Inhofe's Pre-Christmas List

23 December 2007

Former real estate developer and failed insurance company president James Inhofe (R-OK) passionately believes that the overwhelming majority of published climate scientists and scientific organizations have simply got it all wrong when they say that global warming is mostly due to anthropogenic emissions. In the past, he has called the Environmental Protection Agency a "Gestapo bureaucracy" and said that "Global Warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Oh yeah, and he has received $972,973 from the Oil & Gas industries, $337,313 from Electric Utilities, $211,350 from the Automotive industry, and $133,300 from the Mining industry.

This past week, Inhofe (along with conservative journalist Marc Morano) released an insanely padded list of "400 Prominent Scientists [Who] Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007."

Apparently it's not a strict requirement that any of these "prominent scientists" actually be "scientists" at all. Included in the list is Christopher Monckton, who Inhofe simply calls a "climate researcher." Monckton has a degree in journalism, but has neither any training nor any experience in climate science. Inhofe would have been more accurate to describe Monckton as an "amateur," since it is blatantly misleading to call him a "climate researcher." Oh, and Monckton also seems to believe that he is a member of the House of Lords, despite the fact that "The House of Lords Act 1999 disqualified all hereditary peers for membership of the House, but excepted from this general exclusion 90 hereditary peers" (note: Monckton was not among the 90).

Apparently, you didn't need to actually deny the idea that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming in order to make the list, either. Among those listed as "prominent scientists" is Ray Kurzweil (who isn't really a scientist per se, but is rather a brilliant inventor who created "the first true electric piano"). He made the list simply for saying this:

None of the global warming discussions mention the word ‘nanotechnology. Yet nanotechnology will eliminate the need for fossil fuels within 20 years. If we captured 1% of 1% of the sunlight (1 part in 10,000) we could meet 100% of our energy needs without ANY fossil fuels. We can't do that today because the solar panels are too heavy, expensive, and inefficient. But there are new nanoengineered designs that are much more effective. Within five to six years, this technology will make a significant contribution
Basically, despite the fact that Kurzweil has said "I think global warming is real," and is not in any way a climate scientist, he made this list simply for believing that nano-technology will fix the problem in the future. I wish him luck, and hope he can make good use of his skills in this arena, but I also want to highlight how horribly dishonest Inhofe is being by using such examples to pad his list and make his case that "prominent scientists" reject the "consensus." This is really just so much sleight of hand.

As another example, Inhofe included John Maunder (an actual climate scientist) simply for saying that climate science will never be "fully understood." Seriously. The bar is set pretty low here.

Nonetheless, I'm sure that plenty of the people on this list genuinely believe, as Inhofe does, that this is all just some made-up bad science, and the scientific community at large (particularly all those peer-reviewed journals and scientific organizations) has simply engaged in some sort of mass-hysteria. But who are these people, and do their opinions on climate science really matter?

Although this point should be obvious, it's worth pointing out that being a "scientist" does not make one a "climate scientist," or mean that you have any relevant qualifications. As atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler puts it:

To understand why Inhofe's claims are fundamentally bogus, consider the following scenario: imagine a child is diagnosed with cancer. Who are his parents going to take him to in order to determine the best course of treatment?

Most people would take the child to a specialist. Not just someone with a PhD in a technical subject, but an actual medical doctor. And not just any medical doctor, but someone who was a specialist in cancer. And not just any specialist in cancer, but someone who was a specialist in pediatric cancer. And, if possible, not just any pediatric oncologist, but someone who specialized in that particular type of cancer.

Expertise matters. Not everyone's opinion is equally valid.

The list of skeptics on the EPW blog contains few bona fide climate specialists. In fact, the only criteria to get on the list, as far as I can tell, is having a PhD and some credential that makes you an academic. So Freeman Dyson makes lists. While I'm certain he's a smart guy, I would not take a sick child to him

Also, for those who do have the relevant qualifications, have they been publishing their research in peer-reviewed journals? If so, has anyone responded to their claims? I don't really have the time or patience to go through the entire list, but I would tend not to trust Inhofe's evaluation. Especially given the fact that I could already see so many sneaky tricks from just a cursory glance at this list.

UPDATE: More on Inhofe's touted peer reviewed publications here.

UPDATE II: Included in the list of 400 is "CBS Chicago affiliate Chief Meteorologist Steve Baskerville." Joseph Romm looked into this TV weatherman and found that “Baskerville is an alumnus of Temple University and holds a Certificate in Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State University.” Yeah, these guys don't seem like the most "prominent scientists" in the world.

UPDATE III: This list mentions three geomagnetism scientists. (h/t Climate Progress)

UPDATE IV: Agnes Genevey:
Agnes Genevey — whose “research” on global warming is brutally picked apart by RealClimate here and especially here (and again here by other scientists), who together “expose a pattern of suspicious errors and omissions that pervades” their work.
UPDATE V: You can always count on FOX News journalists like Brit Hume to pass these memes along.
FOX News Alert: "More than 400 scientists are challenging claims by Al gore and the United Nations about the threat from man-made global warming."

UPDATE VI: Mark Steyn, filling in on Hannity & Colmes, says this: "A new Senate report reveals that more than 400 scientists disputed the global warming is man made. Will Al Gore now stop saying that the climate crisis is not up for debate?" Despite the fact that the list did not require you to be a scientist or to dispute that claim.

Oh, and here is the graphic they chose to show:

UPDATE VII: Inhofe describes John McLean as a "climate data analyst" and "prominent scientist." Despite the fact that McLean is described elsewhere as merely having an "amateur interest in global warming," and he apparently has no relevant qualifications or publications. This is really pretty silly.

UPDATE VIII: Inhofe says this:
Only 52 Scientists Participated in UN IPCC Summary
The over 400 skeptical scientists featured in this new report outnumber by nearly eight times the number of scientists who participated in the 2007 UN IPCC Summary for Policymakers. The notion of “hundreds” or “thousands” of UN scientists agreeing to a scientific statement does not hold up to scrutiny.
Yet he fails to explain that his "52" number only encompasses the brief Summary For Policymakers issued with the report.

Furthermore, Inhofe fails to explain that his "400" number was not a group of scientists who banded together and issued a joint statement. Instead, it's a collection of quotes Inhofe and his staffers probably found through Google searches. It was not a requirement that any of these people actually be scientists, and it was not a requirement that any of them actually dispute the idea that anthropogenic emissions contribute the most to our recent warming.

UPDATE IX: Just to remind everyone, Inhofe has a long history of passing along false, misleading, and discredited memes to make his case that our recent warming trend is not caused by anthropogenic emissions.

For example, he has touted the 1998 Oregon Petition this past year, claiming that "17,800 scientists" dispute the idea that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming. Despite the fact that the petition was available online for anyone to sign, it did not require that you have any relevant background (or any scientific training whatsoever), and pranksters were able to include Star Wars characters and Spice Girls on the list. There were other problems with this petition as well, but I highly recommend just reading this story in Scientific American.

Also this past year, Inhofe has been pushing a meme that "only 7%" of published scientists believe that anthropogenic emissions drive global warming, based on a study that couldn't even get published in a contrarian-friendly (non-ISI listed) journal.

UPDATE X: Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner are also listed by Inhofe, despite the fact that both believe anthropogenic global warming to be very real. From the executive summary of one of their papers:
We face a problem of anthropogenic climate change, but the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 has failed to tackle it.
It's a very interesting paper, by the way. But I just wanted to highlight again how dishonest it is for Inhofe to conflate "Disput[ing] Man-Made Warming Claims" with a policy difference on how to best handle anthropogenic warming.
(h/t Grist)

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