Dueling Senators

Tulsa World in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has printed statements about man-made climate change from two U.S. senators. One is the well-known climate denier, Oklahoma’s own James Inhofe. The other is the best spokesman for climate action in the U.S. Senate, Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse.

Inhofe’s entire argument boils down to conspircy theorizing, his belief that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change is a made-up hoax to bring about “global governance.” I’m not exaggerating about that. He appeals to what he calls “Climategate,” saying that “Climate scientists were caught red-handed manipulating data so it supported their global warming objectives.” The truth is just the opposite.

There have been six separate investigations of Inhofe’s allegation. One was done by the Inspector General of NOAA at the request of: James Inhofe. In his report to Inhofe on February 18, 2010 the Inspector General said, “In our review of the CRU e-mails, we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data … or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.” Others who investigated include the Inspector General of the Dept. of Commerce, the National Science Foundation, Penn. State Univeristy, and in the U.K. the University of East Anglia, and no less than the House of Commons (one of the houses of the British Legislature).

But that’s not good enough for Inhofe. Instead he “documents” his allegation of fraud by quoting a newspaper report from the U.K. Independent.

In my opinion, the most revealing thing about Inhofe’s piece is this: he’s got nothing. He had to sink to insane conspiracy theories that have already been investigated many times and found to be groundless. But that’s all he’s got — and it’s nothing but proof that his allegation is false.

The only mentions of actual science are an outright lie: that “In 2008, Al Gore said the north polar ice cap would be “ice-free” by 2013,” and an erroneous reference to “the observed recent warming hiatus.” The one that never happened.

Many papers have been published about what might have brought about a “hiatus” if one happened. But so far, there has not been a single scientific paper — not one — that has provided solid evidence that such a “hiatus” ever happened. However, there have been five papers published which investigated the question of its existence, and all five, without exception, have reached the same conclusion: there’s no real evidence of a “hiatus.” Because it never happened.

The hottest year on record was 2014, but 2015 is well on the way — it’s just about inevitable — to breaking that record and becoming the new hottest year on record. But Inhofe, and Lamar Smith, and WUWT, and all the deniers, are so desperate to cry “hiatus” that they’ve resorted to attacking the data itself. In Inhofe’s case, it amounts to repeating what isn’t true, about scientists “manipulating data so it supported their global warming objectives.”

He resorts to that because that’s all he’s got. In other words, he’s got nothing.

Except, of course, a seat in the U.S. Senate.


Plot idea: 97% of the world’s scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies and the politicians they support.

20 responses to “Dueling Senators

  1. Unfortunately, that “except” is a doozy in a country where so many want to eat their cake and have it.

  2. David B. Benson

    Brave billionaires!

  3. “by quoting a newspaper report from the U.K. Independent”
    Actually, the Telegraph. Less credible.

  4. Lots of pluck.

  5. Can the scientists involved fight back by filing a suit for slander? Inhofe has contradicted the information collected for him. I would donate to a lawyer who took this issuee up. Even if he was just required to apologise and stop the slander it wuld be worth it.

  6. Well, Tamino, I agree that Inhofe’s got nothing when it comes to the science, but in the context of dueling opinion pieces in an Oklahoma paper he’s got this: he articulately expresses the common American conservative terror of an external political authority dictating policy to them. No science to it, obviously, but in that context he doesn’t need it. And somehow the rest of us are going to have to figure out how to work our way around that very, very powerful fear. Just talking science isn’t going to do it. I wish I knew what will.

    • “… the rest of us are going to have to figure out how to work our way around that very, very powerful fear.”

      Fear is a powerful motivator, but then again, so is anger. I am thinking of anger at being lied to and anger at being used by the fossil fuel industry, their front groups and their propaganda for the sake of corporate profit. Exxon knew, and yet they financed groups that twisted the conservative movement in the United States. At least one of their front groups even went so far as to create a campaign to deceive Evangelicals and twist their desire to be obedient to God towards the destruction of God’s creation. In their propaganda campaign, the fossil fuel industry succeeded in turning Evangelical against Evangelical. They painted Evangelicals who recognize the threat posed by global warming and would protect creation in terms that would appear to put them in league with the Antichrist. I have been deceived and used like that before, although perhaps not to quite the same depth. The realization made me angry.

  7. Speaking from across “the pond”, politicians are often not the sharpest tool in the box, but I have to say that this Inhofe comes across as the most obtuse of tools, perhaps a rubber cosh.
    I liked his self-defeating comment – “The most obvious truth is that global warming science is not settled. Science, by its very nature, is never settled.” – which surely makes science is a bit of a pointless exercise. So why do we bother with science at all? All those grants for scientific research.All that wasted time teaching, no, indoctrinating kids in the subject. It’s an outrage!! Why science? That must be the sensible question to ask. So I don’t get why Inhofe is wasting his time bashing on about AGW. Still, hey-ho, I’m sure it all makes sense for Forest Gump and Jimmy ‘No Brain’ Inhofe.

