skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Fracking
Safe Chemicals
Defending the Clean Air Act

Dan Lashof’s Blog

Are you now or have you ever been a climate scientist?

Dan Lashof

Posted March 1, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

Tags:
, , , , , ,
Share | | |

Sen. James Inhofe, (R-Ok), the Senate’s chief spokesman for climate deniers, says so many outrageous things (see his recent interview on Grist) he’s all but lost his power to surprise.

Last week, though, the Oklahoma Republican crossed a line that I find shocking, attempting to discredit scientists through innuendo and the kind of intimidation that can have a chilling effect.

If Inhofe wants to call global warming a hoax, as he first did in 2003, that may be paranoid, but he has that right.

If he wants to say  some stolen emails between a handful of climate scientists prove that he was right all along, PolitiFact rates the statement “false,” but it’s a nice debating point for him.

If he wants to have his grandchildren put a sign on their Igloo saying “Al Gore’s new home,” I guess that’s OK, though it does sadden me to see one of the great joys of childhood—a snow day—politicized.

But when Inhofe attempts to discredit respected scientists through innuendo and tries to intimidate them by threatening a criminal investigation, enough is enough.

It is time to say, “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

 

Last week Inhofe released a report by his Minority staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that represents a shocking new low in the public discourse on global warming.

The first chapter is unremarkable. It simply rehashes previously discussed accusations arising from the emails hacked from University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU).

In Chapter Two, though, the report shifts tone, setting the stage for guilt by association. The bulk of the chapter simply describes how the IPCC operates, but it includes  a table called “CRU – IPCC CONNECTION.”  The table lists a number of lead authors of the three most recent IPCC reports. The Inhofe report asserts that:

The chart below shows that the scientists at the center of the CRU scandal were participants in drafting IPCC assessment reports. Nearly all of the scientists worked at the highest levels of the IPCC, shaping and influencing the content of the assessment reports that form the international global warming ‘consensus.’

The only link to the CRU controversy for some of them appears to be that their names were mentioned in one of the emails.

For example, Inhofe’s report claims that Susan Solomon is “implicated in the CRU emails” and her name appears three times in the “CRU – IPCC CONNECTION” table. Solomon, a distinguished NOAA scientist, was indeed heavily involved in the IPCC report—she co-chaired Working Group I, which assessed the fundamental science of global warming. Her only link to the CRU emails presented in the Inhofe report is a February 2006 message from Keith Briffa to Jonathan Overpeck that mentions her in a single sentence. That sentence reads:

Of course this discussion now needs to go to the wider Chapter authorship, but do not let Susan [Solomon of NOAA] (or Mike [Michael Mann]) push you (us) beyond where we know is right.

Note that there is no evidence whatsoever that Solomon made any attempt to push Briffa and Overpeck to modify their views of the scientific issues that were discussed in the email. No matter, if your name is mentioned in one of the stolen emails you are “implicated.”

Chapter 3 is the most insidious as it is designed to intimidate scientists. It contains nothing of substance other than a summary of the Freedom of Information Act, White House openness directives, the False Statements Act and the False Claims Act. It then implies that the scientists mentioned in the emails may have violated these statutes and policies, but never presents any actual evidence that they have. The only actual accusation made in the report is that the emails “raise questions.” The authors go on to say they are investigating “whether any violations” occurred. The complete text of the innuendo is:

These and other issues raise questions about the lawful use of federal funds and potential ethical misconduct. Discussed below are brief descriptions of the statutes and regulations that the Minority Staff believe are implicated in this scandal. In our investigation, we are examining the emails and documents and determining whether any violations of these federal laws and policies occurred.

Have you no sense of decency Senator Inhofe, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Share | | |

Comments

TimMar 1 2010 03:13 PM

Inhofe frequently goes over the top in many ways but so do politicians like Al Gore. Even scientists like Hansen are on record calling for sceptics to be charged with 'high crimes'.

But all of this rhetoric obscurs the fact that ethical violations are not a matter of fact but rather than one of opinion. i.e. someone who does not beleive that bribery is wrong would likely insist that a emails showing someone offering/accepting a bribe are nothing of consequence. Such an argument will not sway the opinion of people that believe that bribery is wrong.

That is was has happened with the CRU emails which prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the climate scientists involved engaged in extremely unethical behavoir in order to promote their version of the science. The fact that others who were not implicated defend this behavoir as 'normal' actually causes more damage because it suggests that scientists are not only guilty of ethical violations but they work in a culture where such violations are perfectly acceptable.

