climate science

Who’s Afraid of Kerry Emanuel? Why Republicans Are Attacking a Republican Climate Scientist

Last week, MIT climate scientist and hurricane specialist Kerry Emanuel received email threats for his view on climate change. These were quickly and appropriately condemned by the progressive and environmental blogosphere—as they are condemned by me–but I want to go a bit further and contemplate why Emanuel’s views in particular appear so menacing to some elements of the conservative base today.

The answer may seem deceptively simple on the surface: Unlike most climate researchers, Kerry Emanuel describes himself as a long time Republican. And he’s been speaking out lately. The precise catalyst leading to the emails was a video posted by Climate Desk, capturing Emanuel at an event in New Hampshire organized by maverick Republicans who actually accept global warming and don’t like the way their party is headed. They want to turn it around (hey, good luck with that).

So Emanuel is presumably seen as a turncoat by some Republicans and conservatives—and you might just leave it at that. But I think it is deeper. It is the kind of Republicanism that Emanuel represents—merged with his identity as a scientist, and a premiere one at that—that really presents the biggest challenge.

You see, Emanuel is what you might call an “Enlightenment Republican.”

Denial Of Facts Is No Way To Understand Science

On Thursday December 1st, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente declared herself a defender of scientific integrity by calling upon the scientific community to replace the “rhetoric” of climate change with open, honest debate.

According to Ms. Wente, the impacts of climate change remain a future fantasy, unquantifiable by data collected through “insanely complicated” climate science. Her perspective is informed by the omission of facts, falsehoods, and fake experts. In a dance with smoke and mirrors she creates issues where none exist and ignores others that do.

There was a time when I couldn’t understand what motivated writers like Wente to stand so firmly against such clear and solid science. The psychology of “confirmation bias” has provided the answer for me. 

Like all of us, Wente has her biases, and most of us, like her, like to have those biases confirmed. So we seek out the information that confirms what we already believe and disregard that information that might prove us wrong.

As a columnist, Wente presents the information which confirms her ideological beliefs as truths and facts to the readers of the Globe and Mail. She excels as a columnist in part because she mocks and jeers her detractors. This pleases the people who agree with her but makes her loathed by those who don’t.  It provokes reaction on both sides, and eliminates any possibility of civil conversation.

David Legates Asked To Step Down As Delaware State Climatologist

David Legates, former Delaware State Climatologist

David Legates announced this week that he was asked to step down as Delaware State Climatologist, a position he held for seven years. A long-time denier of the human contribution to climate change, Legates’ tenure as State Climatologist has always been a controversial one.

Back in 2007, because of his stance on climate, then-governor Ruth Ann Minner insisted that Legates stop using the formal title in any public statements on climate change policy. Minner wrote to Legates:
“Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration. In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware, and not as state climatologist.”
Legates maintained the title, however, which is designated by the Dean of the public university’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
But this week, according to Legates himself, the Dean asked him to “step down.”
Legates sent the following note to his email list:

DeSmog Interview with Curt Stager, Author of 'Deep Future' (Part 2)

Part 2 of my interview with Dr. Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life On Earth.  Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of the interview from yesterday. Answer the trivia questions at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Deep Future.

BD: On pgs 239-241 of the Epilogue, you talk about your discomfort with what you call “aggressive activist stances among prominent scientists,” but at DeSmogBlog we’ve heard from dozens of climate scientists who are simply fed up with lawmakers and the media ignoring the science or hiding behind “Climategate” myths.  In a world where about half the lawmakers in the U.S. completely reject the preponderance of peer-reviewed climate science confirming manmade global warming, how can a scientist remain silent and simply press on while being ignored? 

CS: Scientists are human beings who reflect a diversity of opinions and attitudes.  Of course most of us are fed up with this ridiculous situation, so it’s not surprising that you hear from so many who express those concerns.  I’m fed up, too, but I’m also not alone in my preferences for refraining from “aggressive activist stances.”   I do so because I value science itself more than any individual topic that it addresses. 

I consider science to be one of the most valuable inventions of human civilization, and I recognize how precious and vulnerable to corruption it is as one who believes in objective reality, the fallibility of human perception, and the need for objective methods of seeking truth. I also recognize that public trust in science itself depends heavily upon trust in the objectivity of those who pursue it.  We must walk a fine line between defending truth and trying to force it on other people, and I personally choose to take a cautious approach in walking that line. 

DeSmog Interview with Curt Stager, Author of 'Deep Future' - Answer Trivia Qs To Win A Free Book!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life On Earth.  Here is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2. Answer the trivia questions at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Deep Future.

Brendan DeMelle (BD): Your book is about the impacts of climate change far into the future, and as you point out, that means very far into the future, not a 5-year plan that seems far away in the lifespan of a human, but thousands, millions and billions of years from now.  What advice do you have for people who struggle to comprehend the time scale of these impacts? How can people alive today attempt to relate to the deep future?

