Yes, I'm old enough to remember when governments thought it was a big part of their responsibility to enhance the well-being of the people. In the area of energy, that meant pursuing policies that would lead to lower prices and greater availability for things like electricity and gasoline. Crazy, eh? But then everything got turned on its head. In 2009 we got a President who, shortly after taking office (March 18, 2009), promised "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." And he clearly thought that that was a good idea, even a moral imperative. Henceforth we will use the force of government to pursue the intentional impoverishment of the people! When Congress declined to act on the "cap and trade" plan, Obama then proceeded via executive actions and regulations with efforts designed to increase the cost and decrease the availability of energy -- things like the Clean Power Plan, refusing to grant permits to pipelines, hobbling the coal industry, and so forth.
And thus we come to the big demonstrations by the Obama/Democratic/progressive factions this past weekend that I have called the March for Poverty. But, to be fair to them, they called their demonstrations the "March for Science." If you have read yesterday's post, you will know that I think that "science" is a process of challenging hypotheses, rather than a body of fixed and unchallengeable established knowledge. Is there any sense in which the people asserting a moral necessity of "saving the planet" through impoverishment of the people can legitimately claim the mantle of "science"?
It's not particularly easy to pin down everything that the march itself might have stood for, given the profusion of groups and spokespersons associated with it. So, to get a handle on the deep thinking behind the legal end of the climate movement, I thought to listen in today to a webinar put on by the Harvard Law School Open Lecture Series, featuring Professor Jody Freeman. She's the Director of the Harvard Law School Environment Law and Policy Program, and previously worked for the Obama administration, among other things in designing the (failed) cap and trade legislation. She's the Zeke Emanuel Obama's climate regulations!
I'll bet you think that a Harvard-sponsored webinar on environmental policy would be conducted at a high and sophisticated level, so high indeed that humble you probably couldn't even understand it. Don't be silly! This program was really an insult to the intelligence of any listener who knew anything at all about the subject matter. From all you could tell, poor Ms. Freeman was completely uninformed about the state of the science that underlies all Obama-era climate and energy regulation, in particular EPA's Endangerment Finding. (The alternative hypotheses, no better for Ms. Freeman, is that she was being intentionally deceptive.) Although she did not address the EF directly in her prepared remarks, in a Q&A portion Ms. Freeman got a specific question as to the state of the science underlying the EF, and the prospects for its being revoked. Her answer was that the EF will be very hard to impossible to revoke, because the "science" is "extremely strong" and the underlying evidence "overwhelming." The one source she mentioned for her confidence was the IPCC (whose latest report dates from 2013). Of course, she completely failed to address the major challenges to the EF that are out there and well-known to everybody familiar with the issues.
So, what is the latest on the actual, real science? The answer is that the EF has been totally invalidated by the accumulation of empirical real-world evidence. Many readers here may be familiar with my post from last September, "The 'Science' Underlying Climate Alarmism Turns Up Missing." There, I reported on the issuance of a major Research Report from Wallace, Christy and D'Aleo asserting that, using basic statistical techniques applied to empirical evidence, they had invalidated each of the three "lines of evidence" on which EPA claimed to base its EF. And now, just yesterday, it so happens that Wallace, Christy and D'Aleo have released a new, updated and expanded version of the Research Report. Here is a link to the Report itself. Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller was the first to report on the story, headline "New Study Calls EPA’s Labeling Of CO2 A Pollutant ‘Totally False.'" Excerpt:
A new study published by seasoned researchers takes aim at the heart of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to issue regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions. The study claims to have “proven that it is all but certain that EPA’s basic claim that CO2 is a pollutant is totally false,” according to a press statement put out by Drs. Jim Wallace, John Christy and Joe D’Aleo. Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo — a statistician, a climatologist and meteorologist, respectively — released a study claiming to invalidate EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding, which allowed the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. “This research failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 14 temperature data sets that were analyzed,” the authors say in the release for the second edition of their peer-reviewed work. “Moreover, these research results clearly demonstrate that once the solar, volcanic and oceanic activity, that is, natural factor, impacts on temperature data are accounted for, there is no ‘record setting’ warming to be concerned about,” the researchers say. “In fact, there is no natural factor adjusted warming at all.”
And the Research Report is just one -- although perhaps the most important -- of many demonstrations of the invalidity of the EF. In his testimony before Congress on March 29, John Christy (one of the authors of the Research Report) also pointed, for example, to the fact that after some thirty years of collecting temperature data, the level of temperatures measured by satellites and weather balloons falls far below the level predicted by the IPCC climate models.
In actual science, when there is a credible demonstration that a hypothesis has been falsified, it becomes incumbent upon the proponents of the hypothesis either to explain or distinguish the claimed falsification, or to abandon the hypothesis. When the "ether" hypothesis was falsified by the Michelson/Morley experiment, it was rather quickly abandoned. But then, the "ether" hypothesis was not invested with particular political baggage. By contrast, when Galileo expounded on the Copernican heliocentric view of the universe, that was viewed as a challenge to his authority and prestige by Pope Urban VIII, who had Galileo tried and imprisoned. Fortunately the facts, and the scientific method, won out in the end. Does anybody today have a good word to say for Urban VIII?
The scientific method will also win out in the end in the matter of the current climate hysteria. It will not help the climate hysterics that they have attempted to claim the label of "science," when in fact they have no idea even what science is. And, unfortunately, "the end" may not come all that quickly, and many, many people stand to be impoverished by the craziness in the meantime.