The bottom line is Inhofe is over extending his allegations but there is a real disconnect between the ethical standards of climate scientists and the ethical standards of the public being asked to believe the claims of climate scientists. AGW scepticism will increases as long as the climate science community refuses to acknowledge that they have no right to tell people what is ethical and what is not. The only choice they have is to confirm to those ethical standards or to accept that their opinions will be ignored because they are deemed untrustworthy.

SteveMar 1 2010 03:38 PM

:)

All we have in the emails are snippets viewed selectively as innuendos; in truth pointing to a small element of human error.

As Cardinal Richelieu said, "Give me six sentences written by an honest man and I will find a reason to hang him." It's a real surprise that so little has been found to shout about from so many emails...

Amusingly, I don't see the connection between what Sen. James Inhofe declaims and the working practices of the UEA - who are not in America and not subject to their laws!

Freedom of Information is complex. Much of the data used by the UEA was covered by a "use, don't distribute" contract as the data is the commercial property of other bodies. The UEA can give away result though - which they have done.

Even so, this hurricane in a thimble has not caused any finding to be amended. The CRU results agree with those from other independent groups.

This whole thing is deliberate obfuscation, a "play the man, not the ball" attack.

TimMar 1 2010 03:49 PM

Steve,

You miss the entire point. Why should anyone trust the conclusions of scientists who not only act unethnically but insist that there is nothing wrong when other scientists act unethically?

Keep in mind that it is people being asked to trust the conclusions are the ones who have the exclusive right to define what is ethical. It is not up to scientists or their hangers on.

James MayeauMar 1 2010 04:10 PM

Tim

Let's not forget that these emails were subject to FOI laws that the UEA violated.
There is no disputing that these handful of climate scientists are criminals, co-conspirators seeking to avoid disclosure of the methods used for drawing their conclusions, who escaped prosecution due to a statute of limitation.
It's not a case of opinion, of some peoples sensitivities being offended, it's a case of law being violated.

Susan Solomon is a implicated by her silence, just as sure as if she had witnessed a murder and refused to point out the villan.

John LiffeeMar 1 2010 04:44 PM

Has anyone else noticed that every last member of the evil-climate-scientists-are-hoodwinking-the-world crowd is what a schoolteacher might deem a "creative speller"?

Susan KraemerMar 1 2010 04:59 PM

Dan, great piece. Absolutely right.

It really is long past time to push back against the evil that the fossil industry is perpetrating on our one and only civilization on our one and only planet that our ancestors left to us in good shape - that we must leave to our grand children.

Inhofe's $2 million+plus salary that he gets paid every year to do Exxon's dirty work REALLY should preclude such a monster working on the public dime.

May he rot in Hell.

(Sorry that the organized fossil-industry trolls - probably paid by Marc Morano, (who also collects OUR money to spew aut this fossil-funded crap in Inhofes office) - to google mentions of the story so as to speedily clog up comment-threads) got here first.)

TimMar 1 2010 06:27 PM

Susan,

You are deluding yourself that AGW scepticism has something to do with the oil companies. AGW is scepticism exists because intelligent people look at the evidence supporting the catastrophic claims and find that the evidence simply cannot support the claims being made.

You also forget that AGW sceptics are also tax payers who are very angry that their tax dollars are use to pay scientists that make Nixon look like an honest man.

You may not like Inhofe but he was elected by the voters and that gives him more legimacy that Mann, Hansen or any of the other so called experts making a living at tax payer expense.

patsiMar 1 2010 09:56 PM

Tim

AGW scepticism DOES have something to do with oil companies - they have funded campaigns against climate science for nearly 20 years no, beginning with Western Fuels ICE campaign in the early 1990's to Exxon's funding of a paper which tried to show that polar bears are not funded by global warming. Some of the main deniers have admitted themselves that they have been paid by the oil industry. Inhofe has received more money from the oil industry than most of his peers (bar 5) in the last 20 years. All of this is well documented. It is fact.

FishMar 1 2010 10:24 PM

Inhofe was elected by people who believe that evolution is just a theory, that the earth is about 10,000 years old and that the rapture TM is coming soon.

Never underestimate the potential for anti-science lunacy, emanating like methane gas, from the poorly educated right wing zealot.

