Response to UCS’ Kevin Knobloch-head…

February 22, 2011

Below is a recent commentary by Union of Concerned Scientists president Kevin Knobloch. A reader requested a review of the piece, so here’s a quick one. My comments in [[bracketed bold]].

Commentary: Republicans are closing their eyes to climate science

McClatchy-Tribune News Servicem, February 14, 2011

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first Earth-orbiting satellite, and the United States was shocked to discover that it had fallen behind in the space race. In response to the “Sputnik crisis,” Republicans and Democrats in Congress worked together to create NASA and dramatically increased funding for science and technology education and research.

Twelve years later, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon.

Today, America faces another crisis that requires a major scientific and technological response: climate change. Of course, this crisis is not limited to the United States, but we can use our unparalleled capacity for innovation to lead the way. And just as it did half a century ago, Congress has a chance to take decisive action.

[While getting to the moon was clearly a great achievement, it was a well-defined and limited task well-within the scientific knowledge and technological capability of the time. But climate change is at not all like going to the moon and back. While we know significant climate change will happen in the future, is it happening in a significant way right now? There is no evidence that it is. How would Mr. Knobloch like to change the climate? What is the perfect temperature? Amount of rain? Number of cloudy days? How much atmospheric CO2 is just right? How can atmospheric CO2 possibly be reduced? A warmer climate — if indeed that is what’s happening — may be good for some and bad for others? Who gets to decide who wins and loses? Controlling global climate is infinitely more complex than the Moonshot project.]

So how are Republican congressional leaders responding?

Here’s what Texas Rep. Ralph Hall said last fall: “I’ve had people tell me if we had all the money in the world, put it in Texas Stadium, people couldn’t change nature’s future one iota.” Hall, who is 87, was already a state judge when Sputnik launched. What did he say then? “I’ve had people tell me it’ll take a lot of work and money to match that, so there’s no use trying”?

Hall’s attitude isn’t surprising given his close ties to the oil and gas industry, which has consistently tried to block progress in the fight against climate change. But he isn’t just another oil state climate contrarian with his head in the sand. Now that the Republicans have a majority in the House, he is the new chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, which oversees federal funding in these fields.

[And Knobloch’s attitude isn’t surprising given his leadership of Marxist-socialist group that’s trying to use junk science-fueled climate alarmism as a means of fulfilling its totalitarian social and political agenda.]

Unfortunately, he says he will use his new power not to advance science but to obstruct it. Hall has said he plans to investigate “Climategate,” the phony scandal whipped up by climate change deniers. In 2009, hackers illegally gained access to computers at a university in England and released thousands of e-mails from top climate scientists. Climate contrarians claimed a handful of the e-mails showed that scientists had muzzled dissenting views and distorted data. Over the past year, five independent investigations found those allegations to be false.

[Climategate was a real scandal — real enough to deal a crippling blow to climate alarmism. There is no evidence that “hackers” or anyone else did anything illegal with respect to obtaining the e-mails. None of the independent investigations has exonerated any Climategate figure — witness the fact that despite the claimed exonerations, climate alarmism remains flat on its back.]

Even so, Hall recently suggested there was some sort of shadowy climate conspiracy and has promised to investigate. But holding hearings would only accomplish two things: harass honest, hardworking climate scientists and waste taxpayer money.

Even when Hall tries to seem reasonable, he’s not. “I’ve never said it’s outrageous to even think about global warming. I want some proof,” he said last December. “I’m going to subpoena people from both sides and try to put them under oath and try to find out what the real facts are.”

But there are no longer two sides. Asking for further proof about climate change is now the same as asking for more proof that smoking causes cancer. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists recognize that human activity – mainly burning fossil fuels and destroying tropical forests -already has triggered hazardous environmental changes.

[There is no “overwhelming majority of scientists” that subscribe to climate alarmism. There are, however, over 31,000 scientists who have signed the Petition Project decrying climate alarmism.]

Hall’s first moves as chairman don’t bode well. For his vice chairman he picked Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who last year called climate change a “massive international scientific fraud.” He chose Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., to be chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Speaking at a John Birch Society event last year, Broun suggested that the idea of climate change is part of a conspiracy to “destroy America.”

[Climate alarmism is camouflage for a totalitarian command-and-control agenda for the energy industry and economy.]

It doesn’t get any better moving up the chain of command. The new House speaker, John Boehner of Ohio, has said the idea that excess atmospheric carbon dioxide could be harmful is “comical.”

Several House committees, including Hall’s, likely will hold hearings on the climate e-mails and the climate “debate,” and are already trying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to limit heat-trapping emissions from power plants and other large industrial sources.

Instead of attacking the EPA and holding bogus hearings, Hall and his fellow climate change deniers should follow the lead of an institution that doesn’t fool around when it comes to clear-eyed planning for the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. The U.S. military – an institution that even Rep. Broun would admit is not a bastion of soft-hearted liberals – has identified global climate change as “an accelerant of instability” that could have “significant geopolitical impacts” that “may spark or exacerbate future conflicts.” That was the conclusion of the February 2010 Pentagon Quadrennial Defense Review.

[The U.S. military follows orders and its orders happen to come from a Marxist-socialist commander-in-chief who favors totalitarian government and wants to use climate alarmism to get there.]

The rest of the world is waiting for the United States to move. The responsible course is for Hall and his fellow congressional leaders to begin mobilizing American science and technology to find climate solutions. That strategy worked in 1957, and it can be a big part of the solution today.

[If the rest of the world is waiting for us to move, it is only to take advantage of our folly. By the way, China and India — the first and fourth largest emitters of CO2, respectively — have already vowed not to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, there is no doubt that China would like to sell us all the slave labor-made windmills and solar panels that we could afford — not sure they’d do the financing, though!]


Kevin Knobloch is the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, 1825 K Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20006-1232; website:

[Knobloch is an English major-cum-politico — not a “concerned scientist.”]

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