Today’s Wall Street Journal features several letters to the editor (subscription required) on the paper’s editorial on the Rockefeller-Snowe letter to ExxonMobil. Naturally, it is to be expected that at least somebody would write taking exception to the editorial, but the letter by Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch has got to be read to be believed — because it misses the central point so widely off the mark.
Piltz simply dismisses the Journal‘s charge of Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe acting as “bullies” in admonishing ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that disagree with their climate change agenda. Why? He gives no reason — even though these are government officials initiating communications with a private party while brandishing their government credentials. The letter is published on Snowe’s official government website, with a press release with headline (all-caps in the original) and subhead (emphasis added):
ROCKEFELLER AND SNOWE DEMAND THAT EXXON MOBIL END FUNDING OF CAMPAIGN THAT DENIES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Senators Demand that the World’s Largest Oil Maker Make Public Its History of Funding Climate Change “Skeptics”
Not bullying? I doubt the Senators are so thick as to think that using the word “demand” twice at the top of an official government document constitutes a gentle suggestion. (Have I said “government” enough times?) Moreover, Piltz seems to see scientists as political advocates,
“The actions of Exxon Mobil in this regard can reasonably be seen as an insult to the climate science community, which has been making a heroic effort to communicate the nature of the problem in the face of extraordinary impediments thrown up by industry-funded operatives.”
So what’s science about? Acting the morally self-assured superhero or establishing theories by challenging them to see if they withstand scrutiny?
Piltz talks about what he believes ExxonMobiil should do, and he’s got every right to do so. But there is a big difference in his doing so and two U.S. Senators doing the same: He has no power to subpoena company executives into hearings or impose taxes or regulations. Yes, the Senators have free speech rights to say whatever they want, but there is a difference between their personal opinions and those they convey on behalf of their office.