“U. of Delaware Refuses to Disclose Funding Sources of Its Climate Contrarian,” read the headline from Inside Climate News. “Citing academic freedom, the president and provost decline a congressional request for funding disclosures surrounding the work of Professor David Legates.”
That would seem to be good news … until the next paragraph ominously refers to Legates as “a known climate contrarian” (known, no less). The piece continues:
Legates previously served as Delaware’s state climatologist, a role he said he was fired from in 2011 after refusing to resign. Three years earlier he was asked by then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to stop using his official title while espousing climate denial. “Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration,” Minner wrote to Legates at the time.
Politics … Governor Minner, a Democrat, was aligned with the ‘alarmist’ wing of the climate debate. But to the writer, Minner’s intervention was okay because … dissent from the political orthodoxy is not right.
In any case, the President of the University of Delaware, Patrick Harker, squashed the request thus:
Academic freedom is the freedom of the faculty to teach and speak out as the fruits of their research and scholarship dictate, even though their conclusions may be unpopular or contrary to public opinion.
“Contrary to public opinion“? Climate alarmists and their followers (including university presidents) should reconsider that assertion. As the last election showed, climate doom and higher energy prices as a policy response do not play well with the electorate. And the news this week was a new Gallup Poll that was summarized by Politico: “Americans shrug off environmental issues as partisan divide deepens.” And the Washington Times: Alarmism cools: Only 32 percent of Americans still worry about global warming, Gallup says. Another headline: Poll: America’s Fear Of Global Warming Drops To 1980s Levels.
“Legates has a long history of climate denial,” stated Inside Climate News. Three of his ‘denier’ statements are then provided:
“The sun is the key ingredient to climate…. 99.9% of the energy on the earth that goes into the climate system comes from the sun.”
This, actually, is settled science. Consult the textbook of your choice. “Essentially all energy that enters the earth’s atmosphere comes from the sun since the upward conduction of heat from the earth’s interior (due to radioactive decay) is negligible,” reads Physics of Climate, by Jose Peixoto and Abraham Oort (New York: American Institute of Physics, 1992), p. 91.
“Climate is not a constant. We go through periods where it’s much warmer, where it’s much colder. We go through periods where it’s wetter and dryer. The one thing we can say about climate in the future is that it will change.”
Compare Legates’s statement to that of James Hansen:
“Climate is always changing. Climate would fluctuate without any change of [man-made] climate forcing. The chaotic aspect of climate is an innate characteristic.”
– Hansen, “How Sensitive Is the World’s Climate?”, National Geographic Research & Exploration 9(2), 1993, p. 143.
And finally, Inside Climate News writes: “Legates says that the science speaks for itself, and that what matters is that the data supports the outcome. ‘There is not the question raised: Who funds you?‘ he said. ‘That whole discussion is really immaterial.'”
Regarding funding, the same shoe fits the alarmists. The predominant climate funder is the federal government, not private foundations, corporations, and think tanks, separately or combined. And under Obama, the federal government is very much in the business of promoting one side of the debate–and academia and government agencies are very keen in keeping their place high among government priorities. “Climate is a problem” is a gravy train for a lot of researchers, financially and in terms of self-esteem.
Peer pressure is another corrupter of science, particularly one as unsettled as the physical processes behind climate change (the basis of models and prediction). Make no mistake: taking a contrary position is a recipe for being ostracized in the climate debate, as Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry has documented in her own case.
A word of caution for the Truth Squad of climate consensus comes from none other than James Hansen:
“Injection of environmental and political perspectives in midstream of the science discussion cannot help the process of inquiry. I believe that persons with relevant scientific expertise should concentrate, with pride, on cool objective analysis, providing information to the public and decision-makers when it is found, but leaving the moral implications for later common consideration, or at most for summary inferential discussion.”
– James Hansen, 1998: book review of Sir John Houghton’s Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry, 30, 409-412 at 410.
A Global Lukewarmer
The peer-reviewed literature–and cutting-edge Internet analysis that is checking, correcting, and accelerating the journal article process–is supporting lower estimates of climate sensitivity to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Judith Curry has documented this well.
And that puts David Legates right in the mainstream of nonpoliticized, realistic climate research. As a global lukewarmer, his view is hardly radical and, in fact, commonsensical. In his words:
“At the outset, let us define what the debate is not about. The debate is not about whether our climate is changing; indeed, it always has changed on timescales ranging from decades to millennia. It is not about whether humans can influence the Earth’s climate; they certainly do. It is not about whether global air temperatures have risen over the past 160 years; they have. The real questions that define this debate are:
(1) To what extent are humans responsible for the climate change we see?
(2) What are the future consequences of climate change, from both natural and anthropogenic sources?
(3) How should we respond?”
– Legates, “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor” (2014), p. 9.
In an earlier, more scientific, less emotional time, climate scientist James Hansen had fatherly words for the David Legates of the research community. Two quotations of note:
“Skepticism thus plays an essential role in scientific research, and, far from trying to silence skeptics, science invites their contributions,” stated James Hansen. “So, too, the global warming debate benefits from traditional scientific skepticism.”
– James Hansen, “The Global Warming Debate,” January 17, 1999, p. 1.
” The prospects for having a modest climate change impact instead of a disastrous one are quite good, I think.”
– James Hansen, quoted in Andrew Revkin, “Study Proposes New Strategy to Stem Global Warming,” New York Times, August 19, 2000, p. A12.
Increasingly strained ‘consensus science’ should be on the firing line, not the skeptics of ‘settled’ science, much less the ‘settled’ science behind climate alarmism and government activism. David Legates is on a roll!
 The author, Sabrina Shankman, is profiled here.