Wednesday, March 29, 2017

House Science Committee Comes to Agreement on Climate Science

Just kidding!

Today the House "Science" Committee, led by the (bought-and-sold?) Lamar Smith of Texas, had a hearing in DC, titled "Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method."

Here's the video, 2 hours 36 minutes long.

As Republicans are wont to do, the hearing was stacked against the accepted science. Testifying were Judith Curry, John Christy, Michael Mann and Roger Pielke Jr. (How about some fresh voices already?)

So that's 3-1 against the consensus. Maybe 2.5-1.5, on account of enigmatic Roger.

I was tweeting during the hearing; my tweets are here.

I'm not going to do a journalistic summary here -- many news articles have already appeared. Some thoughts:

Michael Mann is the Jake LaMotta of climate science -- he goes in swinging and doesn't ever back down. He directly called out all three other panel members for mistakes, inconsistencies, and their insults, and he zinged committee chair Lamar Smith, too.

Mann cited an article on the recent Heartland Institute conference that appeared in Science magazine, written by Jeffrey Mervis. Mann implied that Smith wasn't interested in the science. (The exchange is reproduced here.)

Hard uppercut to the chin, and Lamar Smith was clearly caught off guard; all he could reply with was
That is not known as an objective writer or magazine.
which is laughably ridiculous, including the fact that Lamar Smith is the least objective person on the planet regarding climate change. This tweet linked to Smith's campaign funding.

This, and Mann using the word "denier," made Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) very, very angry, but the livestream stopped just then, so I would go back and watch the video, if I thought Rohrbacher had anything useful to say about climate change.

But he did say dissenters are "brutalized into silence," apparently without noting the irony that the panel was stacked 3-1 in their favor.

There were punches and counterpunches (RPielkeJr suggested that everyone watch today's video for examples of Mann's attacks).

John Christy clearly tried hard to stay above the fray. Though at one point, early on, he seemed to imply that manmade greenhouse gases weren't needed to explain modern warming. And again he put up his misleading graph.

Judith Curry didn't add much, IMO. She meandered around and didn't seem to have any definite position, except that if the consensus was for it, she was against it. Mostly.

Roger Pielke Jr did say one important thing that I gave his kudos for
If I were writing a story about this hearing, I would have put this right up front.

So props to Roger for this. Props to Mann for streetfighting for the consensus like no one else could. Props to Christy for staying above the fray.

I can't think of anything to give Judith Curry props for, unless it was for being exactly what Lamar Smith was looking for.

And it should be pointed out that Michael Mann cited more science, including very recent science, than the rest of the panel combined.

This was good theatre, but as a hearing on the science it was a waste of time. The Republican representatives struck me as particularly uniformed, looking only to score points. It was made only to be a showcase for Lamar Smith's denialism -- instead, to his surprise I'm sure, he came out of it looking like a fool.

But then, that's what he's paid for.


  1. This one panel was 3 to 1 dissenters, but dissenting scientists are indeed "brutalized into silence". This was the main point made by Dr. Curry. She provided some details:

    As a result of my analyses that challenge the IPCC consensus, I have been publicly called a serial climate disinformer, anti-science, and a denier by a prominent climate scientist. I’ve been publicly called a denier by a U.S. Senator. My motives have been questioned by a U.S. Congressman in a letter sent to the President of Georgia Tech....

    There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves. Reinforcing this consensus are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests. Owing to these pressures and the gutter tactics of the academic debate on climate change, I recently resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

  2. Poor Judith, someone called her names.

    Ask Michael Mann about that. Ask him about death threats to him and his family. Ask him about receiving letters with white power in them.

    Curry gave no evidence to support her claims.

  3. By the way, David, here's an email I received last September:

    "David you are one step beyond an idiot and do not deserve the liberties that I and so many others have fought for"

    -- Bill Libby,

    There are more.

  4. Anonymous11:10 PM

    David in Cal also conveniently ignores Lamar Smith's attacks on Karl (and co-authors), who he essentially accuses (still) of fraud.

    Ben Santer also has a few stories to tell what it is like to say something that is politically inconvenient.

  5. Good point, Marco -- and Lamar Smith still brought up John Bates today.

  6. David, I also watched the hearing. Some thoughts:
    1- Pielke's statement that we need to act even though there will always be uncertainty wasn't the most surprising thing he said. He actually called for a carbon tax! To which Randy Weber of Texas responded that this was blasphemy.
    2- I was very impressed with Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon who I had never heard of before. She wasn't reticent at calling out the bullshit nature of the hearing (but used better words than I just did). I hope we see much more of her.
    3- I was astonished at the lack of knowledge of the 2 climatologists, Christy and Curry. Curry had a difficult time describing the Milankovitch cycle and Christy couldn't answer a direct question whether warming leads to higher sea levels. He punted the question to Curry.
    4- In an interaction with Rep. Loudemilk of Georgia, Mann was accused of ignoring natural variations. This is just laughable untrue. As evidenced in the thread you recently had on Steyn, Mann and the hockey stick, there are clearly some (many?) who never even read Mann's 1998 paper. The main thrust of that paper was in fact, whether features like ENSO and the AMO can be seen in the paleo record. Hell, it's the reason why he did the principal component analysis in the first place. If you only wanted to show that there has been a huge upturn in the global mean temperature compard to the paleo record, then you only needed to plot the data. No need for PCA.
    5- Low point of the meeting: Clay Higgins of Louisiana, thinking he had stumbled into a House of Un-American Activities Committee meeting rather than the House Science committee, asks "Dr. Mann, are you affiliated or associated with an organization called the Union of Concerned Scientists?"
    6- If Michael Mann is Jake LaMotta, what does that make Katherine Hayhoe? Joe Louis?
    Floyd Patterson? How about Manny Pacquiao?

  7. Hayhoe is Bruce Lee: “like water making its way through cracks"

  8. Bruce Lee! I like it. We need new faces at these hearings, even if the hearings themselves are a farce.

  9. Joe, really good thoughts. Thanks.