You Ought to Have a Look: The Price Is Right, the Letters Are Wrong, and Climate Research Is Booming

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

The Wall Street Journal last week, in its Notable and Quotable section highlighted a set of rather enlightened tweets from a perhaps, at first glance, a rather unusual source—Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune fame.  Here are a couple particularly interesting/amusing ones from the WSJ coverage:

Feb. 27: New rule: you can’t trust research financed by corporations. Only government-funded research is pure and unbiased.

Feb. 20: Bad climate news. The hockey stick is frozen solid.

Feb. 15: Weather isn’t climate. Weather can be colder but climate warming. Climate is warming whether the weather is…um, uh…

Jan. 10: Tried to pay for lunch with a carbon credit. Had to switch to Visa.

Nov. 18: Thinking of bypassing the wheel & the puzzles, and determining winners by executive action. Will save a lot of time.

Turns out Sajak, a former TV weatherman, is no stranger to global warming skepticism (or controversy). In fact, recently he wrote an article for Ricochet.com titled “I Deny I’m a Denier,” in which he derides climate change alarmists for the vicious attacks he gets whenever he expresses his less-than-alarming opinions via his @patsajak twitter feed.  He then goes on to outline why he is a “skeptic in the matter of man-made global warming”:

I’m also often reminded by my global warming (climate change?) Twitter buddies that climate is not weather. The fact that it’s extraordinarily cold in particular areas at particular times does not negate their argument. The climate—hockey stick and all—will doom us if we do not act quickly and drastically. I find the climate vs. weather argument interesting because weather events can only prove their point; they cannot disprove it. The historically calm Gulf hurricane period since Katrina—despite predictions of increasingly strong and devastating storms—can be explained away. However, it’s a safe bet that, had the last decade been marked by more violent activity, it would have been more evidence that The End Days were near. Snowless winters in England are a sign of the climate changing times, but when the snow and ice return…well, it’s weather, not climate.

So here we are. The science is settled. Extreme weather of any kind confirms it. Weather that seems to fly in the face of predictions is irrelevant. So how can one possibly deny all that? I can’t, because I’m not a scientist. But can’t I be just the teeniest bit skeptical?

The rest of Sajak’s Richochet.com post describes his treatment at the hands of his detractors. The whole thing is worth checking out. Y_U _UGHT T_ HA_E A L__K!

In other news involving attacks on global warming skeptics—those folks who not are skeptical that mankind’s activities are altering the climate, but that such alterations will rise to the level of undue concern requiring the immediate erection of impediments to expanding capitalism and the global energy supply—Sens.  Ed Markey (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent letters to energy companies, other industries, and think tanks asking whether they have financially supported climate change research and if so, by how much and to who.

This move paralleled Rep. Raul Grijalva’s (D-AZ) targeted investigation (that we touched on last week) into the funding sources of those witnesses who provided Congressional testimony on climate matters that Grijalva found objectionable (i.e., didn’t wholeheartedly provide support the President’s Climate Action Plan).

More and more folks are starting to push back. For example, Charles and David Koch have, through their lawyer, said no way, invoking the First Amendments free speech and free association guarantees:

“To the extent that your letter touches on matters that implicate the First Amendment, I am sure you recognize Koch’s right to participate in the debate of important public policy issues and its right of free association,” Koch General Counsel Mark Holden wrote in the letter.

See the piece in The Hill for further details of the Koch’s refusal to comply.

The Cato Institute received a similar letter, and also declined to provide the requested information.

And last, but certainly not least, is Judith Curry’s coverage of a new paper “Causes and Consequences of the Climate Science Boom” forthcoming in The Independent Review, a publication of Britain’s Libertarian Alliance. In the article, authors William Butos and Thomas McQuade take a look at the potential consequences of

a boom in climate science, sustained by massive levels of funding by government entities, whose scientific direction is set by an extra-scientific organization, the IPCC, which has emerged as a “big player” in the scientific arena, championing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming.

They conclude:

Our overall conclusion is that a confluence of scientific uncertainty, political opportunism, and ideological predisposition in an area of scientific study of phenomena of great practical interest has fomented an artificial boom in that scientific discipline. The boom is driven and sustained by the actions of Big Players, the IPCC and various government entities, in funding the boom and singularly promoting one among a number of plausible hypotheses describing the relevant phenomena. Given the scientific uncertainties inherent in the system under study and the incentives for continued political involvement (even in the face of widespread failures in government-supported businesses whose activities were premised on the reliability of the AGW hypothesis), it is possible, even likely, that the boom will persist for a considerable time, not unlike previous booms in eugenics and nutrition science. The likelihood of a continuation of generous funding to maintain the boom is bolstered by, on the one hand, a widespread faith (among both scientists and the general public) in government’s ability to solve problems through legislation and control, and on the other, the political attractiveness of a putative crisis apparently calling for a large expansion of state power.

Judith Curry goes on to add:

There remains a strong social contract between scientists who are funded by the government, and the IPCC that supports the government’s political agenda.  The feedbacks supporting this social contract in principle can be reversed; it remains to be seen what, if anything, will trigger this reversal.  I suspect that it will be the climate itself, if the hiatus/pause/slow down continues.

This is issue is definitely worth a further look.