Scant evidence for charge that EPA ‘suppressed’ dissent [Updated]
UPDATE 6/26: The Competitive Enterprise Institute released a draft of the “suppressed” report, which confirms the EPA’s explanation: The agency didn’t think much of the report because it’s authored by an economist claiming to be a climatologist.
“We have become increasingly concerned that EPA and many other agencies and countries have paid too little attention to the science of global warming,” write authors Al Carlin and John Davidson of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics. They go on to criticize the EPA’s reliance on climate science from the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Surprising absolutely no one, opponents of emissions regulation have pounced on the supposed scandal, saying it’s reason to reject the Waxman-Markey climate bill. Leading bill opponent Joe Barton (R-Texas) mentioned the report during floor debate on Friday and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), at a press conference, called it “a case of the American public denied the right to know this contrary scientific evidence.”
Courtesy katiew via Flickr Wouldn’t it be terrible if the Obama administration turned out to be manipulating science to fit its own ideology? Especially after Obama declared, to much fanfare, that “the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over”?
Yeah, that would make a helluva story: “Look, the new guy is just like the old guy!”
Well yeah, but it hasn’t happened yet, at least not in the way the Competitive Enterprise Institute claims in a release it sent this morning under the headline “BREAKING: EPA Suppresses Internal Global Warming Study.”
The free-market think tank, which has a history of intellectually hi-larious denialism, says the “Environment (sic) Protection Agency” silenced an internal dissenter in the course of its endangerment finding, a process that concluded in April that greenhouse-gases threaten public health and can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
According to CEI, the dissenter wanted to include “a significant internal critique of the agency’s global warming position” but was stifled because the report didn’t fit the political conclusion the EPA had already reached. The group published four EPA emails as evidence of political maneuvering within the agency.
And what do the emails reveal? That there’s nothing to this story. An EPA economist wanted to give scientific opinion, which wasn’t accepted—most likely because it’s outside his area of expertise and training.
The dissenter, Alan Carlin, works as a research analyst in Washington at the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE), which conducts a variety of economic analysis, including cost-benefit studies, risk assessment, and economic impact modeling. In short, it does number crunching, not scientific research.
Carlin’s personal website, Carlin Economics, reports that he received a B.S. in physics and a Ph.D. in economics and joined the EPA in 1971. It also includes links to his publications, the most recent of which support solar radiation management—a form of geoengineering—and oppose reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
If Carlin wanted to comment on the scientific causes of climate change, there’s little in his work experience or education to suggest it’s within his expertise. In an email, his supervisor at the EPA told him to stick to his own work [PDF].
The EPA said Carlin has had plenty of opportunities to present his thoughts—on both science and economics.
“Certain opinions were expressed by an individual [Carlin] who is not a scientist and was not part of the working group dealing with this issue,” said EPA spokesperson Adora Andy.
“Nevertheless, several of the opinions and ideas proposed by this individual were submitted to those responsible for developing the proposed endangerment finding. Additionally, his manager allowed his general views on the subject of climate change to be heard and considered inside and outside the EPA and presented at conferences and at an agency seminar. The individual was also granted a request to join a committee that organizes an ongoing climate seminar series, open to both agency and outside experts, where he has been able to invite speakers with a full range of views on climate science. The claims that his opinions were not considered or studied are entirely false.”
But what was it that Carlin wanted to attach to the endangerment ruling? Sam Kazman, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s general counsel, told me Carlin’s work cites research showing global warming has been caused by ocean and solar cycles, not by human-caused emissions. Kazman refused to share the document.
“On the question of whether we have a copy of any version of the report—sorry, but at this time all I can say is no comment,” Kazman wrote in an email.
So there’s your nothingburger of a story. The CEI tried to seed this false controversy in hopes that it would grow into a media kerfuffle that would slow down the EPA’s climate work or the energy and climate bill advancing toward a vote in the House this week.
One gullible blogger already took the bait. Any others who make the same error shall have their blogging license suspended for 90 days and their Twittering privileges permanently revoked. It is hereby declared.