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Andrew Dessler and Gerald North on Climategate, Climate Alarmism, and the State of Texas’s Challenge to the U.S. EPA’s Endangerment Finding (Part I in a series)

[The other posts in this series on the activism of Texas A&M climatologists are here: Part IIPart IIIPart IV, and Part V]

On March 7th, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial by two Texas A&M climate scientists, Andrew Dessler and Gerald North (et al.):  “On Global Warming, the Science is Solid.” The op-ed argued that Climategate was a mere distraction and that climate science was settled in favor of alarm–both points being intended to challenge the State of Texas’s Petition for Rehearing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding, which was based on a belief of “settled science.”

A week later, a response/defense followed in the Chronicle, written by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: “State Suing for Responsible Scientific Conclusions.” His argument was that significant scientific uncertainties (nonsettled science) were tweaked away at Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England, and major errors in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have come to light.

Challenging the Dessler/North (et al.) Op-Ed

The general problem of the Dessler opinion piece was oversimplification and the use of half-truths. I took issue with it in this (unpublished) letter-to-the-editor that I sent to the Chronicle:

[This op-ed] is a perfect example of groupthink, argument from authority, and agenda-driven science. If climate alarmism is really settled science as asserted by the coauthors, then why did their leading brethren get caught desperately communicating with such phrases as “the lack of warming” and “hide the decline”? Why did these leading scientists refuse to release their data and methods? Why are hearings being held and official temperature reconstructions now underway? Climategate, the Enron of science, is not fiction but fact.

Six weeks ago, hundreds of Houstonians witnessed two global warming debates, one hosted by the Houston Forum and the other by two science groups at Rice University. One of the two participants, Richard Lindzen, Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, debated one of the authors of this op-ed, Gerald North of Texas A&M.

Dr. Lindzen’s viewpoint was that climate science has been politicized by the likes of Al Gore; that carbon dioxide warming is modest and probably beneficial; and that the whole dizzying debate between natural and manmade warming after a century of greenhouse gas buildup concerns tenths of one degree, hardly a basis for alarm.

There are strong arguments against a Climategate-is-small, science-is-settled rationale behind climate alarm and policy activism–and thus against the U.S. EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and a danger to human health. A scientific case can be made that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are positive, not negative, for the environment and society. Part of this conclusion has come from my decade-plus interaction with Gerald North, a co-author of the piece in question.

MasterResource Posts to Come

This is the first in a series at MasterResource regarding the pushback by Texas A&M climate scientists against the Texas Petition and, more generally, their pushback against the breakdown of the ‘scientific consensus’ of climate alarmism.

Part II (tomorrow) will  post a summary of the Texas Petition for Rehearing regarding Climategate and IPCC science.  Chip Knappenberger will provide commentary.

Part III (Friday) will offer a point-by-point rebuttal to the above linked op-ed which I feel is subtly deceptive and obfuscates the real issues by attacking straw men.

Part IV next week will examine some emails from Gerald North (most from his/our Enron consulting period) that show climate alarmism in a somewhat different light, and thus suggest that North and other “mainstream” scientists have circled the wagons and not confronted Climategate’s agenda-driven, ends-justifies-the-means perversion of scientific endeavor.

Let’s Pull Back the Curtain Some More

The thousand Climategate emails, reproduced and categorized on the Internet and summarized in book form by two self-described ‘global lukewarmers’, speak for themselves.

The communications to and from the IPCC insiders reveal much more than just a lack of ethics and professionalism. The treasure trove confirms the worst suspicions that a lot of us have harbored as a result of having interacted with alarmist scientists (including Tom Wigley of NCAR, who tried to silence my skeptical views while I was at Enron with a scathing letter to CEO Ken Lay).

There are thousands more unearthed emails from climate scientists that also need to see the light of day to inform the current debate–and give philosophers and historians of science more data for their stocktaking of this debate.

To this end, I have retrieved more than a decade of emails between many leading climate scientists on all sides of the scientific debate and myself. Many of these involve Dr. North in a professional capacity as a paid consultant for Enron. And I believe that they will show a “skeptic” side that has been sacrificed to a help-our-colleagues, save-the-IPCC mentality at Texas A&M.

Political activist Andrew Dessler has been in the middle of this, and Dr. North seems to have gone hard Left to join him. This, in my view, is a very negative development that should be exposed and debated by all of us. (I welcome their rebuttal here or at another website.)

May a more informed debate–and a narrowing of one’s private and public opinions–ensue.


1 stan price { 03.17.10 at 11:40 am }

stay after their a$$! somehow we need to stop this bs!

2 denis { 03.17.10 at 1:34 pm }

Recent “warming” is following a long cooling duration – the “little ice age”, so is clearly an expected variation. Furthermore, it’s still not as warm as the Medieval Warming Period (and a couple of other earlier even warmer periods also during this interglacial, (and long before AGW was possible) so the response is within natural variation. CO2 is somewhat higher than in the past, and been increasing very slowly (2ppm) by volume per year, (and man is contributing to that). There’s no need to crash industrial nations or cede more power to government (cap & trade) although also no reason not to begin emphasizing use of REALISTIC alternative energy – namely natural gas and nuclear (and water) power. (Solar and wind will always need backup, so no point unless/until that issue is resolved.) While some portion of the warming could be man-made, the temperature remains within natural variation, so there’s NO way to prove any of part of the warming is anthropogenic!

3 Peter Bobroff { 03.17.10 at 2:58 pm }

I am building a web site on the IPCC World with AR4 taken apart into all the people, papers, journal, responsibilities, references etc. I have linked the 1000 emails to their senders and receivers and could have a go at automatically linking in your emails. I would like to collect all the public statements from those prominent.

4 Chris { 03.19.10 at 11:20 am }

“May a more informed debate–and a narrowing of one’s private and public opinions–ensue.”

You mean I can’t tell any aggie jokes here? Frankly, that was the first thing I thought of when I read that op-ed letter.

5 Chris { 03.19.10 at 11:24 am }

Here’s a climate joke: Houston has a new evacuation plan for the next hurricane: UT grads (or fans) leave Houston via TX 290 (i.e., it leads to Austin). SMU and TCU grads leave Houston via I-45 (i.e. it leads to Dallas). Graduates and/or fans of the PAC-10 leave Houston on I-10 west (goes to San Antonio, El Paso, etc.). LSU/SEC fans leave Houston via I-10 east (goes through Beaumont, New Orleans, etc.). Graduates/fans of Texas A&M leave Houston via Loop 610.

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