Inhofe Once Again Chooses Fiction over Science

Tue, 2006-09-19 14:55Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Inhofe Once Again Chooses Fiction over Science

Sarah just pointed me to this Jiminhotwater post reporting that the Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee is once again calling as a witness someone who expertise leans strongly into PR and only weakly into science.

As per the comments on the weekend by Teresa Heinz Kerry, Jim Inhofe has been perverting the public conversation on climate change by inviting cranky deniers to testify at his committee while preventing the Democrats from inviting anyone at all. Inhofe's latest guest is “Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg - a man whose record of scientific research in this field is worse than Tim Ball's.

If any of these people were the least credible, they would be happy to throw open the “debate” to real scientists. But not on Jim Inhofe's watch …

Comments

I don’t think that is a fair comment on Lomborg.  Lomborg is pretty clear that he disputes the UNFCCC model’s attribution of all year over year variance to anthropogenic causes.  But at the same time he fairly rigorously discredits the idea that there is some natural sine wave that can explain all variance as well.

Where Lomborg really parts company is on the point of policy responses, but that is a very different position than you are ascribing to him.

By contrast, Ball is simply denies cliamte change.

…not a full-blown denier?
Bjorn Lomborg is a game theorist and author with precisely no research credits in the area of climate. (Even Tim Ball published four peer-reviewed pieces, three of which are actually related to climate change.)
I’ll grant that Lomborg is an interesting guy, and if you want to make an argument that he is more credible than Tim Ball on this issue, I’d suggest you’re damning with faint praise.
But Lomborg has moved decisively from science to politics - from theorizing to lobbying - and that makes him fair game. Appalling ill-equipped to comment before a congressional committee on the environment - but fair game.

I happen to think he is wrong, but my point was simply that he does not say, as Ball does, that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax.  He does make the empirical argument that the numbers in the UNFCCC work have been overstated, but that argument is essentially statistical and in an area which he is well qualified to speak.  But his basic argument is one of politics and policy to begin with - I am not sure what ‘fair game’ therefore means.

 He is not a climate change denier, he simply argues that doing something about it now is too expensive and inefficient versus leaving it to future generations to face.  His testimony was consistent with that.  I think that is just bad policy, but there is more intellectual honesty there than an Exxon-subsidized shill engaging in purely rhetorical science.

Well, I don’t know. I think Lomborg’s smarter than Ball so I hold him to a higher standard.
I also think that his vaguely more reasonable approach is, tactically, more likely to attract support, so, if anything, I am inclined to think he bears a greater responsibility for contributing to the current state of confusion and inaction.
For anyone who understands what’s at stake - and Lomborg is certainly capable of doing so - any effort expended to dissuade government from acting is, I submit, incredibly irresponsible.
As for what “fair game” means, you hit the nose on the head. “His basic argument is one of politics and policy,” not of science. So any attempt on his part of present his policy as somehow derived from specific expertise is not credible. And the actions of self-described experts who have no expertise - when those actions are conducted in public - are subject to the legal doctrine of fair coment. Which means I can call him a crank whose demonstrated scientific expertise is outstripped by, say, Tim Ball.
And that, I think we can agree, is too low a threshold.