Curt Stager (CS): We live our lives on short time scales, in which even the end of the work day can seem like “forever” in the future, and we rarely deal with extremely large numbers or quantities on an immediate personal level.  As a result, facing a legacy of climatic effects that stretches many thousands of years into the future can be mind-boggling, even for a scientist.  But that’s actually one of the important points to recognize in this amazing story; our ecological impacts on the planet are mind-boggling in scope. 

We can become more comfortable in handling large sweeps of time with practice, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to grasp exactly what 100,000 years means in order to understand that the changes we’re setting in motion today are far larger than we once thought, any more than it’s necessary to know the exact weight of a bull elephant in order to realize that you’d better not mess with it.

House Global Warming Committee Axed By GOP Climate Zombies

The GOP’s anti-science climate zombies claimed their first victim late this week, with House Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-OH) announcing his intent to shut down the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming when Republicans take control of Congress in January.

Rep. Boehner claims he is wielding the axe in order to “save several million dollars” by shoving the climate issue back into the exclusive purview of the House Committee on Science and Technology.  In fact, Boehner is proving to the public that the GOP fails to recognize the serious consequences for America’s economy, national security, public health and future generations posed by climate change.

While the Democratic leadership of the waning 111th Congress failed to get legislation passed into law to address climate change, the House global warming committee, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), convened dozens of important hearings and briefings featuring top climate scientists and national security experts to educate Congress and the public about the need for swift action to secure America’s energy independence, create clean energy jobs and mitigate climate change emissions.  Markey’s committee also played a key role investigating the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, demonstrating its role as an important polluter watchdog in Congress.

With climate issues now shoe-horned into the House Committee of Science, there is simply no way climate change will receive the critical focus it deserves, since climate science will compete with all other scientific matters for attention from Congress.

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.

Koch-Funded Tim Phillips is Still Confused About Climate Change

This piece was co-written by Ryan Koronowski, Alliance for Climate Protection Research Director and Josh Nelson, Alliance for Climate Protection New Media Director.

This week, CNN’s “Parker Spitzer” spoke with Tim Phillips, the head of the front group Americans for Prosperity that’s funded by the oil company Koch Industries. Mr. Phillips was up to his old tricks. While acknowledging that he is not a scientist, he said that to believe climate science isn’t “far from settled” would be “arrogance.”

UVA Defends Against Ken Cuccinelli Attacks On Climate Science and Academic Freedom

The University of Virginia has filed two new responses in its ongoing court battle fending off Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s politically-motivated witch hunt against climate scientist Michael Mann.  UVA correctly alerts the court that crazy Cuccinelli’s ‘investigation’ is “an unprecedented and improper governmental intrusion into ongoing scientific research” [PDF of filing].

Cuccinelli’s relentless campaign to waste Virginia taxpayer money attacking Mann continues, despite a total lack of evidence of any wrongdoing on UVA’s or Mann’s part. Instead the row hinges entirely on Cuccinelli’s zeal to pollute public discourse with his own climate denial, clogging the courts with a thinly veiled attack on academic freedom that the Washington Post labeled “a pernicious fishing expedition.”  

UVA argues that Cuccinelli’s latest demand for documents related to Mann’s research repeats the exact same arguments that Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross rejected in August.  Cuccinelli merely recycled his previous non-starter of a complaint in an ongoing effort to woo the Tea Party and stoke the fire for his ambitions to run for higher office.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSexamined Cuccinelli’s original arguments and confirms they have been recycled again to further harass Mann and his colleagues.

“Scientists are proud of UVA for standing up to this relentless rubbish,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program. “This investigation has never been about fraud or the facts. Cuccinelli is abusing his power to fight a public relations war against scientific findings.”

Cuccinelli Revives Witch Hunt Against Michael Mann and Climate Science

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has revived his witch hunt against prominent climate scientist Michael Mann, recycling pieces of his earlier botched subpoena into a new Civil Investigative Demand aimed at Mann and the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli’s previous witch hunt was blocked by Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross, who ruled that Cuccinelli lacked “an objective basis” for his subpoena, which The Washington Post editors noted “put a damper on a pernicious fishing expedition.”

But Cuccinelli has re-strung the same stale Climategate bait on his fishing pole, “extending his assault on academic freedom” as expected. Oh, and he’s going to appeal Judge Peatross’s ruling, in a remarkable display of hubris that is sure to embarrass Virginia yet again.

In his latest political attack on climate science, Cuccinelli demands seven years’ worth of Dr. Mann’s emails, documents and just about every other shred of paper and bytes related to one state grant Mann received during his tenure at UVA. Cuccinelli wants to see every email Mann exchanged with a list of 39 other scientists, as well as Mann’s communications with his secretaries and research associates, related to the state grant. Cuccinelli only stripped his inappropriate request for documents related to federal grants after Judge Peatross smacked down that trolling effort, although he vows to appeal to re-open that garbage can.

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