Friday, July 19, 2013

Weinkle et al in Congress!


In a Congressional hearing yesterday, a graph from a paper I worked on was blown up for discussion.  The picture above shows the image with some senators.  A video of the hearing can be found here and the paper can be found here.

The hearing began with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D- CA) explaining that the hearing was about "climate change and the serious threat it poses to our nation.  This isn't a political hearing or a solutions hearing; it's a hearing where I hope we will listen to the experts."  She cited some scientists saying some things about what can be expected from climate change, some stats on disasters and disaster losses, concluding that climate change is real, happening, and posing a threat.

This was followed by Sen.  David Vitter (R- LA; in the picture on the right) who stated, that the hearing fell on the heals of Obama's announcement of a "sweeping climate action plan which will undoubtedly tighten the Federal government's grip on our economy" and that he looks forwards to "digging down into the science, what exactly it suggests and it doesn't suggest, and I certainly look forward to economic impact on the American people as they face very, very tough times."

The title of the hearing was "Climate Change: It's happening now."  Both Boxer and Vitter agreed with the title.  Yes, it is happening.  So the hearing had to be about politics and solutions because once people agree to a fact, they then have to decide what to do about it if anything.  So the scientific experts were being used to provide information that would explicitly or implicitly support or negate spending the model to implement the policies of Obama's climate action plan. This forced judgment of the goodness or badness of the policies on the scientific ability to attribute observed extremes to climate change. This is unnecessary and difficult to do.

The graph above indicates that there is no global long term trend in hurricane landfall frequency or intensity according to the reliable record.  The observation says nothing about the warrant in creating policy intended to adapt society to extremes like hurricanes or changes in extremes like those expected with climate change.  Regardless of climate change, policy that protects society from loss, disruption, and suffering seems like a good idea.  But the decision to implement those policies rests on felt "moral obligation" (as the Obama Administration called it) of which science has no authority.  

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