Get the Anti-Science Bent Out of Politics

Following up on my article last week about the GOP’s rejection of climate science, here’s an excellent piece on that same matter by leading climate scientist Michael Mann. This was originally posted in The Washington Post and I may have actually mentioned it previously, but it is such a good piece, from such a good scientist, I thought it was worth a full re-post. Enjoy.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has threatened that, if he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he will launch what would be a hostile investigation of climate science. The focus would be on e-mails stolen from scientists at the University of East Anglia in Britain last fall that climate-change deniers have falsely claimed demonstrate wrongdoing by scientists, including me.Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) may do the same if he takes over a committee on climate change and energy security.

My employer, Penn State University, exonerated meafter a thorough investigation of my e-mails in the East Anglia archive. Five independent investigations in Britain and the United States, and a thorough recent review by the Environmental Protection Agency, also have cleared the scientists of accusations of impropriety.

Nonetheless, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is investigating my previous employer, the University of Virginia, based on the stolen e-mails. A judge rejected his initial subpoena, finding that Cuccinelli had failed to provide objective evidence of wrongdoing. Undeterred, Cuccinelli appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court and this week issued a new civil subpoena.

What could Issa, Sensenbrenner and Cuccinelli possibly think they might uncover now, a year after the e-mails were published?

The truth is that they don’t expect to uncover anything. Instead, they want to continue a 20-year assault on climate research, questioning basic science and promoting doubt where there is none.

Cuccinelli, in fact, rests his case largely on discredited claims that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) made during hearings in 2005 at which he attacked me and my fellow researchers. Then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) had the courage and character to challenge Barton’s attacks. We need more political leaders like him today.

We have lived through the pseudo-science that questioned the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and the false claims questioning the science of acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer. The same dynamics and many of the same players are still hard at work, questioning the reality of climate change.

The basic physics and chemistry of how carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases trap heat in the lower atmosphere have been understood for nearly two centuries. Overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is heating the planet, shrinking the Arctic ice cap, melting glaciers and raising sea levels. It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes. Even without my work, or that of the entire sub-field of studying past climates, scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity.

Burying our heads in the sand would leave future generations at the mercy of potentially dangerous changes in our climate. The only sure way to mitigate these threats is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions dramatically over the next few decades. But even if we don’t reduce emissions, the reality of adapting to climate change will require responses from government at all levels.

Challenges to policy proposals for how to deal with this problem should be welcome — indeed, a good-faith debate is essential for wise public policymaking.

But the attacks against the science must stop. They are not good-faith questioning of scientific research. They are anti-science.

How can I assure young researchers in climate science that if they make a breakthrough in our understanding about how human activity is altering our climate that they, too, will not be dragged through a show trial at a congressional hearing?

America has led the world in science for decades. It has benefited our culture, our economy and our understanding of the world.

My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public. They are hurting American science. And their failure to accept the reality of climate change will hurt our children and grandchildren, too.

Michael E. Mann, the author of “Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming,” is a professor in the meteorology department at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.

Photo Credit: pennstatelive via flickr under a CC license

3 thoughts on “Get the Anti-Science Bent Out of Politics”

  1. Since the beginning of human industrialization in the 19th Century, climatologists are in general agreement that global temperature averages have risen less than 2 degrees in over a hundred years of human carbon and pollution output. The problem is that there is a huge political push to further the global warming agenda and all the draconian impositions upon the civilian populations that globalists just can’t wait to instigate. There is a big difference between curbing industrial pollution and air quality standards and global warming that people wrongfully correlate. The earth itself has produced incredibly toxic atmospheric conditions in eons past due to volcanic activity. Suffice as to say that man can arrogantly affect earth climate for centuries to come is a very imprecise form of research that inevitably will be used as a political tool by the United Nations to pilfer large industrial nations as well as being used as a tool for the oppression of the masses.
    Some of the incredibly stupid suggestions by scientists have been curbing or shutting down the beef and dairy industries because cows create methane. Liberals have pointed out that a dog the size of a German shepherd creates as much methane as an SUV annually. So, let’s get rid of our cats and dogs and have only pets we can eat like chickens. Third world regimes are just aching to bill the US and Great Britain for damages due to hypothetical global warming to their shorelines as the ocean supposedly encroaches due to glaciers melting.

    One must remember that the very first team of climate scientists who were deployed to drill and study ice core samples came up with inconclusive evidence, but no sir, the United Nations found that finding unacceptable, and ordered another team to run the tests this time with a new agenda, Proclaim global warming! And if you cry wolf long enough you’ll get one!

    Let us make life here on earth miserable and costly for the present inhabitants so that in a thousand years people will still have a planet to exist on as they go about their precisely controlled lives paying all their incomes in taxes to fund global environmental management while they live extremely curtailed activities so as not to upset Mother Earth.

    If we are even here, if we have not destroyed ourselves, if some asteroid or super nova has not wiped us out, then would we not have achieved space travel? Would we not by that time have found more energy efficient ways of producing goods, vehicles, and utilities instead of turning the earth into a prison planet of environmentally aware zombies who have long ago given up their rights to their micro managing world government?

    Think people. It’s not about global warming. People like Al Gore only want fame and profit they don’t give a damn about the planet or the people who have to live under their restrictive policies!

    1. @Doc Vega: your tangents here are exactly why this article was written and why scientists are getting more and more involved in politics. there are so many claims presented (some presented in your comment above) that are not at all backed up by science and are preventing us from addressing this critical issue. the science has been backed up repeatedly by the world’s leading scientific bodies. yet there’s billions of dollars and who knows how many people out there now specifically geared at ignoring the respected science of climatologists and making up false scientific claims…

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