Rick Perry Versus the True Believers

It's open season on Republican front-runner Rick Perry.

A favorite charge is that he's ignorant and anti-science. Some of Perry's recent remarks about anthropogenic global warming -- for example, that there is a "substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data," and that "weekly or daily" scientists are "coming forward and questioning" AGW -- have his critics nearly chortling with glee as they derisively dismiss such an obvious dummy.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times jokingly calls Perry crazy for alleging that "climate change is some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research." But Friedman is so busy laughing at Perry that he doesn't even bother to distinguish between global warming and anthropogenic global warming, although it's the latter about which Perry made his skeptical remarks. What's more, in citing record-setting Texas drought and wildfires in order to mock Perry for doubting the obvious reality of global warming, Friedman makes one of the most basic errors of all in the global warming debate: confusing weather with climate.

It is certainly possible to make a valid case against Perry's claim that a substantial number of scientists have manipulated data, or that scientists are coming forward on a daily basis to deny AGW. But although Perry may be overstating the numbers, the phenomenon exists, and it is not trivial. All it takes to see it is to follow the Climategate revelations and to read critiques such as this one by environmental scientist Patrick J. Michaels or this by mathematician Steve McIntyre, which find fault with the various reports claiming to exonerate the climate researchers involved. And there is no doubt that prominent scientists such as Nobel prize-winning physicist Dr. Ivar Giaever have come forward to join others such as nuclear physicist Harold Lewis in resigning from the American Physical Society because of its extreme pro-AGW stance.

Giaever objected to the APS's use of the word "incontrovertible" to describe the science of AGW, and Lewis had particularly scathing words for the APS in his letter of resignation:

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

Compared to Lewis' accusations, Rick Perry's are a model of restraint.