The right wing has its underwear in knots because a few stolen e-mails show that legitimate climate scientists were upset that junk science got published in a reputable journal. The junk science by the climate "skeptics" would have been sent back for correction by a decent editor. Sorry, Tim and James, the Soon et al paper has been thoroughly refuted while Mann's paper (the hockey stick) has been confirmed by the National Academy of Science.

Hundreds of peer reviewed scientific papers published over the past year are showing that climate change and ocean acidification are worse than the IPCC reports have predicted, not less.

The climate change deniers aren't criminals. They are ignorant fools parroting talking points from right wing sites funded by the fossil fuel industry.

George HMar 1 2010 11:16 PM

How can any of you, claim to be able to determine that Man is the Cause of Global Warming and Now Climate Change. Take a moment to really think about this carefully. It scares me to think that people can even be called scientist, who profess this disturbing agenda driven at crippling many nations and their people who through economic achievement and advancement they are being vilified as planet destroyers. Man cannot make the world get any hot or colder than its going to get. This lunacy is like saying that the large shipping fleets that cross the worlds oceans are alternately the currents of the worlds oceans. It is clear, that if global warming vs man was a criminal legal case, there is not a shred of evidence that can link man to this. In a real criminal case that Man would be exonerated. What you alleged scientist, professors and politicians are doing trying to dismantle the freedoms and liberties all people have by seizing control of energy, industry and consumer products taxation and schooling. I predict their will be a ground swell of common sense and you guys are going to be left out to dry.

I am a Proud Canadian

TimMar 2 2010 12:57 AM

patsi,

This Exxon obsession is pretty silly. The online sceptic community consists entirely of hobbyists with science, mathematics or engineering backgrounds. They almost all started out as "AGW believers" who were appalled to discover the shoddy quality of the science and become progressively disillusioned as institutions and individuals that they used to respect demonstrated that slavish adherence to the AGW party line is more important than truth.

Political actors like Morano and Inhofe would have no ammunition if was not for this online community of unpaid sceptics.

Of course, you are free to wallow in your unfounded conspiracy theories but it would be more helpful to your cause if you started acknowledging that climate scientist have screwed up big time and their needs to be a major house cleaning and a return to basic scientific principles before their can be any further progress on the public policy front.

TimMar 2 2010 01:04 AM

Fish,

You got it backwards. The fossil fuel industry is using the science generated by the online sceptic community to promote its views (the EPA challenge by Peabody coal uses many of arguments first presented on sites like ClimateAudit).

It is not funding it or controlling it. It is a true grassroots phenomea made possible by the Internet. The only dupes are people like you who can't seem to understand that scientists are human and do have biases that affect the quality of their research.

James MayeauMar 2 2010 03:11 AM

So Phil Jones testified today that hiding data from people who might challenge his findings, while providing the same data to trusted friends who won't, is "standard procedure" in the climate sciences.

John is that true? Do all climate scientists hide their data when advising the world as a matter of standard procedure?

The Royal Statistical Society doesn't agree. They're calling for climate science to put that "mountain of evidence" out in the public domain, so we can all have a look.

The Royal Society of Chemistry firmly believes that the benefits of scientific data being made available to scrutiny outweigh the perceived risks. What perceived risk could they be talking about?
Maybe that you'll all be found out as frauds?

The Institute of Physics comes right out and says it straight.
"The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself – most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change."

The thing that strikes me is the common thread running between the three; Phil Jones, CRU, and every other member of the climate change community of scientific cheerleaders, in all these years, haven't shown their "mountain of evidence". Not even once.

JACK FISHMar 2 2010 01:05 PM

Dan, you write of decency in regards to Inhofe's inuendo .... How about the decency of those who have called those who do not subscribe to man made Global warming as terrrorists, even racists ,,,,,you sir are a hypocrite,,,, And exactly what degree has Al Gore earned ?

James MayeauMar 2 2010 08:25 PM

What's the matter John? Got nothing to say now? No witty observations about your detractors?
That's a pity, because your puntuation is exquisite.

James MayeauMar 3 2010 03:41 AM

I wanted to respond to this - Moron 2009 temperature record from GISS.

Because there is no comment form there, I'll speak my peice here. The decade between 2000 and 2010 was the snowiest on record, beating out the 1960s,70's, 80's and 90's.

These two records are incompatable. The snow record is verified. Anyone can see the data and draw their own conclusions.

