I watched a fair amount of the speeches given during the Senate’s all-night session about the threat of man-made climate change. Some of the things talked about were good, some of the things said were not so good.
There was a lot of talk about the science, and they did better than I expected but not very well. If they had done this five years ago I expect I’d have “graded” them a D- or maybe even an F, but this time I’d give them a C, maybe even a B-, for scientific content. That’s not great — Al Gore gets an A- for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” — but it’s better than I expected.
There was good stuff. There was a lot of talk about sea level rise and ocean acidification. These are under-reported issues because they’re slow to unfold (in human terms), although the impact of ocean acidification is already being felt in the seafood industry. Most of the ocean discussion came from Senators representing states for whom coastlines are important, like Oregon, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida.
There was stuff that was both good and bad, especially a lot of discussion about solutions which would benefit both climate and the economy. Unfortunately, it seemed to me to be overly optimistic. It often sounded more like a campaign speech than a rational assessment of the prospects for specific measures. I suppose that’s to be expected from politicians, but it detracted (in my opinion) from the severity of the situation, which we need to emphasize is dire indeed.
There was also some bad stuff, statements that were silly and/or just plain wrong. I didn’t catalogue them because I figured the WUWT crowd would do that for me. Alas, the comments in the WUWT post about the session are long on criticism and ad hominem but short on actual details. One of the few specific criticisms which was supposedly fact-based, from WUWT reader Bill Parsons, actually got it completely wrong:
Bill Parsons says:
March 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm
Took a look — happened to catch the NM representative.
Curious how New Mexico’s Heinrich dwells at such length on snowfall and snowpack, comparing 2010 to this winter. Snow water Equivalent is up in 2014 between 20 – 30 % above the mean in nearly every NM drainage.
New Mexico SNOTEL Snowpack Update Report:
The hilarious thing is, that if you follow the link he himself provided you discover that all but one of the drainage basins has low snowpack this year. Incidentally, the actual comparison is to the median snowpack rather than the mean, although Parsons corrects himself on that point later:
Bill Parsons says:
March 10, 2014 at 10:37 pm
Correction to my comment above at 10:27: SNOTEL snowpack report references the median snow-water equivalent, not the mean.
The Snow Water Equivalent PERCENT OF Median represents the current snow water equivalent found at selected SNOTEL sites in or near the basin compared to the Median value for those sites on this day
What he doesn’t correct is that he read the numbers wrong, because only the Animas River basin is above median, and only barely (it’s at 101% of median), while all the others (there are lots) are below median, many of them by huge margins. Follow the link yourself; you’ll see. Senator Heinrich was absolutely right to call attention to the dire situation. Alas, so far none of the WUWT readers has bothered to call out Bill Parsons on his boneheaded mistake.
I won’t be surprised to see a WUWT post about all the things the senators got wrong. In fact I expect the WUWT crowd to claim a number of errors which actually aren’t, more examples like Bill Parsons’ in which the critic is wrong while the senator was right. Nonetheless, there’s certainly fodder for criticism in the scientific claims made during the senate’s all-nighter, and I expect to hear about it not just from WUWT but from Faux News. That’s a genuine pity, because it will sow the seeds of doubt in those trying to get at the truth, and give deniers all that more reason to entrench themselves in denial.
Still, the senate event has called attention to the defining problem of the century. It has demonstrated the commitment of at least some of our politicians to take the problem seriously. I suggest, to those members of the senate who participated and to those who will participate in future events, that they submit their comments for scientific review beforehand, so as not to leave themselves vulnerable to criticism for incorrect statements. And I believe they do understand, that the problem is serious enough to justify that effort — we need to be as persuasive as possible with the voting public, and an accurate portrayal of the science is an important part of the power to persuade.