Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Dessler, professors of geoscience and atomospheric science respectively, write that science has spoken.
On Feb. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fourth assessment report on the science of global warming. The report was written by hundreds of climate scientists from 130 countries. It has been reviewed by thousands of other climate scientists and hundreds of government agencies, and it has been opened for public review as well.
This IPCC report is perhaps the most thoroughly vetted document in the history of science. For this reason, its assessments are widely regarded as the most authoritative summaries of what we know about global warming.
So what does this new report tell us?
In short, after many tons of study and evaluation, science has reached consensus, and that consensus is “The Earth is warming, and most of that warming is very likely due to human activities.”
But the American political Right says that science can take its consensus and shove it.
Last week it was widely reported that the American Enterprise Institute, a rightie “think” tank (more of an anti-think tank, actually), offered $10,000 to scientists who would refute the report. Now, Steven F. Hayward and Kenneth P. Green of AEI write in the Weekly Standard that these stories are inaccurate. Sorta. If you read their rebuttal carefully, you see that they take umbrage at the AEI being called a “lobbying group” in some stories. And yes, AEI has received more than $1.6 million from Exxon Mobil, but that was over a seven-year period.
But what about the $10,000?
The AEI just wanted to help, say Hayward and Green. IPCC had identified some “uncertainties,” and the AEI is looking for “scientists, economists, and public policy experts” who would write essays “analyzing” the IPCC’s work. “We couched our query in the context of wanting to make sure the next IPCC report received serious scrutiny and criticism,” they said, clearly implying previous reports had received insufficient scrutiny and criticism. People writing these essays would receive a $10,000 honorarium.
Our offer of an honorarium of up to $10,000 to busy scientists to review several thousand pages of material and write an original analysis in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words is entirely in line with honoraria AEI and similar organizations pay to distinguished economists and legal scholars for commissioned work.
Andrew Dressler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M, wrote on his blog,
Also note: they’re willing to pay $10,000 to the authors. That’s A LOT of money for this type of activity. It was enough that it made me think, “maybe I should get involved with this.” Then I snapped back to reality.
[note added 7/31: My wife read this blog, saw the figure of $10,000, and asked me sweetly, “Are you SURE that climate change is real? We could really use the money.”]
To anyone in academia, $10,000 to write a 7,500- to 10,000-word essay is huge. Most academics are not going to make $10,000 on all of their papers, books, and essays combined in their lives. It’s like offering the ten-year-old next door $1,000 to wash your car. Jackpot, dude.
But Dressler points out that AEI was asking scientists to render a subjective opinion, not a scientific analysis. He quotes the letter AEI sent to scientists and boils the inquiry down to the question What’s the policy value of climate models? And that’s a subjective judgment. It’s fairly obvious that AEI was fishing for someone who would say that there was too much uncertainty about climate change to know precisely which remedies should be applied, which could then be spun into “it’s too soon to change policy.” But of course the AEI was careful not to say that explicitly.
The game the anti-science Right is playing is simply to exploit any cracks in the consensus. Since never in the history of science have all the scientists in the world been in 100 percent agreement on any theory or model of anything, that’s not hard to do. And this lack of 100 percent certainty equals doubt, and doubt soon becomes a reason not to bother about policy change. Until there is 100 percent agreement (which will never happen), then we can’t even think about policy.
We can only wish the Weekly Standard had applied the same principle to the story that Mohamed Atta met with Saddam Hussein’s agents in Prague.
What really struck me, however, is the paranoid tone of the Weekly Standard piece. It is titled “Scenes from the Climate Inquisition: The chilling effect of the global warming consensus.”
The “climate inquisition”? Yes, Hayward and Green allege they are the victims of a campaign to stifle dissent on the part of Climate Nazis.
Desperation is the chief cause for this campaign of intimidation. … The relentless demonization of anyone who does not fall in behind the Gore version of the issue–manmade climate catastrophe necessitating draconian cuts in emissions–has been effective
According to Hayward and Green, the “media frenzy” that surrounded the $10,000 honorarium story, plus the fact that the IPCC announced its findings a full three months before their complete 1,400-page report will be published suggests that something’s not kosher in Science Land. “There appear to be some significant retreats from the 2001 IPCC report,” they sniff. In the Weekly Standard‘s alternative universe, principled scientists are brewing a backlash against the inquisition. They conclude:
The climate inquisition is eliminating any space for sensible criticism of the climate science process or moderate deliberation about policy. Greenpeace and its friends may be celebrating their ability to gin up a phony scandal story and feed it to the left-wing press, but if people who are serious about climate change hunker down in their fortifications and stay silent, that bodes ill for the future of climate policy and science generally.
The hundreds of climate scientists from 130 countries who participated in the IPCC are, of course, not serious about climate change. They are stooges of the left-wing press, and the left-wing press is out to destroy the AEI and all it stands for, just because. That a huge majority of the earth’s scientists believe we have only a limited time to save the planet is not, to Hayward and Green, the reason the IPCC and the left-wing press are out to get them.
As reality closes in on the Right, righties are retreating into deeper and more pathological levels of denial. This week a report by the Pentagon inspector general concluded that Douglas Feith and his team at the Pentagon “cooked” intelligence to support invading Iraq (the New York Times calls this the “build a war workshop“)
And how does the Right respond? Yesterday, Hot Air latched on to a retraction in the Washington Post. It appears a Post story attributed quotes to the inspector general report that had actually been said by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Therefore, Hot Air concludes, all of the allegations against Feith were fabricated by Levin and were not the conclusions of an independent report.
Except there was an independent report by the Pentagon inspector general, and it did conclude that Doug Feith fed false information to the White House. The inspector general, Thomas A. Gimble, testified about this to the Senate last week. And Gimble said,
We found that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on Iraq and Al Qaida relations which included conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community and these were presented to senior decision-makers.
But in Rightie World, the allegations against Feith have been retracted. And you know they will believe Feith is the innocent victim of a leftie inquisition as long as they live.
To righties, the concerns of the Left are all about them. It is beyond belief that some people might be legitimately concerned about the conduct of the nation, or the survival of the planet. No; it’s personal. Those loony lefties want to destroy the Right because, you know, they are haters who want to destroy everything that’s good and pure and decent that comes with big profit margins.
Meanwhile, Republicans are dredging the nation’s
asylums scientific community looking for anything that will cast doubt on the IPCC report. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week “For twelve years, the leadership in the House of Representatives stifled all discussion and debate of global warming. That long rejection of reality is over.” I believe the Speaker is wrong.
Update update: The freak show continues — Mark Steyn, “don’t ruin economy because of tiny temp rise.”
Andrew Sullivan Nigel Calder explains that scientists don’t understand how science works (and he does). Angry Bear, whom I hope is not a polar bear, rips up Mark Steyn (ouch). Ron Chusid tells us how conservatives determine the truth.