Climategate

Wed, 2011-01-19 18:19Farron Cousins
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New Congress Wastes No Time Undoing Climate Progress

We all knew that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives wasn’t going to be friendly to the environment, but none of us expected the fight to start so soon. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich), the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced today that his committee will be taking on the EPA with gusto.

In a document making its rounds among Republican lawmakers, Upton claims that the EPA has put a “chokehold” on businesses by regulating their emissions and pollution. The Hill obtained a copy of the document titled “Key Issues before the Committee on Energy and Commerce 112th Congress [PDF], which contains the following:

“We believe it critical that the Obama administration ‘stop’ imposing its new global warming regulatory regime, which will undermine economic growth and U.S. competitiveness for no significant benefit…The EPA is regulating too much too fast without fully analyzing the feasibility and economic and job impacts of the new rules.”

Wed, 2011-01-19 11:06Chris Mooney
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Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

UPDATE: After posting this, I realized that the idea that climate denial is ideological, rather than corporate driven, is also the explicit and central argument of Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt. There was no intention to slight them–it’s just that I’d read Dunlap and McCright more recently, so their work was at the front of my mind. I’ve added a reference below, and my apologies to Oreskes and Conway.

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”

Fri, 2011-01-14 11:00Richard Littlemore
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Media Loses Interest In Climate Change

Updated research from Max Boykoff and Maria Mansfield suggests that the world’s media have lost interest in climate change, regardless that the evidence of potential catastrophe becomes more clear by the day - and that last year was tied as the hottest on record.

World news coverage spiked in late 2009, corresponding with the intense interest among politicians, bureaucrats and activists in the Copenhagen conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This study, however, is quantitative rather than qualitative. Boykoff and Mansfield have scoured the electronic sources and found how many stories appear in prominent global newspapers. But this graph doesn’t answer whether what was being published was stupid or wrong. And previous Boykoff studies - beginning with the landmark 2004 study that he conducted with his brother Jules - have demonstrated that a stunning amount of media coverage was presenting an imagined version of reality that was not reflected in actual climate science.

Wed, 2011-01-12 06:27Chris Mooney
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The House Anti-Science Committee?

The House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology certainly isn’t the most powerful in Congress. It doesn’t wield the budgetary clout of Appropriations. It doesn’t oversee massive agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services.

But it’s a historic fixture of postwar, science-centered America—a committee originally formed after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, and one that today oversees the major research agencies: NASA, NOAA, NSF, and numerous others. For much of its history, whichever party controlled Congress, the committee was therefore run by a legislator with a sympathetic understanding of the scientific community—leaders like George Brown on the Democratic side, and Sherwood Boehlert for the Republicans.

That’s why it’s pretty alarming that the committee’s current leadership appears highly unsympathetic to the views of the U.S. scientific community, and particularly U.S. climate science researchers.

Wed, 2010-12-01 12:06Chris Mooney
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How Partisan is Climate Denial?

It was the chief environmental narrative of the 2010 midterm elections. The field of Republican Senate and House challengers, charged bloggers, were a bunch of “climate zombies.” Tea Party backed insurgents were knocking off GOP moderates who took climate science seriously—like Delaware’s Mike Castle—and it was becoming harder and harder to find a good Republican who did accept the scientific consensus on climate change.

Then, when Republicans swept into the House of Representatives, fears about the party’s denialist tendencies compounded further. There was word of “ClimateGate” hearings, aimed at prying loose additional emails and documents from mainstream global warming researchers. Whether or not such hearings actually take place, a vision of today’s U.S. Republican Party as monolithically in denial about what we’ve been doing to the planet has clearly taken root.

It was all, apparently, more than the stalwart Republican moderate Sherwood (“Sherry”) Boehlert could take.

Fri, 2010-11-26 19:13Emma Pullman
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2010 In Review: Scientists and Journalists Take Stock and Share Lessons Learned

There’s no doubt about it. It’s been a challenging year for climate science and climate scientists, for journalists, and for the public. A string of legislative and regulatory disappointments coupled with dizzying political spin have left many more confused than ever about the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change. 

It’s been a particularly grim year following the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new era of rampant electoral spending on climate change denial; the U.S. midterm elections produced a Senate filled with climate change skeptics and deniers; a failed climate bill or two, and after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce any real results.  In addition, many pundits and analysts are giving us good reason to believe the U.S. won’t see a climate bill for two years, and little reason to believe that real climate progress will be made in Cancun next week. It seems there’s a lot of reason to feel distressed.  

