In his Dec. 27 guest column, Jeff Kane conflates several issues in “A Congress less popular than anthrax,” and his innuendo does none of them justice.
The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas, BA Yale, JD Southern Methodist) has oversight responsibilities, and the recent hearing on extraterrestrial life Kane was ridiculing centered not around little green men from Area 51 but reasoned testimony by Ph.D. astrobiologists from NASA, MIT (a professor and MacArthur grant recipient) and the Library of Congress, primarily on their need for instruments to search for biosignatures from other planets, basic science that doesn’t get funding from industry.
The so-called “secret science” Smith was decrying wouldn’t be secret had the EPA delivered it as promised to the Congress in September 2011 by then-EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy, who was recently confirmed for the top job. The EPA had ignored numerous requests for the promised data, resulting in the recently issued subpoena, the first in the committee’s history. Why? The claim is that confidentiality of a few individuals might be breached, but personal identifiers are often redacted from released data; the true reason seems to be a variation of: “Why should I make the data available to you when your aim is to try to find something wrong with it?” once uttered by Phil Jones, the director of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, standing the scientific method on its head.
Quoting a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Smith, “The data in question have not been subjected to scrutiny and analysis by independent scientists. And the EPA does not subject its cost-benefit claims to peer review. This means we have no way of evaluating the quality of the science being used to justify the agency’s claims.”
The EPA-authored science should be disclosed to the Congress as promised.
Another conflation: By a linkage imagined by Kane, climate skepticism by some members of the Congress is related to poor results on international math tests by American students. Local math performance was significantly damaged two decades ago by just the sort of “parade of innovative educational philosophies” Kane fears. My son’s cohort dramatically failed to meet expectations at Hennessy Elementary School in the ’90s (half the kids in his grade were in the bottom quartile in both math and language STAR exam results due to their whole-math and whole-language fads), and the damage continues as many of the same fads are being rolled out again with the Common Core State Standards (developed in private by an education trade group in Washington, D.C.), adopted by California and a majority of other states before they were even finished. The CCSS math standards for k-12 do not align with advanced placement math courses (like AP Calculus AB or BC), and as a result, students will have an even harder time entering colleges and universities and earning degrees in subjects like math, physics, chemistry and engineering in only four years, if ever.
As I write, a shipload of activist scientists and climate tourists are stuck in a sea of frozen irony in Antarctica, there to witness a loss of summer ice but instead awaiting rescue by helicopter after two modern icebreakers were unable to reach the distressed ship; climate skeptics would be fewer in number were there nothing to be skeptical about.
Despite rising atmospheric CO2, current temperatures are way below the predictions made by NASA’s James Hansen in his own scary but false testimony to Congress in 1988; the rise in atmospheric CO2 has been faster than his worst case, but temperatures remain below his best scenario, the world-halting CO2 growth by 2000. Many activist scientists agree that there has been no statistically significant warming over the past 17 years, and current temperatures are also well below all the computer model predictions shown in the IPCC AR4. One result of that assessment report was California’s “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” now driving all Californians toward expensive alternative energy sources and away from more affordable conventional energy.
Is CO2 a greenhouse gas, and does it contribute to global temperatures? Absolutely, but the role of CO2 has been overstated in computer models, and the warming of the latter 20th century was mostly due to natural variations, including ocean temperatures and cloud formation, that have only recently been identified.
The case for a future catastrophic global warming has not been made.
Greg Goodknight lives in Nevada City.