FROM POLITICO | FEBRUARY 25, 2015
Let the climate inquisition begin. The ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, has written to seven universities about seven researchers who harbor impure thoughts about climate change.
One of the targets is Steven Hayward, a blogger, author and academic now at Pepperdine University (as well as an occasional contributor to National Review). As Hayward puts it, the spirit of the inquiry is, “Are you now or have you ever been a climate skeptic?”
Grijalva’s letters were prompted by the revelation that Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics whose work has been critical of the climate-change “consensus,” didn’t adequately disclose support for his research from energy interests.
Soon’s lapse aside, the assumption of Grijalva’s fishing expedition is that anyone who questions global-warming orthodoxy is a greedy tool of Big Oil and must be harried in the name of planetary justice and survival.
Science as an enterprise usually doesn’t need political enforcers. (For whatever reason, Aristotle left that part out in his foundational work a couple of millennia ago.) But proponents of a climate alarmism demanding immediate action to avert worldwide catastrophe won’t and can’t simply let the science speak for itself.
In fact, for people who claim to champion science, they have the least scientific temperament imaginable. Their attitude owes more to Trofim Lysenko, the high priest of the Soviet Union’s politicized science, than, say, to Gregor Mendel, the founder of modern genetics whose work was shunned by Lysenko for ideological reasons.
Consider the plight of Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has done work on extreme weather. He, too, is on the receiving end of one of Grijalva’s letters.
At first blush, Pielke seems a most unlikely target. It’s not that he doubts climate change. It’s not that he doubts that it could be harmful. It’s not that he doubts it is caused by carbon emissions. It’s not even that he opposes implementing aggressive policies — namely a carbon tax — to try to combat it.
Pielke’s offense is merely pointing to data showing that extreme weather events haven’t yet been affected by climate change, and this is enough to enrage advocates who need immediate disasters as a handy political cudgel.
It can’t be Apocalypse 100 Years From Now; it has to be Apocalypse Now.
Pielke notes that neither hurricanes, nor floods, nor tornadoes, nor droughts have increased in frequency or intensity since the mid-20th century.
Eager to blame the ongoing California drought on climate change, John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s science czar, challenged Pielke on droughts, citing various research showing that they may be getting worse.
But the bible of the climate “consensus,” the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that “there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.” Even Holdren’s long written response to Pielke is full of stipulations of uncertainty.
To move a political debate this simply is not good enough. It is impossible to scare people with a long list of methodological imponderables and projections showing far-off harms, if all the assumptions and models hold out over the course of 80 years. So the nuances of the actual science have to be jettisoned for alarmist simplifications.
The imperative is to show that, in Holdren’s words, “climate change is an urgent public health, safety, national security, and environmental imperative” (emphasis added).
It has to be counted a small victory in this project that Pielke will no longer be an obstacle. In a blog post responding to the Grijalva letter, Pielke wrote, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues. I am simply not initiating any new research or papers on the topic, and I have ring-fenced my slowly diminishing blogging on the subject.”
And so the alarmists have hounded a serious researcher out of the climate business. All hail science!
The other day, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, quit amid a sexual harassment scandal and noted in his letter of resignation: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion.”
Is it too much too ask that the man in charge of a project supposedly marshaling the best scientific evidence for the objective consideration of a highly complex and contested phenomenon not feel that he has a religious commitment to a certain outcome?
Why, yes it is. The kind of people who run inquisitions may lack for perspective and careful respect for the facts and evidence. But they never lack for zeal.