Witnesses Highlight Flawed Processes Used to Generate Climate Change Science, Inform Policy

Mar 31, 2011
Witnesses Highlight Flawed Processes Used to Generate Climate Change Science, Inform Policy

Washington D.C. – Today, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee heard from witnesses that there are significant flaws and bias reflected in the processes used to generate key climate change science, and to inform policy development and decision-making.

“The current Administration has been moving full speed ahead with regulations and policy initiatives that it justifies based on the available science,” said Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX).  “Since these actions have the potential to severely damage our economy, there should be extra care in making sure they are truly necessary and appropriate.”

Hall continued, “The legitimate questions that have been raised about the processes used to generate climate change science and policy have thus far been cast aside. The reluctance to engage in conversations with people who have doubts or question the veracity of climate science is at the heart of the wrong doing that undermines trust in climate change science.”

The potentially monumental impact of climate change policy on the U.S. economy and nearly all aspects of daily life demand that not only are such policies grounded in science, but that the science itself is generated through processes and procedures that are universally accepted. 

Members and witnesses today discussed the leaked “Climategate” emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in November of 2009.  These emails—many of which involved world-leading scientists in positions of influence with respect to key scientific assessments relied upon by policymakers—revealed significant communications suggesting a lack of adherence to basic principles of scientific conduct, openness, and information sharing. 

In his opening remarks, Chairman Hall said “For many of us here, these emails were evidence that the trust in the underlying process was misplaced.  I may not be a scientist, but as a politician, I can tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes.”

Also discussed at length was the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” paving the way under the Clean Air Act for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), and particularly, carbon dioxide.  A majority of the scientific basis the Agency used for its determination came from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or from government reports that relied heavily on the IPCC as a resource.

Critical of the underpinning IPCC process, Dr. John Christy, Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, discussed his skepticism of how IPCC operates.  “The committee should understand that the IPCC presents one version of climate change science generated by an establishment that has evolved to largely reflect a particular point of view…this point of view attempts to dismiss information that questions the belief that greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of observed climate change.”

Further questioning the lawful basis of the endangerment finding, Mr. Peter Glaser, a Partner at Troutman Sanders, LLP, discussed the lack of transparency by EPA in formulating this decision.  “In my view, EPA failed to observe basic requirements set forth in applicable law as to how a regulatory determination such as the Endangerment Finding should be made.”  Glaser questioned the fundamental fairness and transparency of the way EPA arrived at its endangerment finding and the quality of the information on which EPA relied. “The procedures EPA failed to observe are designed to ensure the integrity both of the decisionmaking process and the ultimate result an agency reaches.”

Witnesses also discussed potential data bias that can result from data selection, substandard temperature station quality, urban vs. rural effects, station moves, and changes in the methods and times of measurement. 

Beyond concerns directly involving how scientific data is used, Dr. W. David Montgomery testified about the economic costs associated with proposed greenhouse gas regulations, and how those costs outweigh any possible benefits of such policies.  Montgomery also rebuked the idea that regulating GHGs would drive an economically beneficial market in the U.S. for green technologies. 

“Any claim that a regulation or standard will on balance save money should be regarded with a high degree of skepticism,” Montgomery said.  “Economic theory and the experience in Europe and the United States with renewable energy policies show the effect is the opposite of stimulus to clean technology industries. Clean energy equipment will be produced where it is least costly to do so, and domestic policies that raise energy costs can shift that comparative advantage against the U.S.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Committee:

Dr. J. Scott Armstrong, Professor of Marketing, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, University of California, Berkeley and Faculty Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

Dr. John Christy, Director, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Mr. Peter Glaser, Partner, Troutman Sanders, LLP

Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. W. David Montgomery, Economist