Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Politicizing, Indeed

Rick Perry is right, in a way.

On August 17, the Texas governor told what the National Journal termed "a business crowd" “I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized."

The problem, obviously, is that it has been politicized by Perry, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Republican leader Rush Limbaugh, and other conservative luminaries.

In March, 2009 Bachmann implored the like-minded to be "armed and dangerous" to start "a revolution" on upcoming cap-and-trade legislation. She has called climate change "all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax" and more recently, "manufactured science." Rush Limbaugh has said "the whole thing is a hoax."

But Rick Perry, as one of the two likeliest GOP presidential nominees, has come into the greatest criticism of late. While speaking to that group in New Hampshire, he said

I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.

Don't bother explaining to the Governor the difference between "weather," which changes constantly, and climate, which has been changing of late to an unprecedented degree. Nor that "scientists" are "coming forward and questioning the original idea that man'made global warming is what is causing the climate to change," given that precious few of those scientists are climate scientists. But he ought to be asked about the allegation that "a substantial number of scientists" have "manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." Fraud is a serious charge and, inconveniently, we now learn

Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania climate-change researcher caught in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a British university server, was cleared of wrongdoing by a U.S. agency that promotes science.

Finding no "evidence of research misconduct," the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from its inspector general. In February, Pennsylvania State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e-mails, and misusing privileged information.

Skeptics of climate change pointed to the stolen e-mails, which surfaced in blogs in 2009, as proof that researchers conspired to suppress studies questioning the link between warming and human activity. Last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, repeated the charge that scientists have "manipulated" data on climate change.

"It was a pretty definitive finding" that the charges "swirling around for over a year" were baseless, Mann said in an interview.

The report confirms findings from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's inspector general and a separate panel of seven scientists based at universities in Britain, the United States, and Switzerland.

The inquiries focused on the University of East Anglia's climate-research unit, which stored the poached e-mails on its computer server. The university's work contributed to some of the key findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has issued reports that blame rising temperatures on human activity.

E-mails to and from Mann were in the pilfered cache. One message discussing his work spoke of a "trick" to "hide the decline" and others suggested deleting correspondence.

Mann was lead author of the first reconstruction of North American warming going back 1,000 years, which showed recent temperatures increasing sharply. The 1998 findings have been confirmed by several studies, Mann said.

The manufactured scandal involving East Anglia University long has been a favorite topic of Limbaugh. He has referred to "this universe of lies" whose "agenda will be paramount -- and I guarantee you that as we speak, the hoaxers and everybody involved in it from Algore on up to this Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University are plotting strategy on how to keep forging forward because of two things. There is a hell of a lot of money at the end of this train and these people want to get their hands on it." Seven studies of the charges, and seven exonerating Mann, but that won't stop Rush Limbaugh.

And neither is it likely to stop Rick Perry, who is running for President. It would be surprising if the oil and gas industry were not the largest contributor to a Repub politician in Texas, as the graph (from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, via Center for American Progress) above indicates for Perry. But it would be even more surprising if the industry's largesse would not persuade a politician to deny the proven human impact upon climate change and to politicize scientific finding. Now that the Texas governor and presidential hopeful has alleged that global warming itself is a scam perpetrated by scientists- and the most controversial case has been found to be utterly without merit- he merits scrutiny from a "fair and balanced" media.

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