Tag Archives: Lamar Smith

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:

    Lamar Smith Gets It Wrong #FauxPause

    There wasn’t a “pause” in global warming. The rate at which the plant’s surface warms because of human greenhouse gas pollution varies over time. Sometimes the warming is quicker, sometimes it is slower.

    There are multiple reasons for a temporary slowdown in the temerature curve, including the temperature curve being a little inaccurate, the ocean taking heat away from the surface, atmospheric dust varying over time in how much sunlight is reflected away, and so on. I recently wrote up a detailed discussion of the latest thinking on this interesting scientific problem, based mostly on a current published commentary by Fyfe et al in Nature Climate Change. See: What is the “pause” in global warming?

    Republican Representative from Texas’s 21st district, Lamar Smith has been on a crusade against science, and has been employing distinctively McCarthyistic tactics in order to intimidate researchers and damage the progress of, well, civilization, frankly.

    Most recently he wrote an opinion piece that misrepresented the Fyfe et al paper. In response, one of the authors of this paper, Michael Mann, wrote this Open Letter to Smith on his Facebook page:

    Dear Congressman Lamar Smith,

    Please don’t misrepresent our recent Nature Climate Change commentary.

    Our study does NOT support the notion of a “pause” in global warming, only a *temporary slowdown*, which was due to natural factors, and has now ended.

    Our recent work, which you fail to cite, indicates that the record warmth we are now experiencing can only be explained by human-caused global warming.

    Michael E. Mann

    Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science
    The Pennsylvania State University