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The Texas Petition against the U.S. EPA’s Endangerment Finding: A User’s Guide (Part II in a series)

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

“Texas’ challenge to the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon dioxide contains very little science….”

- Andrew Dessler, Gerald North, et al….., “On Global Warming, the Science Is Solid,” Houston Chronicle, March 7, 2010. [Also see yesterday's Part I post on Dessler/North.]

Last month, the State of Texas filed a petition for reconsideration in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (summary here) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Petition lays out why the EPA’s reliance on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide an assessment of climate change science was a very bad idea.

After documenting flaws in the scientific literature, flaws in scientific behavior, flaws in the IPCC process, and flaws in the IPCC’s conclusions, Texas asks the EPA to re-examine its conclusions regarding climate change and its potential impacts on human health and welfare, and this time, not to rest its conclusions on the biased opinion of the IPCC.

In other words, Texas asks the EPA to do the work themselves—something they are mandated to do anyway.

The complete Texas Petition is available here in a single pdf file. But for easier navigatation, we have broken the full Petition up into its individual sections, and linked them into the Table of Contents page, which is reproduced below.

Hopefully, this will enable you to read through it in a more directed fashion so that you can go straight to which ever section you may be most interested in and see how Texas lays out its case for Reconsideration.

The Texas Petition

I. Introduction
II. Overview
III. Standard of Review
IV. The State of Texas’ Commitment to the Environment
V. The Endangerment Finding
VI. The IPCC Report’s Central Relevance to the Endangerment Finding
     A. The Relationship between the Endangerment Finding, the IPCC and the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University’s Hadley Center
     B. The IPCC’s—and the CRU’s—Expanded Footprint
     C. The Central Relevance of the IPCC, USGCRP, and the NRC
VII. Improper Conduct Revealed by Disclosure of CRU Emails
     A. The Lack of Integrity of the IPCC’s Data
          1. The IPCC’s Manipulation of Its Climate Change Data
          2. Loss or Destruction of Critical IPCC Records
     B. IPCC’s Routine Reliance on Questionable Source Materials
          1. Conclusions on Glaciers Admittedly Wrong
          2. Findings on Chinese Weather Tainted by Allegations
          3. Rain Forest Conclusions Based on Non-Peer Reviewed Sources
     C. The Lack of Objectivity & the Suppression of Dissent
          1. The Abuse of the Peer Review Process
          2. Suppressing Dissent
     D. Conflicts of Interest between The IPCC and Some Who Profit from Its Climate Change Conclusions
     E. Lack of Transparency at IPCC Points to a Result-Oriented Process
VIII. Harm to Texas
     A. Farming and Ranching
     B. Revenue from Mineral Interests
     C. Oil and Gas Sector
IX. Fallout
X. Conclusions

Overview of  Science-related Argument

Here is a taste of what you will find inside—in this case, from the “Overview” (in Section II):

Despite the Endangerment Finding’s remarkably broad impact, EPA’s Administrator relied on a fundamentally flawed and legally unsupported methodology to reach her decision. And although the Administrator is legally required to undertake a scientific assessment before reaching a decision that is supposed to be based on scientific conclusions, the Administrator outsourced the actual scientific study, as well as her required review of the scientific literature necessary to make that assessment. In doing so, EPA relied primarily on the conclusions of outside organizations, particularly the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”).

EPA’s reliance on the IPCC’s assessment to make a decision of this magnitude is not legally supported. Since the Endangerment Finding’s public comment period ended in June, 2009, troubling revelations about the conduct, objectivity, reliability, and propriety of the IPCC’s processes, assessments, and contributors have become public. Previously private email exchanges among top IPCC climatologists reveal an entrenched group of activists focused less on reaching an objective scientific conclusion than on achieving their desired outcome. These scientists worked to prevent contravening studies from being published, colluded to hide research flaws, and collaborated to obstruct the public’s legal right to public information under open records laws.

In addition to the improper collusion and cover-ups revealed by the release of these emails, since the public comment period ended, some of the IPCC’s methodologies and conclusions have been discredited. Not surprisingly, respected scientists and climatologists from around the globe have roundly criticized and correctly questioned the IPCC’s process, while calling for programmatic reforms.

Indeed, there has been worldwide fallout from scandals enveloping the IPCC. In Britain, four separate investigations have been launched, and the British Broadcasting Corporation has convened an inquiry into the journalistic appropriateness of its IPCC coverage. India has announced that it will create its own climate change institute rather than rely exclusively on the IPCC. And the United States Department of Commerce has created a new Climate Science Institute—though it has remained noticeably silent on the scandals plaguing the IPCC.

