Commentary Magazine


Faith-Based Science, Indeed

My colleague at Heritage, Mike Gonzalez, points out a fascinating report available through the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It consists of the leaked work of EPA veteran Dr. Alan Carlin, and makes a serious argument that

We have become increasingly concerned that EPA and many other agencies and countries have paid too little attention to the science of global warming…. the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date.

Dr. Carlin’s paper is substantial and deserves to be read in its entirety. But his takeaway is clear: the best explanations for global temperature fluctuations are changes in the amount of energy emitted by the sun, and, especially, oscillations in the temperatures of the oceans. The explanatory power of CO2 levels is much weaker, and, over the past decade, almost non-existent.

So why, when the House has just passed a “global warming” bill, is this report only available via a leak from CEI? Because, as Dr. Carlin puts it, “I’ve been involved in public policy since 1966 or 1967…. There’s never been anything exactly like this. I am now under a gag order.” The internal EPA e-mails between Dr. Carlin and his superiors that were leaked along with the report back up this claim.

The left has been very free over the past few years — actually, the last several decades — with claims of being pro-science, as opposed to those knuckle-dragging obscurantists on the right. But it’s the left that badly wants global warming to be real, so as to justify pet policies — such as a bigger, more intrusive state apparatus — that it champions for unrelated and, frankly, ideological reasons. If upholding such policies entails ignoring scientific opposition, the left’s quite willing to stick its fingers in its ears and start whistling.

As a newspaper veteran, my colleague regrets that “the media has happily gone along with this suppression.” For my part, it reminds me of a paper I once graded at Yale. The student author was absolutely persuaded that carbon monoxide caused global warming.

When I pointed out that CO was indeed toxic, but that no one called it a greenhouse gas, and that it was not the same as CO2, the student had no idea what I was talking about (and refused to revise the draft). All evidence had become irrelevant: what mattered was asserting his ill-informed belief, and refusing to reconsider on the grounds that doing so would be akin to apostasy. In a student, that is sad; in the making of policy, it’s both expensive and foolish.