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Carlin: Climategate Will Now Hit the EPA (PJM Exclusive)

Alan Carlin — the EPA scientist whose skeptical report was hushed — says the EPA broke tradition and used external work (from the CRU/IPCC) for its proposals.

by
Alan Carlin

Bio

December 2, 2009 - 9:00 am

The emails and computer files from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in Great Britain may prove to be of some importance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current attempts to control greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

This is because the EPA — perhaps at the urging of others in the Obama administration — has proposed to regulate GHG emissions on the basis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports … and reports primarily based on the IPCC reports.

This is highly unusual for the EPA. I cannot think of any instance where the EPA depended so heavily on non-EPA synthesis reports to justify proposed regulatory action in their almost 39 years of existence.

As a result of this EPA decision, the EPA’s fortunes in regard to regulating GHGs are directly tied to the fate of the IPCC reports.

Although it is hard to argue that any one CRU email or computer file notation proves the IPCC conclusions wrong, as a whole they do strongly suggest two conclusions:

1. CRU and many of its associates and email recipients elsewhere (who I will henceforth refer to as “CRU et al“) are very tightly tied to the IPCC — both in influence and belief — and do not appear to be paragons of scientific objectivity and ethics.

2. Their data handling leaves something to be desired in terms of data retention, database documentation, and questionable data manipulation.

CRU et al.’s lack of scientific objectivity

It seems clear to me that if a group (such as the EPA) wanted to get an objective scientific judgment on climate change science, CRU et al — and therefore the IPCC — might be the last place that they would want to rely on.

Each “trick” CRU et al used to torture their data to yield what appears to be their desired conclusions may have fooled a few more readers into thinking that their basic arguments were valid, but has to decrease the overall assessment of their objectivity.

Attempts to manipulate peer reviews and journal acceptances are not acceptable scientific activities. Withholding key scientific data can only make one question their dedication to scientific principles. Hiding their alleged destruction of the basic temperature data that would allow reconstruction of what they have done is almost as bad as discarding such critical data in the first place. Using data that cannot be reproduced is not very useful scientifically, or from a regulatory viewpoint.

Yet despite these now evident problems with the CRU et al’s data and research, the EPA is now stuck with the IPCC reports, and therefore the closely associated CRU et al’s data and research has become central to the EPA’s attempts to regulate GHGs. Given that it currently appears unlikely that the Senate will agree to anything resembling the current cap and trade bill, this EPA decision may well greatly decrease the chances that the U.S. will in the end implement serious regulation of GHGs — since, under the Clean Air Act, EPA regulations must survive judicial review of any regulations that the EPA may promulgate.

Need for a new approach

If the EPA wants to pursue the regulation of GHGs despite the weak scientific basis for it, there is an evident need for a whole new approach based on truly independent and careful review of the problem. The new approach must use the highest standards of scientific integrity, which means it must not rely on what appears to be biased research and sloppy data from CRU et al.

Although I did not know of the recent revelations concerning CRU et al last March, my comments strongly called for such a reappraisal. This problem will not go away, and may indeed get worse if we should learn more about the CRU et al’s work. There exists a possibility that the EPA’s current approach might succeed by some judicial fluke, but the chances seem to be decreasing with each new revelation.

Presumably one of the reasons the EPA decided to rely on the IPCC, and indirectly on the CRU, is that the Obama administration may have felt some urgency to move rapidly on global warming control. But given the downtrend in global temperatures over the past 11 years, and the likelihood that this will continue for some time (see Section 2.4 of my comments) because of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, there would appear to be ample time to start over and do it carefully and thoroughly this time — with full input by everyone that may be interested.

Basic problem remains

Despite the uproar concerning CRU et al’s data and research, the basic problem remains — the UN hypothesis that increases in GHGs/CO2 will result in significant increases in global temperatures has not been confirmed by comparisons with real world data. Unless it is, attempts to decrease GHG/CO2 emissions in order to significantly change global temperatures are very likely to fail. This is the primary question that the EPA and climate scientists need to address before any control efforts are undertaken.

Happily, we appear to have the time to do so, and to do so objectively using reproducible data.

Alan Carlin has carried out or supervised economic and scientific research on public policy issues for over 40 years — first at The RAND Corporation, and since 1971 at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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