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David Doniger’s Blog

Inhofe Brews Tempest in Teapot While Global Warming Rages On

David Doniger

Posted September 28, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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Long-time climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) thinks he’s really got the goods this time.  He is trumpeting a “procedural review” by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General asserting that – depending on how you read a definition in an obscure procedural guideline – EPA may have skipped one process step in reaching its landmark 2009 finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health and welfare. 

The laughable premise of Sen. Inhofe’s charges is that there hasn’t been enough peer review of climate science.  It’s also dishonest.

The truth is that endangerment finding stands atop an enormous, multi-layered pyramid of peer-reviewed scientific research and assessment developed over decades.  And its conclusions are unassailable.

Here are the facts:

At the base of the pyramid are tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications, each one peer-reviewed before acceptance in a scientific journal. 

This immense body of climate change research was then synthesized in three separate scientific assessments by the Nobel prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. Global Climate Research Program, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  Those assessments involved thousands of scientists trained in pertinent fields.  Each assessment was subject to rigorous peer-review. 

On this base, EPA prepared a detailed summary of these peer-reviewed assessments and the underlying peer-reviewed scientific literature.  EPA then subjected its own summary to review by a dozen top federal climate science experts – not once, not twice, but three times. 

The final endangerment finding, at the very top of the pyramid, relies on this summary.   

In addition to all this peer and expert review, members of the public had multiple chances to offer views in many rounds of public comment – over IPCC and GCRP drafts, over EPA’s scientific summary, and over EPA’s proposed endangerment finding itself.

In this thorough scientific process, no alternative theory – from sunspots, to clouds, to cosmic rays – has gone uninvestigated.  And every wild charge of scientific fraud – aka, Climategate – has been examined and refuted.

The Inspector General’s report pointedly takes no issue with the science of climate change or the catalogue of dangers to our health, our environment, and our economy in EPA’s endangerment finding.  Instead, the IG report picks a procedural nit, asserting that EPA failed to properly classify its own summary of the IPCC, GCRP, and NAS scientific assessments as itself being another “scientific assessment.” 

Here’s the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin question:  Is EPA’s document a “summary” of previous scientific assessments that were already peer reviewed (and thus does not need further review), or is it EPA’s document a new “scientific assessment,” needing yet another round of peer review. 

EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (which supervises executive branch peer review and is no pushover for EPA) both agreed that EPA’s document is a summary, not a new assessment, and that there’s already been more than enough peer review.  The IG disagrees. 

Sen. Inhofe’s trumped up outrage about “serious flaws” in EPA’s endangerment finding and the “violation” of peer review procedures hinges on this arcane definitional disagreement:  “summary” or “scientific assessment”?  EPA and OMB on one side.  The Inspector General and Sen. Inhofe on the other.  That’s all Sen. Inhofe’s got. 

By the way, what peer review procedures does Sen. Inhofe follow before he posts his “climate hoax” theories?  Teapot calling the kettle black?

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Comments

PlantifulSep 28 2011 10:37 PM

This is just a continuing reason as to why we cannot wait for our corporate-owned government to take any positive action in addressing global warming: there just is no immediate profit in it.

We must take action in our own ways, limited or not, as they all do add up to a national change.
Here are some changes that most can do:

1) Use a clothesline instead of a dryer. Saves your clothes, saves electricity (coal), and if it was good enough 30 years ago, it will still work today.

2) Install a solar hot water heater- between $2000-$3000, and it will eliminate the need for gas/oil/electric hot water when there is moderate to high amounts of sunlight.

3) Buy local meats and produce- why buy an apple that was shipped from the other side of the world. Just wait for something to be in season, enjoy it, and then move on to the next season's offerings. Fresher and more nutritious also. localharvest[dot]org and eatwild[dot]com are useful.

4) Get rid of the lawnmower and blower and use a reel mower and a rake. Healthy exercise, more quiet, and no gasoline or engines to maintain.

5) Buy a more efficient car if you can. Bicycle / walk to your destination, if you are able.

6) Compost your garbage- eliminates methane production from landfills and produces a great fertilizer.

7) Insulate your home, of course. For heating, an efficient wood-burning stove is great, providing heat for cooking, heating the house, drying laundry in the winter, and humidifies the air, all with renewable energy.

8) Unplug all unused power supplies / adapters- these are all using the same amount of energy, used or not.

9) Install ceiling mounted LED lights. Expensive, but one 8 watt bulb lights the same as a 60W incandescent. No mercury, and dimmable too.

10) Buy biodiesel for your diesel engine or oil burner. It may be more expensive, but as more people buy it, economies of scale will make it cheaper for more people.

11) Recycled paper products- look at MotherNature.com for some good quality products that do not destroy forests.

12) To eliminate / lessen air conditioning, open the windows at night and use fans to blow heat out of the top floor of your home. Close the windows in the morning, and use shades / curtains for further insulation.

Imhofe is just a corporate-owned idiot. No one needs to ask for a review of that fact: $50,000 / year in total average "donations" from fossil fuel companies over 20 years. What better "donation" could they really make? They bought themselves the ranking member of the Senate Environment Committee.

Voting out all of the current congress, including yours, would do miracles for We the People, and would help the planet too.

Twenty First CenturySep 29 2011 02:07 PM

Sounds like you want to regress back 30 years ago - and that's fine. But guess what, coal generated electricity is cleaner now then it was 30 years ago and up until now it is one of the most reliable and economical sources of electricity the US has. Getting rid of coal for unproven environmental benifits is irresponsible to the American people, who have no idea how their lives are going to be impacted by the loss of the most abundant fuel source this country has.
Maybe you are right after all. Once coal is gone and jobs are lost and energy is too expensive, everyone will be forced to mow thier lawn manually. I for one like the country we live in today where I can make that choice rather than be forced into it.

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