On January 11, 2013, the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) published its draft National Climate Assessment for public comment. The first paragraph of the Executive Summary found that
Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.
Given these findings, it is not surprising that individuals and organizations who deny that global climate change is “primarily driven by human activity” would attack the report.
Yesterday James Taylor of The Heartland Institute wrote a blog at Forbes attacking the Assessment by questioning the objectivity of seven of the scientists involved in writing the report. However, Taylor’s entire argument is based on the false assertion that being associated with an environmental organization automatically biases the scientists’ judgement. This is known as the “guilt by association” logical fallacy and it’s an attempt by Taylor to defame the character of the scientists.
Taylor asserts, without proof, that scientists James Buizer, Jerry Melillo, Suzanne Moser, Richard Moss, Andrew Rosenberg, Donald J. Wubbles, and Gary Yohe are all supposedly “crooked” because they have current or former associations with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Second Nature. This assertion is absurd. Is Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, inherently biased simply because he works at Princeton? Is commentator David Brooks inherently biased because he writes for the New York Times? Is Richard Lindzen, the contrarian MIT climatologist, inherently biased because he teaches at MIT? Are all registered Democrats inherently biased against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because most environmentalists are Democrats? In every case the answer is clearly “no” – any individual may well be biased, but simple association does not and can not prove bias.
If we applied Taylor’s own poor logic to Taylor himself we could automatically dismiss everything he writes on the subject of industrial climate disruption simply because he’s a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute.
When we look at the professional experience and scientific expertise of the seven scientists that Taylor names, the fact that Taylor is attempting to smear their reputations becomes clear.
- James Buizer is an expert in sustainability currently at the University of Arizona and during his 20 year tenure at NOAA became the Director of the Climate and Societal Interactions Office at NOAA’s head offices in the Washington DC area.
- The Chairman of the Assessment committee is Jerry Melillo, a forest ecologist with over 30 years of experience and more than 200 peer-reviewed papers on ecology, the majority of which have direct bearing on how forests will respond to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Suzanne Moser has over 34 peer-reviewed journal articles and scores of refereed and invited papers and presentations on adaptation to industrial climate disruption, climate communications, and has worked for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
- Richard Moss has more than 25 years working in government and is a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator who was the director of the USGCRP for six years. Moss presently works for the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
- Andrew Rosenberg is a fisheries biologist who has worked in government and academic science for nearly 30 years. He used to be deputy administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of NOAA, and the highest position that is not appointed by the President) and was previously the regional director for NMFS in the northeast. He has over 60 peer-reviewed papers to his name, never mind the large number of government documents he helped craft over his tenure at NMFS.
- Donald J. Wuebbles is one of the world’s preeminent atmospheric scientists who has authored or coauthored over 400 peer-reviewed studies in his 30 years of being a practicing scientist. His papers are largely focused on the composition of the atmosphere and how aerosols and greenhouse gases affect climate and air pollution.
- Gary Yohe is an economist who has authored or co-authored at least 100 peer-reviewed studies into the economic effects of industrial climate disruption in the nearly 40 years since he earned his PhD in economics. He has also testified on economics and climate before Congress several times.
And most of these seven scientists have also been asked to work on climate reports by the National Academy of Sciences and other expert panels just like the USGCRP itself. These seven scientists have nearly two centuries of cumulative experience in climate-related science and public policy. As such they can legitimately claim to be authorities in their climate-related fields.
Taylor, on the other hand, has a background in law and government, not science. There is no evidence that Taylor has written any peer-reviewed scientific papers or been intimately involved in crafting regulations relating to climate policy in the way that Moss and Rosenberg have. Taylor’s Forbes bio indicates that he “studied” atmospheric science while getting his government degree from Dartmouth, but he certainly hasn’t worked as a scientist or maintained any scientific expertise since.
More damning, however, is that Taylor has a habit of distorting scientific studies and taking other peoples’ words out of context. S&R found in early 2010 that Taylor had incorrectly applied the results of a small small self-selected poll of broadcast meteorologists to all scientists. In February 2011, S&R found that Taylor had incorrectly accused scientist Mark Boslough of lying and criticizing former astronaut Harrison Schmitt when Boslough did neither. S&R found in late 2011 that Taylor had dishonestly claimed that so-called “skeptics” merely question the source of industrial climate disruption – to not know that many of his fellow so-called “skeptics’ would require that Taylor be incompetent. In addition, S&R found in mid-2012 that Taylor deceptively took quotes out of context in ways that dramatically changed their meaning and implications.And Taylor continues his habit of distorting facts in this Forbes blog. While Taylor mentions that there are 13 senior scientists engaged in guiding the report (one chairman, two vice-chairmen, and 10 members of a “secretariat”), he fails to mention that the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee led by these 13 scientists was actually composed of 60 scientists and policy experts. And he fails to mention that the Committee “engaged more than 240 authors in the creation of the report.” As the graph shows, Taylor’s illogical and deceptive criticisms apply to only a small percentage of the report’s authors. Even if they had merit, Taylor’s criticisms would have insignificant impact on the Assessment’s science and data-based conclusions.
Taylor’s Forbes blog is a failed attempt to distract readers from the overwhelming data and objective facts documented in the Assessment. And those facts demonstrate the reality of industrial climate disruption, namely that it is “primarily driven by human activity” and that it is “already affecting the American people.”