with the past 60 legislative days. It has not been successfully used since 2001.

    “House Republicans just sold out America’s clean drinking water and efforts to combat international fraud in order appease Exxon and coal companies,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polluting streams with coal waste is disgusting, dangerous and life-threatening to rural people. There will be hell to pay if Senate Republicans go along with repealing these common-sense rules that save lives and prevent corruption.”

    The Stream Protection Rule was instituted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to provide greater protections to streams from toxic coal mining waste. It would reduce pollution in 6,100 miles of streams while reducing coal mining output by less than 1 percent.

    The requirement that U.S. mining, oil and natural gas companies report payments made to foreign nations was established by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the authority of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to reduce international fraud. Set to go into effect in 2018, the rule was aggressively, but until now, unsuccessfully attacked by Exxon under the leadership of Rex Tillerson.

    And here is another press release from a coalition of organizations who have been fighting over this issue for some time:

    CONGRESS IS ATTACKING CLEAN WATER SAFEGUARDS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE COAL INDUSTRY
    Wednesday, February 1, 2017

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives will use an obscure tool, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which protects clean water for communities living near mining sites. The Senate is expected to vote on the House bill tomorrow.

    SPR gives communities in coal country much needed information about toxic water pollution caused by nearby mining operations. It was finalized by the Obama administration in late 2016. The modest and long overdue rule also provides these communities basic protections from the devastating impacts of mountaintop-removal coal mining on water and public health.

    This safeguard helps to ensure that coal companies don’t profit off of the destruction of drinking water supplies. Unfortunately, leaders in Congress have targeted the SPR in a blatant attempt to put industry profits before public health. Repealing this commonsense protection through the CRA is a heavy handed tactic that will put many communities at risk now — and could constrain future administrations from acting to protect public health and drinking water in these communities.

    A broad coalition of public health, environmental, and conservation groups opposing the CRA, released the following statements:

    “Nobody voted against clean air and water in the last election. Regulatory safeguards that keep our air and water safe from toxic pollution are crafted using a democratic process and based on the best available science”, said Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice. “Any attempts to dismantle them using the Congressional Review Act should be opposed. These attacks have the power to fundamentally undermine the very goals of our environmental laws by trying to cripple future attempts to enforce protections for our air, water, and lands.”??

    “This is an unconscionable attack on basic clean water safeguards for communities already devastated by toxic pollution from coal mining,” said Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. “Everyone has the right to know what is in their water and every community deserves access to clean water. Congress should reject any action that puts industry profits before protections for drinking water and public health.”

    “This attempt to scrap the Stream Protection Rule is a clear case of putting polluters’ profits ahead of the basic well-being of vulnerable communities, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “No matter who you are or where you live, you have a right to clean water — but this shameless attack puts families and communities at risk.”

    “The Stream Protection Rule protects both clean drinking water for people and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We can’t have a bountiful natural heritage without securing clean water. Legislators who attack this rule through the Congressional Review Act are voting in the interest of big polluters, not local communities or future generations.”

    “The potential devastation if the Stream Protection Rule is struck down is unimaginable,” said Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of Citizens Coal Council. “In the 25 states with active coal mining, nearly 100% of the drinking water comes from surface and groundwater that feeds into both public and private water supplies. These water supplies serve 11.4 million people in some of the poorest areas of the nation, where poverty levels in some areas reach nearly 43 percent.”

    “Republican leadership has wasted no time in rewarding Big Polluters by attempting to roll back the historic environmental progress made under President Obama. Undoing this critical Stream Protection Rule that helps prevent coal mining companies from dumping toxic waste into drinking water would be outrageous on its own, but this extreme attack goes even further by blocking the Department of Interior from ever issuing rules that allow communities living near mining operations to know what’s being put in their water or to hold these polluters accountable for the increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems that have been linked to their waste”, said Gene Karpinski,

    President of the League of Conservation Voters. “With communities across the country increasingly alarmed by contaminants like lead, flame-retardant chemicals, and many other pollutants showing up in their drinking water, shredding safeguards for clean water is the exact opposite of what Congress should do. We call on Congress to do what’s right by standing up to Big Polluters and rejecting this radical attack on clean water.”

