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It was almost painful to watch Democrats and Penn State climatologist Dr. Michael Mann floundering about during last week’s House hearing on human impact on climate change and the scientific method. After eight years of getting just about everything they wanted, the Dems and the doc seemed to have a hard time deciding if they should play the role of victim or victor.
On the one hand by endlessly repeating the supposed “overwhelming consensus” argument, they attempted to paint themselves as representatives of virtually the entire scientific community. On the other hand, by claiming to be so aggrieved, they expect the public to believe that the American scientific community is so remarkably inept that a mere three percent of their number can dominate it.
Many of my like-minded skeptics in the scientific community think of Mann as an ego-maniac. I rather think of him as hyper-sensitive and insecure. Perhaps those are two sides of the same coin, but the good doctor’s inability to stomach criticism without complaint was on full display during the hearing. As the incomparable James Delingpole pointed out, his petulant claim to have not called any of the skeptical scientists testifying on the panel with him “deniers” was shot down in record time by Dr. Judith Curry. Her reply: “It’s in your written testimony – go read it again” might have embarrassed a lesser man, if a lesser Mann actually exists.
In any case, I am part of the vast majority of scientists (oft-quoted as 97 percent, but I believe it’s a larger number) who agree that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. But, I am also one of the very, very many scientists who fail to believe that human introduction of a small amount of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a “problem” worth addressing. In that spirit, here’s my top five moments from the hearing.
5. Left Behind
At one point in his testimony, Mann claimed the United States is being “left behind” in the field of renewable energy. One assumes this refers to the fact that China has the capacity to generate more renewable energy than the United States, since no other nation on planet earth has that ability. Personally, I believe that most renewable energy projects are an expensive waste of time, but even true believers shouldn’t be all that upset about coming in as global runner-up.
Except that, when you look at the actual data, is the United States really number two? According to the latest Energy Information Administration statistics, China generates about 24 percent of its power from renewables, while the US generates about 14 percent from those sources. But, the vast majority of renewable energy generated in China is hydroelectric power, which most environmental groups in the US oppose. When you take hydro out of the equation, China generates less than 5 percent of its power from renewables and the US generates more than 7 percent of its power from renewables. So is Dr. Mann secretly an agent of the vast hydro-electric power conspiracy? I doubt if he knows.
4. Bonamici’s Blunder
At one point, Suzanne Bonamici, Democrat Representative for Oregon’s First Congressional District, proclaimed that “fossil fuel emissions contribute to higher rates of asthma, lung and heart disease, threatening the lives of our children and grandchildren.” While that statement is theoretically true, the fact is that fossil fuel emissions in the United States have steadily declined over the last 30-plus years, while asthma rates have steadily climbed. There’s not even correlation here, much less causation. It’s even harder to worry about fossil fuel emissions when one understands that life expectancies in the US have steadily risen for more than a century.
3. Burning Bovines
To his credit, Dr. Mann did not attempt to link climate change to spontaneous human combustion. Cows on fire? Gotta be climate change in Mann’s weird world, although there is fair bit of evidence that Bureau of Land Management incompetence is to blame is to blame for those well-done beeves.
2. Resurrecting Lysenko
I don’t know if Professor Mann is aware of the definition of “irony”, but invoking the ghost of disgraced Russian biologist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was about as ironic as it gets. Mann apparently could not imagine that the purpose of the hearing was to discuss the sort of state-supported, politically-correct science that America has endured for the past eight years, rather than to cry crocodile tears over the end of modern-day Lysenkoism.
It’s hard to imagine a more ironic comparison than Mann’s, but Rep. Ami Bera’s invocation of Galileo surely had Bertholt Brecht whirring in his grave. For Brecht, the great liberal German playwright, as for most of students of history, Galileo is the ultimate symbol of defying state-supported “consensus” in the name of science and reason. The great Italian astronomer did not represent officially sanctioned and funded conventional wisdom at the time Mr. Bera, he defied it. That takes guts and that’s kind of Chairman Lamar Smith’s point.