Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rick Perry's Climate-Science Whoppers Not Shared by Texas State Climatologist

Texas Governor and GOP Presidential front-runner Rick Perry:

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into, that a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this data.”

 WaPo's "FactChecker" blog quickly assessed Perry's claim on two key points--first, that climate scientists have manipulated data in order to obtain funding for research, and second, that a growing number of climate scientists are questioning the consensus of climate change.  In both cases, Perry's claim earned WaPo's "four Pinocchios" category.  To earn that, Perry had to go beyond the lesser sins of "shading the truth", "significant omissions and/or exaggerations", and even "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions" (this last covered in their "three Pinocchios" category).  No, Perry's four-Pinocchio fabrications were graded by the WaPo in a single word:  "Whoppers"

Perhaps not surprisingly, Perry can't get any help on his claims even from his own Texas State Climatologist, a Bush appointee and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.  The scientist, John Nielson-Gammon, writes an excellent blog at the Houston Chronicle.  I'm guessing neither Perry nor his staff have read it.  If they had, the Governor might have a much fuller understanding of the very-real nature of anthropogenic global warming, and he also might better understand how climate science came to be so politicized:

Most scientific research is not politicized. So it hums along, with funding levels driven by scientific opportunity, agency and societal needs, and opportunities for commercialization.

Climate science is not like that. The present and recent past have seen all three possible funding consequences of the politicization of science. For the sake of argument, I’ll broad-brush Democrats as being in favor of reductions in Tyndall (greenhouse) gas emissions and Republicans as being opposed to reductions in Tyndall gas emissions.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Democrats generally saw global warming as a looming problem requiring action and supported increased amounts of climate research to help pin down the magnitude of the problem and guide policy actions. Meanwhile, Republicans generally saw action to curb global warming as premature and unjustified and supported increased amounts of climate research as an excuse to delay policy actions. With strong support from both sides, climate science boomed.
The outcome of the bulk of the research to date has been to confirm global warming as a looming problem requiring action. Thus Democrats continue to support climate research, for the original reasons as well as to lend further support to policy actions. Meanwhile, Republican support for climate research has declined tremendously as most new scientific results making the news confirm the magnitude of the problem and tilt public opinion toward policy actions. Inaction is now better served by as little new science as possible.
In other words, global warming deniers had no problem with politicization of science so long as it served the purpose of delaying any form of policy change.  But once 98% of the scientists involved had reached consensus that global warming was real, and that humans were a significant cause of it--only then did politicization of climate science become an objectionable issue for Perry and his fellow Republicans.