Scott Pruitt's Game-Changing Call for Debate on Climate Science

In light of charges by a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist that agency researchers are manipulating data to support climate alarmism, Scott Pruitt -- President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency -- is right to call for open debate on the science.

At stake are trillions of dollars, countless jobs, and, if the climate scare is justified, the fate of the global environment. The public needs to have confidence that this is not just a politically convenient crusade devoid of solid scientific support.

Last week, former NOAA scientist Dr. John Bates publicly announced his concerns that an influential science paper published just before the Paris climate conference did not follow government data integrity guidelines. Bates charged that the NOAA paper, published in the journal Science in June 2015, used misleading and unverified data to demonstrate that the slowdown in global warming reported in 2013 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not exist. As reported by London’s Daily Mail, Bates said that Thomas Karl, the paper’s lead author and, at the time, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, was:

... insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and minimized documentation … in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.

The Daily Mail reports:

[Bates’] vehement objections to the publication of the faulty data were overridden by his NOAA superiors in what he describes as a "blatant attempt to intensify the impact" of what became known as the Pausebuster paper.

Bates, a 2014 Obama administration gold medal winner for his work on climate data records, retired from NOAA in November after a 40-year career in meteorology and climate science. Only now has he been able to expose this latest example of the corruption that has infected so many government climate offices.

This is not the first time serious concerns have been voiced about the 2015 Karl paper (K15). In a paper published in 2016 in Nature Climate Change, a prominent group of researchers countered K15, arguing that the slowdown was real. Lead author John Fyfe, a climate modeller at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, British Columbia, said:

[T]here is a mismatch between what the climate models are producing and what observations are showing. We can’t ignore it.

On January 28, 2016, over 300 climate experts sent a letter to Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, that said:

In our opinion, in respect to Karl et al. 2015 and related documents, NOAA has failed to observe the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] (and its own) guidelines, established in relation to the Data Quality Act, for peer review of "influential scientific information" and "highly influential scientific assessments.”

Federal agencies must, by law, adhere to the Data Quality Act when they collect data for public use and policy decisions. Rep. Smith explained:

[T]he Committee has attempted to obtain information that would shed further light on these allegations, but was obstructed at every turn by the previous administration’s officials.

People familiar with global warming science are well aware of the many serious problems with the politically correct yet scientifically improbable idea that carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activities threaten Earth’s climate. These problems were summarized in the 2016 State of the Climate Report, released during the UN Climate Conference in Morocco in November 2016 by Marc Morano, publisher of the influential ClimateDepot.com. Morano’s report demonstrated that prominent experts disagree with virtually all of the major concerns that activists tell us are “settled science.” Fears of catastrophic, human-caused changes in temperature, sea level, polar bear populations, sea and land ice and extreme weather are soundly debunked by scientists cited in the Climate Depot report.

University of London professor emeritus (biogeography) Philip Stott summarized:

The fundamental point has always been this. Climate change is governed by hundreds of factors, or variables, and the very idea that we can manage climate change predictably by understanding and manipulating at the margins one politically selected factor (CO2) is as misguided as it gets. It’s scientific nonsense.

Besides the Morano report and recent concerns about K15, thousands of peer-reviewed papers in science journals highlighted by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change show that much of what we thought we knew about climate is wrong or highly debatable. Given such massive controversy, Pruitt would be irresponsible to not call for a re-examination of the science backing current government climate change-related policies.

Pruitt explained his position in National Review in May 2016:

Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged -- in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress … Dissent is not a crime.

The reason such a rational, balanced approach has come to be regarded by Democrats as extreme, and therefore unacceptable for an EPA administrator to hold, is that they mistakenly assume that the science of climate change is “settled” in favor of the position they hold dear. This misunderstanding is largely the fault of the UN, which often labels its science conclusions “unequivocal” -- in other words, statements that cannot be wrong. For example, the first sentence in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Synthesis Report starts:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations.

Although he supports the dangerous human-caused global warming hypothesis, Lehigh University philosophy professor Steven Goldman explained in a personal communication that the IPCC statement is flawed. It is “an attempt to persuade extra-logically,” said Goldman. “Strictly logically, no observations can lead to an ‘unequivocal’ interpretation.”

David Wojick, a Virginia-based Ph.D. in the logic and philosophy of science, disagrees with Goldman about the climatic impact of human activity but agrees that the IPCC has made a serious mistake. “Reasoning from evidence is inductive logic,” said Wojick. “As for unequivocal, that is never the case in inductive logic.”

The greatest misinformation in the global warming debate is that we currently know, or even can know, the future of a natural phenomenon as complicated as climate change. University of Western Ontario professor Dr. Chris Essex, an expert in climate models, lays it out clearly:

Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.

Yet Democrats often label scientists like Essex as “deniers,” implying that they are as misguided as those who deny the Holocaust. When it comes to climate change, tolerance of alternative perspectives, a much-vaunted hallmark of liberalism, vanishes.

They should welcome, not condemn, questioning of the status quo. Science advances through fearless investigation, not mere acquiescence to fashionable thinking. We need leaders in science, engineering, economics, and public policy to contribute to the debate without fear.

Yet because the issue is riddled with censorship, illogic, defamation, and even death threats, many experts are afraid to comment publicly. Pruitt is right to try to change this. The stakes are too high to do anything less.