On the Capitol Hill Climate Hotseat

And the Smoking Gun that Never Fired

This week’s hearing on climate science before the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology had some observers on the edge of their seats.

Berkeley Physicist Richard Muller testifies on Capitol Hill, Thursday (Image: House Committee on Science, Space & Technology)

Much of the pre-game analysis focused on Richard Muller, UC Berkeley physicist and author of Physics for Future Presidents.

Muller started taking hostile fire weeks ago when bloggers noted that the famously anti-climate-regulation Koch Brothers were providing funding for his audit of the global temperature data used in UN climate reports. When he was slated to testify, speculation arose that Muller was hand-picked by House Republicans to savage the prevailing science.

But if there was any agenda behind Muller’s remarks, it wasn’t in evidence at this hearing, as Andrew Revkin notes in his Dot Earth blog. After Muller’s opening statement, which was deadpan and laden with technical detail, committee members seemed to shy away from him and pursue soundbites from more colorful panelists, who included:

- J. Scott Armstrong, professor at Penn’s Wharton School of Business
- John Christy, Earth System Science Ctr., University of Alabama, Huntsville
- Peter Glaser, attorney, Troutman Sanders, LLP.
- David Montgomery, consulting economist
- Kerry Emanuel, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

With the notable exception of Emanuel, the other panelists provided much richer fodder for an anti-regulatory agenda. Armstrong called for the end of all government funding for climate change research, as well as support for all “global organizations” working toward agreements on reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Christy said the US should not rely on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and needs a second opinion from a “non-activist” scientific team.

All of the panelists agreed that the global climate is changing and that human activity is a factor. Perhaps the most skeptical comment from Muller was when he said, “The degree of the human component is, in my mind, quite uncertain.”

By far, my favorite quote came from northern California Democrat Lynn Woolsey (who supports the IPCC findings). Woolsey arrived at the hearing fresh from a climate briefing for the Democratic Caucus and after listening to the panel, said, “I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe. It’s got my head going boing, boing, boing…”

The hearing took an interesting turn away from climate science when Woolsey, apparently as a sort of litmus test, asked all five panel members if they would favor a redeployment of the banned pesticide DDT for controlling malaria. Four of the six said they would. Two had no opinion (Armstrong & Emanuel).

Armstrong, who is not a climate scientist, provided what comedian John Stewart might call a “Moment of Zen” when he answered one question by saying: “I try not to learn a lot about climate change. I’m the forecasting guy.”

  • Julie Jones

    PLEASE, PLEASE STOP THE AEROSOL SPRAYING OF CHEMICALS IN THE SKY!!!! This elephant in the sky is never talked about, except in Newsweek, 2-7-11 and recent USA today. There is a chemical war going on overhead and media, Congress is silent. The universities are involved, oil industry to fuel the planes, plane manfg and chemical companies. If this weather modification, geoengineering is supposed to be a cure — the patient is dying. Why not get to the cause — oil and overpopulation — and greed. White haze, no sun, no solar panel functions, no crops and lung problems escalate….. By whose authorization is this done?

  • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com Ed Darrell

    The hearing took an interesting turn away from climate science when Woolsey, apparently as a sort of litmus test, asked all five panel members if they would favor a redeployment of the banned pesticide DDT for controlling malaria. Four of the six said they would. Two had no opinion (Armstrong & Emanuel).

    That’s a great litmus question, really. Anyone who answers yes:

    1. Doesn’t know anything about DDT, but is willing to give the political answer without regard to that lack of knowledge; and
    2. Doesn’t know that DDT is not banned for use in controlling malaria, so is giving a purely political answer without any regard to history, law or science.

    So we know from the answer to that one question that Muller, Christy, Glaser and Montgomery were there as pure political hacks.

    Thanks for the information!

  • Craig Miller

    Apparently Paul Krugman was among those in the virtual gallery for this one. He added his own perspective in the NYT over the weekend:
    http://nyti.ms/hMmYVz

    And Margot Roosevelt provided a good backgrounder on Muller’s temperature validation project in the LA Times:
    http://lat.ms/g3yusg