The temperature graph from GISS (and NOAA) is hidden, manipulated, and you're forbidden from seeing the raw data to form your own conclusions.

So who do you think the liar is?

SteveMar 3 2010 07:53 AM

If there is one thing is clear, from the rhetoric on BOTH SIDES of this issue, it is that the science is NOT fully understood by ANYONE. The truth is that all that Inhofe, and all the other "Non Believers" want, is for there to be TRUSTWORTHY research done, BEFORE we pass all kinds of economy killing legislation that puts the US at a disadvantage while lining the pockets of those who preach that the sky is falling.

Take a step back. The earth is about 4,500,000,000 years old. Although we can make some GENERAL observations about large scale climatic changes maybe a couple of million years ago, this is still less than one percent of the age of the earth, and REAL detailed data only go back a hundred years or so. That is a mighty small window through which we are looking, and trying to extrapolate an eternity of data!!

Look at it this way: If a housefly, with a lifespan of one day were to look at "global warming", and he was born at 8:00am, by Noon he may notice that the temperature had gone from 45 degrees F to 75 degrees F, in only four hours... He may logically conclude that at that rate of 7.5 degrees per hour, that by the next morning, the temperature should be 220 degrees, having raised 7.5 degrees per hour over that 24 hour period, and he would start an Al Gore-type campaign against global warming to save his children.

As absurd as this sounds, that may be what we're doing. We just dont have the data, the knowledge, or the science to understand the implications of what the temperature changes we've read actually mean, let alone the ability to know if there is causality that can be blamed on humans.

In the 80s, we were all being prepared for "the next ice age" by these same climatologists, who apparently need sensationalism to create a demand for their research, to keep them funded.

All I'm asking is that we not destroy this great country because of an overreaction to what we dont understand.. Take a deep breath, let's get some research done... some REAL research, by scientists who aren't politically motivated or funded, and let's see where we are with this in another 10 years or so, and dont try to scare us about what may happen in another 10 years if we do "nothing" because we've already become very aware of our environment as a society, and things are generally getting better, not worse.. 10 years ago, you couldn't swim in Lake Erie, and the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River were WAY more toxic than they are now.. Take a look at any picture of a big city taken in the 60s or 70s.. It was WAY more dirty, with raw industrial waste spewing from smokestacks. We've ALREADY cut down probably 90+% on those bad habits.. The sky is NOT going to fall on us..

-Steve

Neil OMar 3 2010 11:36 AM

@Steve

This deserves more time to respond fully, but here's a quick response just to get out there.

Your point is that we lack the data, the knowledge, or the science to know for sure what the climate will do. However, science doesn't really "know" things "for sure". Science creates models that explain observed phenomena, and then extends or amends those models as anomalies are observed. If anomalies accumulate and the scientific models are strained to explain them, then eventually a revolutionary new theory emerges and is (slowly, with resistance) accepted.

Take gravity for instance. We all "know" that anyone who jumps from a chair will fall to the ground. We have models that explain the gravitational pull based on the mass and distance, i.e. classical mechanics. But (as far as I know) science doesn't "know" how the force of gravity is carried from on object to the other. A gravitational particle has been hypothesized but never experimentally observed.

And that's gravity. Something we all consider "certain".

So I'm not sure it's wise to wait for science to be certain about climate.

Neil OMar 3 2010 11:40 AM

I should make one more point.

Just because we don't "know" how gravity works doesn't mean it's irrational to wear a parachute when jumping out of a plane.

John LiffeeMar 3 2010 12:37 PM

... your puntuation (sic) is exquisite.

Touche! Reveals either a surprising ability to make fun of yourself or that Archie Bunker has nothing on you in the Unintentional Comedy category.

Either way, you guys simply put the fear of god into me. You all demonstrate over and over, ad infinitum, that you don't understand the difference between rhetoric and logic. You consistently use logical fallacy to "prove" your points. "The decade between 2001 and 2010 was the snowiest on record ... these two records are incompatible": Um.... no, that is not necessarily so. And in any case, science — as it is in fact a process of constantly testing hypothesis against observable data, and revising/rethinking hypothesis as necessary — will investigate any possible relationship between those two data sets, seeking to describe with ever-greater confidence what that relationship is. Given that the global science community — thousands of scientists around the world, most working independently of one another — is highly confident that global temperatures are warming and that manmade pollution is a primary cause of it, I'm pretty sure that we'll soon learn how increased snowfall in recent years makes perfect sense within the bigger picture.

