Is the climate change debate about science, or politics?
Anthony Watts’s blog settled the question yesterday. Watts has been conducting surveys of U.S. weather reporting stations in a months-long campaign to make a case that data have been skewed by inappropriate sitings of the measuring equipment. Other posts on the blog celebrate every release of information that might be construed as contrary to warming or contrary to human effects on climate, or denigrating any release that supports a claim of change or that human activities cause the change.
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program released a draft report for public comment several weeks ago. Watts criticized the report for a tone he interpreted as advocacy instead of science. Since comments on the report are wide open, as required under the Administrative Procedures Act, comments like Watts’ can be submitted to the agency, and they must be answered. Watts’ invitation to people who disagree with any part of the report is a good encouragement for people to take a part in this important debate about public policy.
But then, yesterday, Watts posted the smoking gun showing political pushing of the science from the White House, unintentionally, I’m sure. In fact, Watts hailed the thing, with a headline claiming that the report was being “pulled.”
Reading through Watts’s post it is difficult to figure out what happened that prompted the headline — it’s hidden away in his quote of the attack-dog propaganda site at National Review On-line, Watts said:
Chris Horner writes on NRO Planet Gore:
…the U.S. Chamber pointed out that a preponderance of the 21 reports that had purportedly been “synthesized” had not actually been produced yet. Sure, that sequence sounds odd in the real world, but is reminiscent of the IPCC, to which the USP appealed as the authority for certain otherwise unsupported claims (though the IPCC openly admits that it, too, performs no scientific research). This is a point we also made in our comments. I’m informed that NOAA has now agreed to publish the underlying documents first and then put out their desired USP. The Chamber should have a release out soon.
Did you catch that? It’s in the line, “NOAA has now agreed.” So what is the document at NOAA referred to?
Oh, it’s not a document from NOAA. It is a memorandum from the anti-climate change science group set up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from William Kovacs, an employee of the U.S. Chamber.
A few days ago I received a call from the administration informing me that, while they will not withdraw the notice for comments, it will in the next several weeks file another Federal Register notice providing for comment when all of the synthesis reports are public.
It seems to me that the APA rules and procedures are quite clear. Comments must be accepted, and generally they must be commented upon. Comments to the effect that not all the material backing the report was available are fair game, must be answered by the agency, and if true, might make a case for more careful scrutiny of any regulation coming from the report.
What did NOAA do? Nothing that we can see. Instead, what’s got Watts happy is a note from a hardball political group that they’ve heard from the White House, suggesting there will be political philandering with the science report.
Good scientists have significant science findings that would mitigate or contradict findings expressed in the draft report. Pointing those studies out to NOAA and the Climate Change Science Program would be the way to make a solid case.
The skeptics’ asking the White House to politically kill the report, and then celebrating a missive from a lobbying group that claims the report has been killed contrary to the law under the Administrative Procedures Act, doesn’t suggest that science is the concern of the skeptics — at least, that’s not the message I get.
In the wake of the news of one probably illegally suppressed report, it’s probably not wise to celebrate the suppression of another, legal or not.
Update: As of Thursday afternoon (August 21), Watt’s Up With That? has changed the headline from “pulled” to “hold.”
The same criticisms apply from above, still.