Last week marked a year since the so-called Climategate “scandal” sent climate change deniers into an echo chamber frenzy.  Bud Ward and John Wihbey aptly note that to even call it “climategate” lends it credence that is undeserved.  Yet it is imperative that we try to learn lessons from it.   This certainly won’t be the last difficult year for the climate change movement; an increasingly challenging political environment promises more interesting times ahead, both for the science and for the scientists who devote their lives to the subject.  In a nutshell, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Wed, 2010-11-24 11:35Brendan DeMelle
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Have We Found the Real “Climategate” Scandal?

This is a guest post by Mike Casey, cross-posted from ScalingGreen.com.
Despite overwhelming evidence that anthropogenic climate change is real, potentially catastrophic, and accelerating, the theft of the East Anglia emails a year ago was turned into “Climategate” by the dirty energy lobby.  This non-scandal was nothing but a bunch of hot air, perpetrated by “deniers,” and to a large extend funded by the leading dirty energy (coal and oil) industries. (For more on this subject, see the superb book, “The Climate War,” by Eric Pooley.)

Congressman Joe “Apologize to BP” Barton of Texas was among those honking on the “Climategate” horn the loudest. The problem is that Barton lacks intellectual integrity of his own. As Salon reports:

A couple of years ago, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, asked a statistician named Edward Wegman to produce a report that would cast doubt on climate change science, because Barton – then the chairman of the House energy committee – is less a citizen legislator than the whims of the oil and gas industries made animate and elected to Congress.

The report criticized some statistics used to prove that the last century was the warmest one in centuries, which means it proved that global warming is pretend, in the eyes of most Republicans…

The only problem, other than the fact that the report is overwhelmingly without merit, is that it was largely plagiarized.

Mon, 2010-11-22 15:48Chris Mooney
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Will the New Congress Subpoena Climate Scientists?

Originally posted at DiscoverMagazine.com.
Multiple investigations over the last year have failed to uncover any serious wrongdoing in the year old “ClimateGate” fiasco over climate researchers’ pilfered emails. Substantively, the matter is dead. But politically is quite another matter—it remains to be seen how long “ClimateGate” can walk the earth as a zombie.

There have already been attempts to reawaken the corpse. Most prominently, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli launched a harassing investigation of famed climate researcher Michael Mann’s career at the University of Virginia, demanding a wide range of emails and documents. And since the November 2 elections, there have been concerns that the new Republican Congress may join in the rite. Several top House Republicans have indicated that they may want to hold “Climategate” hearings (although more recently, there has been some apparent backing away from this idea).

The question now becomes whether incoming Republicans will follow through on such plans—or if it’s all just a head feint. If they’re serious, they can expect a powerful response from scientists, much like the strong mobilization against Cuccinelli organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Association of University Professors, and many others.

Tue, 2010-11-16 15:41Brendan DeMelle
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Incoming Head of House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa Now Says He Is Unlikely To Probe 'Climategate'

It seems that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has lost his appetite for pursuing a ‘Climategate’ investigation, according to The Hill. Rep. Issa is the presumed chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for the 112th Congress starting in January.

Perhaps it was just GOP chest-thumping in the run-up to the midterm elections.  Who knows?

But at least Rep. Issa has recognized the giant waste of time and taxpayer money another investigation into Climategate would represent.  After all, every independent investigation into the so-called ‘Climategate’ scandal has exonerated the scientists, and nothing has undermined the scientific consensus on climate change. (Although it’s worth noting that nobody has bothered to investigate the actual theft of the climate scientists’ emails or probed the role of a small group of climate skeptics in blowing it out of proportion.)

Skeptics and deniers cried bloody murder, and everyone (except hard-headed skeptics and deniers) now knows that Climategate was a ginned-up nontroversy whose proponents failed to “prove” that global warming is a “hoax.” 

There is no doubt that Rep. Issa and other incoming GOP committee chairmen will find plenty of other ways to waste time and taxpayer money “investigating” the baseless accusations lobbed at climate scientists in the climate denial machine’s long quest to confuse the public about global warming. 

But with Rep. Issa seemingly bowing out of the race, who will be the first GOP climate zombie to dig Climategate up again from the depths of the right wing conspiracy graveyard?

Fri, 2010-10-08 14:19Brendan DeMelle
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Washington Post Op-Ed by Mike Mann: Get the anti-science bent out of politics

Prominent climate scientist Michael Mann, who has endured a seemingly endless political attack on his work, has penned an excellent op-ed in today’s Washington Post, calling on fellow scientists to recognize and resist the efforts of anti-science politicians to distort their work.

Mann notes the danger of a GOP take-over of key climate change committees in Congress, pointing out the war on science and reason promised by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) if he takes over chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and similar views expressed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner if he takes the helm of the committee on climate change and energy security. The denier duo plan to re-hash the wasteful investigation into the non-scandalous dead end known as Climategate, if propelled to leadership positions.

Mann writes:

“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.”


“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.”

“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?”

 

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