  8. “caught red handed” – and then those hackneyed metaphors…

  9. “There have been six separate investigations of Inhofe’s allegation. One was done by the Inspector General of NOAA at the request of: James Inhofe. In his report to Inhofe on February 18, 2010 the Inspector General said, ‘In our review of the CRU e-mails, we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data … or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.’ ”

    Unfortunately, I think the expectation of rationality raised here overlooks the nature of conspiratorial denialism. When climate scientists are exonerated, it’s not proof of their innocence. It’s proof that the investigators are in on the conspiracy:

    “The prominence of conspiracist ideation in science rejection is not unexpected in light of its cognitive attributes: For example, if a scientific consensus cannot be accepted as the result of researchers converging independently on the same evidence-based view, then the belief in a scientific conspiracy can provide an alternative explanation for the consensus [18,20,21]. Moreover, because conspiracist ideation need not conform to the criteria of consistency and coherence that characterize scientific reasoning [30], its explanatory reach is necessarily greater than that of competing (scientific) theories [31]. Conspiracist ideation is also typically immune to falsification because contradictory evidence (e.g., climate scientists being exonerated of accusations) can be accommodated by broadening the scope of the conspiracy (exonerations are a whitewash), often with considerable creativity [32]. Those cognitive attributes render conspiracist ideation ideally suited for the ongoing rejection of scientific evidence.”
    The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0075637

    • It’s actually a very interesting aspect of science theory: that the core concept of a theory is not stricty falsifiable, because one can always create secondary assumptions, which explain just t h i s occurrence of wrong prediction.
      In early modern times, the core concept of cyclicyl movement of the celestial bodies around a centered earth was saved by introducing the epicycles, to explain the apparent backward movement of mars.
      Of course, doing this, the theory becomes more and more unwieldy and complicated, and an awkward feeling spreads in our guts, but in the strict sense of the word, it works.
      So what makes a good theory is not pure logic, but something else, a sense of elegance.
      From a denialist point of view, the secondary assumption has the advantage of beeing just the same of the conspiracy, just a little bit expanded. So it’s in a way a very simple and powerful theory-core. But of course it’s more like a brute force concept – that’s the difference between simplicity and elegance.
      That the vast majority has a certain opinion, is a questionable argument, though. Imagine to be a young German brought up in Nazi Germany. All you see – and have ever seen – is a certain opinion, which is – as we know in hindsight – wrong. So the “majority argument” has to be used with caution.
      It’s this very caution, that’s the essence of skepticism.
      But of course, skepticism should not mean passivity.

      • Over on RC, there’s been a related discussion with (IMO) faux-skeptic ‘Victor’, who wants to use Occam’s razor to dismiss the greenhouse concept due to a supposed absence of correlation between CO2 and temperature over short timescales. (And this, though he’s read Tamino’s analyses dealing with that issue here, and has read some of the relevant literature.) He was attempting to use “the Greenhouse concept is wrong” as a simpler alternative to the mainstream science; several of us pointed out that this is not, in fact, an independent hypothesis with equivalent explanatory power.

        I wouldn’t necessarily rush over there to read the thread–I’m not sure it really breaks much new ground–but it’s an interesting synchronicity in the context of the above comment.

  10. As most readers here know, this year is tracking on GISTEMP Land-Ocean at 0.81C above the 1951 – 1980 mean, through September. But it looks like October will come in at, wait for it… ~1.2C! That’s a ~0.4C jump in a one month period. AFAICT from a cursory look at the data going all the way back to 1880, that’s what they call ‘unprecedented’.

    I’m not quite far enough through tamino’s Understanding Statistics yet to calculate how many SD that is, but… this has got to light a big fire under the AGW deniers. It’s 1 November, and here in Ireland we’re having warmer weather than we had this *summer*.

    • I found three others, for what it’s worth.
      Dec 1920 – Jan 1921: -45 to -3
      Jan 1935 – Feb 1935: -38 to +11
      Feb 2008 – Mar 2008: +35 to +75
      (there are also a comparable number of negatives of similar magnitude)

      The standard deviation of the first difference (n=1628) for the monthly temperature anomalies is 12.3 (°C x 100) so a ~0.4°C monthly jump would be ~3 σ above the expected increase.

    • Thanks, Magma. Goes to show that just eyeballing a bunch of figures isn’t all that effective :-\ I was guessing about 3 sigma, though.

    • Where you can find daily data from GISS? I tried to find it but no success.

  11. While it’s true that Gore didn’t say the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013, he twice pointed to studies saying the Arctic would be ice-free or nearly so around now:

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2007/gore-lecture_en.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/14/gore-polar-ice-may-vanish_n_391632.html

    He definitely highlights the worst-case studies. I think he could still do that but do a it a little more carefully by identifying them as such.

  12. Unfortunately, talking about actual science is very unlikely to convince many people.
    I recently read this story in a book on teaching physics. The lecturer did a demonstration in which a ball goes around a ring, and then exits. The question : After exiting, will the ball go straight or will it curve ? He asked the class before doing it – about 50% said it would curve. He did the experiment in front of them. About 50% said it DID curve. He put a ruler next to the exit path, showing the ball going parallel to the ruler. In a quiz a short time later, 20% still said the ball would curve.
    Even when the issue is simple and completely non-emotive, it is extraordinarily difficult to convince people of something that doesn’t match their preconceptions.

    • This is exactly where science training in school comes into play – or at least it is supposed to. Not just to get some facts and concepts into their little heads, but to teach openness and in the best case recognition of and – again – skepticism against their own preconceptions.