As a result, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to prevent implementation of the Endangerment Finding and the related regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Notwithstanding the multitude and scope of these responsive measures, EPA has not indicated a willingness to review allegations that have shocked and appalled policy makers, regulators, scientists, and concerned citizens worldwide. Thus, while the State of Texas remains committed to work in cooperatively with EPA to protect the environment, this State must exercise its legal right to challenge a fundamentally flawed and legally unjustifiable process that will have a tremendously harmful impact on the lives of Texans and the Texas economy.

In light of the disturbing revelations detailed in the State’s Petition which strike directly at the heart of the objectivity, procedural legitimacy, and scientific validity of the assessments relied on by the Administrator—EPA should grant the State of Texas’ Petition for Reconsideration, conduct the rigorous, agency-led assessment that fully complies with Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) rules governing federal agency processes, and then rely on that scientifically—and legally—sound mechanism before reaching a potentially trillion-dollar decision as to whether greenhouse gases from mobile sources constitute a danger to the public health and welfare.

Dessler/North “Very Little Science Claim

The filing of the Petition prompted an op-ed article in the Houston Chronicle by Texas A&M’s Dr. Andrew Dessler and five of his colleagues who accused the Texas Petition of containing “very little science.”

This is a hollow accusation.

Texas’s Petition is not about presenting new science. It is about asking the EPA to do its own review of the science of climate change in light of the fact that the organization it has mainly relied on for assessing the science—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—as been shown in recent months to have been guided more by preconceived ideas of how they wanted the science to be, rather than what the actual science itself is. And further, and perhaps even more serious, are allegations that some aspects of existing climate change science may not even represent good, clean science, but instead, manipulation of the science by a prominent collection of influential scientists (who also are involved in the IPCC).

It seems that everyone understands this except Dessler and co-signers. A few days after the Texas Petition was filed, the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was interviewed by the Houston Chronicle’s SciGuy Eric Berger. Berger asked AG Abbott this question:

I noted that the state of Texas has a number of eminent climate scientists. Did he ask any of them about these issues before proceeding with a legal brief?

To which Abbott responded:

“Not yet and here’s why. At this stage we’re not focused on, nor need we be focused on, needing to prove anything from a scientific basis ourselves. An unceasing flow of waves in which the scientific information the EPA relied upon has been discredited. We need to be able to put to rest all the flaws in the information the EPA relies upon. There’s an unmitigated taint to the information the EPA has relied upon. The EPA can’t stick its head in the sand and ignore that, it must address that.”

Dessler and co-signers overlooked this justification in their op-ed. Abbott once again, in his own op-ed this past weekend, made perfectly clear the intent of the Petition:

The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that man-made greenhouse gas emissions — including carbon dioxide — are harmful pollutants and must be regulated. The lawsuit I filed challenging that finding does not address the disputed science surrounding global warming. Instead, it focuses on the indisputable fact that the EPA relied on information that has been discredited, manipulated, lost or destroyed, and sometimes evaded peer review. The lawsuit does not attempt to show that the globe is not warming. It does, however, show that the process used by the EPA in deciding to regulate greenhouse gases is riddled with errors that render its conclusion untrustworthy.

And that is the heart of the matter.

The Real Science Issue

The Texas’ Petition is not supposed to be about the science (nor should it be). It is about building a case why the EPA ought to take another look at the science in light of the recent indications that the science isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

While Dessler and colleagues want to discuss the existing science—in their Chronicle letter they present their own ideas of the current state of climate change science, (some details of it are somewhat debatable, see tomorrow’s post)—the issue is much broader than that.

The bigger, and more unknown problem is in the non-existing science—that is, what should be part of the current science but isn’t because of the improper practices which have taken place as evidenced in the Climategate emails and described in the Texas Petition.

Here is how I summed up the situation a few months ago:

It is not so much what has appeared in the scientific literature after ‘decades of work by thousands of scientists around the world’ regarding human-caused climate change, but what has not appeared in the literature. The Climategate emails [as described in the Texas Petition] reveal signs of manipulation of the peer-review process, and what’s worse, intimidation of individual researchers, from a group of prominent scientists who seek to closely guard their view of the evidence and are who are largely intolerant of countervailing hypothesis or interpretations. The degree to which the extant scientific literature can be judged a fair representation of what our scientific understanding may have been like absent these tactics is impossible to ascertain. The unfortunate, but undeniable side effect, is that the foundation of state, national, and international assessments of the potential impacts of climate change and considerations of what actions may be necessary to mitigate them has been shaken—not by what our knowledge is, but by what it should be. The latter of which, through the actions revealed in the emails, has been rendered largely unknowable.