You all seem to subscribe to the notion that there is a global cabal of mad scientists intent on defrauding us all. This is what's most dumbfounding to me; it's just ... ludicrous, on the face of it. The silliest thing imaginable; an indication that you've got a comic-book world view. Not rational, and because the stakes are so high I truly wish there were some way to stop you from continuing to pollute the public debate about how best to extricate ourselves from this pickle.

Geochem1stMar 3 2010 02:30 PM

The problem is the policy recommendations based on very complex modeling that is not defensible. But what of the almost 200 years of basic research in the hard sciences that preceeded the politics? From the 1820's on great men such as Angstrom, Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, and others discovered through repeatable experimentation that triatomic gas molecules where transparant to the visible spectrum but absorbed in the infrared. They also discovered back then that all it took was trace amounts to impart change. They were concerned that the Industrial Revolution was releasing CO2 in to the atmosphere in large quantities. There is much talk about not knowing all the details of feedback loops both positive and negative. Therefore look to the geologic record. Today we are releasing CO2 through the burning of fossil fuels at rates that are 3 orders of magnitude greater than the earths ability to fix carbon during the largest carbon fixing era in the geologic record - The Carboniferous Period, and that is with all feedbacks considered. With what we know today regarding the physics of GHG's and what our release rates are it doesn't take a rocket scientist or complex modeling to know that this can not turn out good. It is not whether we will reach a tipping point but when.

geochem1stMar 3 2010 02:37 PM

Lastly, all of this reliance on temperature records is extremely deceptive. It takes roughly 4 joules of heat energy to raise 1 gram of water one degree C. By contrast it takes rougly 0.3 joules of energy to raise one gram of copper one degree C. Huge difference in actual heat energy, same temperature. This allows water to absorb and radiate huge amounts of heat energy with very little changes in temperature. This is very important in global warming because the 70% of the earth is covered by oceans. The actual heat content of the oceans have been rising and the pH dropping. Adherence to discrepencies in atmospheric temperature records is missing the forests for the trees.

John LiffeeMar 3 2010 02:53 PM

With what we know today regarding the physics of GHG's and what our release rates are it doesn't take a rocket scientist or complex modeling to know that this can not turn out good. It is not whether we will reach a tipping point but when.

Bingo. Thank you, sir, for so clearly summing up the basic scientific reality.

If you want the United States (or whatever it will be splintered into with the planet slowly cooking, rotisserie-style) of 2050 or thereabouts to be desperately underresourced, short on food and water, an economic shambles, then go ahead — resign yourself to continually rising carbon emissions, do nothing to ward off the worst possible outcomes of a haywire climate, pass on the opportunity (jobs!) to lead the inevitable global transition to a zero-carbon economy. Or you might reconsider your position, opting instead to invest now, create opportunity, reap returns, solve the problem.

John LiffeeMar 4 2010 01:47 PM

Dan –

Scary, closely related piece someone forwarded to me.

Highlights:

""I seriously believe we should kick them while they're down," said [uber idiot Marc Moron-o, of climatedepot.com]. "They deserve to be publicly flogged."

And this, which reflects the deep anxiety I feel:

That neither the stolen correspondence nor the minor IPCC errors undermine the underlying science of climate change hasn't checked the onslaught.


Trenberth says that is the most dispiriting aspect of the e-mails: Facts don't carry more weight in the public debate. The nature of public discourse - be it climate change or health care - has changed; information that does not fit one's worldview is now discounted or rejected.

"Increasingly," wrote Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald recently, "we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth."

Added Trenberth: "In science there's a whole lot of facts and basic information on the nature of climate change, but it's not being treated that way. It's being treated as opinion."

I'm very afraid that this phenomenon, in a nation that has the most powerful military in the world, is a harbinger of another age of virulent fascism. If people can't think, they're far too malleable to those who'd manipulate them.

James MayeauMar 4 2010 10:15 PM

Lastly, all of this reliance on temperature records is extremely deceptive.

Let the record show that Chem, after one session, smooth throws Jimmah Hansen, Phillie Jones, and Tommy Karl, under da bus.

Woomp woomp woomp.

If you have evidence that the oceans are getting warmer present it here. I'm interested to see it.

James MayeauMar 5 2010 08:40 PM

Nothing huh.

Alright take your time. I'll check back.

Comments are closed for this post.

About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

Feeds: Dan Lashof’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In