    “The politicians in Washington, D.C. are out of touch with Alaskans. Across our great state, Alaskans want healthy wild salmon streams,” said Bob Shavelson, Advocacy Director of Cook Inletkeeper. “But the political elites don’t get it—they take money from the coal corporations and ignore the will of the people.”

    “Think about it: spiking a rule that tells coal companies they can’t poison our water sources, harm our landscapes or kill fish and wildlife with their waste,” said Scott Slesinger, Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a polluter-motivated attack on the American people.”

    “Appalachia has already lost 2,000 miles of streams to mountaintop removal mining. It’s crucial we protect what is left”, said John Suttles, Director of Litigation and Regional Programs for SELC. “Congress is placing coal-mining profits above the health of the people in Appalachia and the basic right to clean water.”

    “National parks and people stand to lose if Congress succeeds in dismantling the Stream Protection Rule,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “The rule safeguards waterways from toxic pollution produced by mining operations. Millions of Americans visit national parks in the Southeast each year, for activities such as bass fishing at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area or white water rafting at New River Gorge National River each year. Will they continue to visit and spend millions of dollars in surrounding communities, if polluted waterways greet them upon arrival?”

    “Mountaintop removal has devastated Appalachia’s land and water, and it continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of residents throughout the region,” said Tom Cormons, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. “Appalachian communities are actively working toward a stronger economic future, not dominated by a failing coal industry. We are counting on Congress to do what is right for the people of Central Appalachia by preserving the Stream Protection Rule.”

    I'd Like Sharon Sund To Run For Congress

    This is an open letter to potential CD3 congressional candidate Sharon Sund. There is no declared candidate in this district at this time, but there is an increasing interest in recruiting Sharon to run against Erik Paulsen.
     
     

    Sandra_SundDear Sharon,
     
    Three years ago I decided to get involved in the Minnesota Third Congressional District election. I had been involved in previous races, supporting various DFL candidates through the caucus, primary, and election process. But this time I decided to explicitly seek out a candidate who was science oriented, who would make issues like climate change a campaign priority and not just an add-on, and volunteer my time. I was pleasantly shocked and amazed to quickly discover that you were seeking the DFL nomination and that you were explicitly pro science, and that you had a degree in an area of science and had worked as a scientist yourself.
     
    You may remember that I contacted you to find out more, to verify what it said on your web site, and that we chatted. Not only did it become clear that you really were a science oriented candidate, but that you were also a progressive with experience organizing progressive campaigns (such as support of the Affordable Care Act) and an experienced fund raiser. In short order I volunteered for your campaign, and eventually became staff on that campaign, and at the same time, we became friends.
     
    Working on that campaign was a great pleasure for me. One of the things I remember most is the internal policy of that campaign to always be honest, always play fair, always respect other members of the DFL. The idea was to win the nomination, but if not, to remember — and these words were often said by staffers, volunteers, and by you — that we are all Democrats. We did not gain the nomination at the convention, but the very first thing (after a bit of crying and hugging and such) after that was to concede gracefully, to shake the hands of the winner and his team, and to wish them well.
     
    Now it is time to consider the next Congressional election. I am asking you to run again, to declare candidacy for Congress of the United States for Minnesota’s Third District. Here are some of the reasons I think you should do this.

    CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST AND COMMENT!

    Heartland Institute Under Congressional Investigation

    The Heartland Institute, a smallish Libertarian “Think” Tank recently made famous by the leak of a rather embarrassing set of incriminating documents, is now slated for investigation by the Congress of the United States.

    The chair and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raul Grijavla, has initiated an investigation of Indur Goklany, an administrator at the Science and Technology Policy of the US Department of the Interior. It appears that Goklany was being paid by Heartland which raises a significant potential for conflict of interest.

    The story broke at Think Progress.