House Science Committee Hearing Pits Three Fringe Climate Deniers Against Mainstream Climate Scientist Michael Mann

Michael Mann

Hearings of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology have officially turned into theater to stage climate science denial. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the committee’s Twitter feed, which has turned into “just another climate science denying troll” since President Trump’s election. 

Today, the committee chair, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), invited to a hearing a trio of fringe scientists with positions far out of whack with the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Democrats on the committee filled the fourth seat with Penn State atmospheric scientist Dr. Michael Mann, who had to carry the weight of the 97 percent consensus, while being outnumbered three-to-one.

This morning’s hearing, titled  “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method,” was organized to “examine the scientific method and process as it relates to climate change” and “focus on the underlying science that helps inform policy decisions.”

Rep. Smith, taking a brief break from his harassment of climate scientists and his issuing of subpoenas to groups looking into what Exxon knew about human-caused climate change, hosted this hearing to “Make scientific debate great again.”

GOP Picks Three “Experts” Representing Fringe Views

From the outset, it was clear that for Smith, “scientific debate” means amplifying the voices of fringe scientists with views that are less threatening to his many fossil fuel funders.

Before we impose costly government regulations, we should evaluate scientific uncertainties and ascertain the extent to which they make it difficult to quantify humans contributions to climate change.

Far too often, alarmist theories on climate science originate with scientists who operate outside the principles of the scientific method …

The scientific method welcomes critiques so theories can be refined and it avoids speculation about distant events for which there is no hard proof …

In the field of climate science, there is legitimate concern that scientists are biased in favor of reaching predetermined conclusions.”

You needn’t have looked farther than the list of panelists to realize that this would be less a discussion about the scientific process, and more of a platform for the slim minority to air often debunked theories that cast doubt on the mainstream climate science.

Besides Dr. Mann, the other three experts will all be familiar to DeSmog readers:

The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat. “Visualize 96 more climate scientists that agree with the mainstream consensus … 96 more Dr. Manns.”

Dr. Mann is the lead author on the peer-reviewed paper which first published the famous “hockey stick” graph, representing global temperature data over the last millennium. The graph shows a recent spike in temperatures corresponding with the Industrial Revolution and burning of fossil fuels. Dr. Mann has also contributed to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

The hearing itself got heated at times (Dr. Curry had warned, after all, to “get your popcorn ready”), as committee Dems and Dr. Mann bemoaned the fact that that Science Committee had been reduced to a political sideshow, and not a platform for the advancement of legitimate scientific inquiry.

Even in this committee on science, Republican members have postulated unique theories about climate change,” said ranking Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. “It saddens me really that the majority members of Congress and of this committee in particular, consistently ignore the thousands of scientists around the world who maintain mainstream science views and instead repeatedly call in a handful of preferred witnesses —who are here today — over and over again to testify.”

When asked about skeptical climate scientists being “bullied” by others who share mainstream views, Dr. Mann argued that the real threat was attacks on climate scientists by politicians like Smith.

The attacks against scientists by individuals and groups, many of which allied with fossil fuel interests and fossil fuel front groups, have a lot of goals. One of which is to silence researchers,” said Dr. Mann. “If every time you publish something you are worried about having to respond to endless FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests and receiving thousands of emails and being called to testify, obviously that’s very stifling. The intention is to cause scientists to retreat. It’s meant to send a chilling signal to the entire research community.”

Smith’s Experts Tell Him What He Doesn’t Want to Hear

The hearing did include some notable moments that didn’t involve the airing of fringe climate science theories. Dr. Curry made a strong and impassioned case for the need to preserve and even increase funding for climate observation systems, which are threatened by President Trump’s so-called “skinny budget.”

Observing systems — ocean and satellite — is money very, very well spent,” said Curry. “I urge you to support continued funding of these.”

Dr. Pielke, Jr. also told Smith and committee Republicans something they likely didn’t want to hear, suggesting that Congress seriously consider a carbon tax of 2-3 cents per gallon of gas, which would “raise billions” for important climate-related programs. Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber called Pielke’s carbon tax proposal “utter blasphemy.”

Main image: Dr. Michael Mann, speaking in October 2016. Credit: Karl Withakay, CC BY-SA 4.0