Here's the Plan

Here's the Plan

Horner Op-Ed in Tech Central Station
July 25, 2003

On Thursday Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans released the Bush administration's Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) strategic plan. According to the press announcement: <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

"The strategic plan describes the research activities to be undertaken by 13 agencies and departments of the federal government to determine the causes and effects of natural and human-induced global climate change…. The strategic plan was developed in response to President Bush's charge to study areas of uncertainty and set priorities where climate science investments can make a difference."

That's a good goal. And the plan does in fact detail a litany of predicate knowledge necessary to enact any "climate change" policies. As a result, it acknowledges that our current knowledge about climate change is insufficient to serve as a basis for any policy decisions.

But the plan is artfully phrased, however, and will likely be used as further "proof" of an administration that turns a blind eye to a universally acknowledged, looming danger. Though the contents of the report actually belie that common distortion of reality, it further assists journalists and others devoted to hype.

For example, the report fails to account for weaknesses in the models used to predict future climate changes.  These models were relied upon to make key assertions in the document. But these models were proved less accurate in predicting climate than a table of random numbers. As such, these models have been demonstrated to not rise to the level required to produce data of sufficient quality to be legally disseminated by the federal government, pursuant to the Federal Data Quality Act.

Unsupportable statements include:

- "[anthropogenic CO2 produces changes in the atmosphere and biological properties of the earth's surface, which] have important climate effects, some of which can be quantified only poorly at present".

That latter qualification says that the former part of the statement cannot be asserted! Distilled, it says "We know it's true but we just can't establish it." That is politics, not science. Even by qualifying that statement, researchers simply cannot justify it. Feelings or customary received wisdom do not suffice.

This is not really the administration's fault. Its goals as set forth in the plan are fine, but the text disappointingly continues what previous reports have done: adopt alarmism. Already, lawsuits are springing up to call them on this.

Factors raising suspicion include that the new Director of the U.S. Global Change Research Office, under whose auspices this document was produced, is Dr. Richard H. Moss [see http://globalchange.umd.edu/symposium/mossdi.pdf]. Dr. Moss is on record as saying that scientists and policymakers should essentially ignore the Rio Framework Convention's threshold question to climate policymaking--what constitutes "dangerous interference with the climate system"? He says that answering this question is "impossible," because there is no way all can agree on an answer, and so we should instead move right past it. But the threshold question was crafted by those people who write and ratify treaties. It can't simply be ignored

Dr. Moss is also on record as saying that the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US rejecting Kyoto could lead to turning its back on the poorest of the poor. This is open to debate, to say the least, given that Kyoto-style energy rationing is in no one's economic or health interests. Further, it is questionable to charge someone with this effort who not only has adopted this assumption, but admits he cannot prove it.

Thursday's report signals more of the same from the administration in terms of being too quick to coddle climate alarmists in order to curry the elusive green kudos. Any legitimate research plan must honestly present the state of climate knowledge, fearless of the obvious potential budgetary implications of admitting that so many billions of dollars have produced so very little. This document fails that test.