This is the aspect that Dessler and co-signers want to brush under the carpet, because this aspect is particularly difficult, if not downright impossible to overcome in the short run—and thus may set back the EPA’s ability to make an defensible assessment of the potential impacts of climate change for many years to come. It is that bad.

See for yourself by exploring the Texas Petition above. And when you are through with Texas’ submission, you can look through the eight other Petitions for Reconsideration received thus far by the EPA. They can be found, in their entirety, here.

6 comments

1 Charles { 03.18.10 at 2:47 am }

It is good to see people as yourself Chip maintaining the pressure on this issue. What is really at stake is the integrity of scientists everywhere, and it is quite clear that the climate scientists have bastardised the scientific process for their own benefit, and this will cast a pall over scientists everywhere.

I do not think this abuse of scientific principles and processes is confined to climate scientists, but we have caught them out this time. Therefore, now we need to penalise them and bring them to account, so that other fields of science are less inclined to follow down this road.

2 Windy City Kid { 03.18.10 at 6:41 am }

NCDC annual temperature data 1895 through 2009 show a warming trend of 0.0F degrees/decade. How is it that with a 35% increase in CO2 for that time period there is absolutely no increase in temperature?

3 Andrew { 03.18.10 at 10:40 am }

Windy City Kid-I get 0.12 degF / Decade, how did you get 0?

4 Andrew { 03.18.10 at 12:43 pm }

The way I see it, the crux of the EPA’s ability to regulate CO2 emissions, lies in the claim that AGW would have a negative effect on US wealth and health. Although AGW would have global effects, the US is more relevant in this case because the term “public health and welfare” obviously applies to the people and economy of the United States. Based on this it should be a simple matter of looking at the climate of the US in the last century and see if it has gotten “worse” and if that has effected our health and wealth with similar worsening trends. Death rates due to all sorts of weather have declined pretty dramatically, including heat waves as you know, and damages from weather events show trends until you account for increasing population and wealth and inflation after which upward trends always disappear. I’ve looked at the literature on everything I can think of and the climate in the US has not become “worse” in any measure nor are there evident trends in the effects which can be attributed to AGW. That should be case closed.

By the way Chip, I’ve been looking all over the place and I am wondering if you know whether Robert Davis has done any recent updates of his work on Nor’Easters from the 90′s.

[Andrew, I am pretty much in agreement with you. I don't think Bob Davis has updated his Nor'Easter work, but I'll check with him and let you know if it is otherwise. -Chip]

5 Richard W. Fulmer { 03.18.10 at 1:19 pm }

I believe that Greg Abbott is wise to demand that the EPA make its own determination about the climate impact of man-made CO2 emissions before regulating those emissions.

For years, we were told that a mountain of scientific data existed conclusively proving that CO2 generated by human activity would bring about world-wide catastrophe. Any attempts to question that data or even to see it, however, were met with a wall of invective and moral posturing. Global warming scientists demanded that we consent to the expenditure of trillions of dollars in resources (and to the pollution that the production of those resources would entail) based on nothing more than our faith in the integrity of their research and on the hope that their untested solutions would make the problem better rather than worse.

We have recently learned that much of the evidence was made up of exaggerated claims, suppressed data, and computer projections generated from cherry-picked temperature readings. With amazing speed, the “mountain of data” has dwindled to a molehill, and it is upon this lump that the EPA plans to erect its CO2 emissions regulations.

If global warming does, in fact, place “Earth in the balance,” we cannot risk actions that are little more than nationwide, perhaps worldwide, experiments. The more serious the problem is, the less we can afford “solutions” that may only make it worse. Unfortunately, EPA regulations could do just that by driving energy-intensive industry out of the United States and into countries with less efficient industrial bases. The net effect could well be increased global CO2 emissions. Learning whether a response to global warming is warranted and, if so, how to respond effectively can only be done through honest research and open debate. EPA actions based on fraudulent data, doctored to meet preconceived notions, could lead to loss of life and squandered resources.

6 Consumer Energy Alliance { 03.22.10 at 4:25 pm }

Allowing access to domestic oil and natural gas resources as part of a comprehensive energy strategy would significantly reduce U.S. reliance on imports, improve domestic energy security, diversify supply, increase economic development and generate local, state and federal revenue. EPA policy should support a national energy policy that provides a comprehensive, long-term solution to help the United States meet ongoing and future global energy challenges by ensuring proper development of all available energy resources, long-term price stability for consumers, enhanced national energy and economic security, and a consistent regulatory structure for industry.

Want to learn more about balanced energy for America? Visit http://www.consumerenergyalliance.org to get involved, discover CEA’s mission and sign up for our informative newsletter.

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