The EPA ignored internal non-expert comments cut-and-pasted from anti-science deniers
Many of the top climate scientists in the world issued a major synthesis report reviewing the scientific literature since the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). They found “greenhouse gas emissions and many aspects of the climate are changing near the upper boundary of the IPCC range of projections.” In short, actual observations show things are much worse than the IPPC found. Duh! and Duh! and Duh! Media coverage level: bupkis! Technorati links to report released June 18: 6.
One EPA economist, Alan Carlin, cuts and pastes some disinformation from a denier blog post in order to (falsely) assert that the EPA’s endangerment finding is flawed because
- “In the rapidly evolving field of climate change, by grounding its TSD Technical Support Documents in the IPCC AR4 the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date.”
- “Important developments” since the IPCC cast doubt on its conclusions.
Media coverage level of this crap, whose entire conclusion was vitiated by the earlier synthesis by real scientists: Michael Jackson [adjusted for subject area]! Technorati links to “report” posted by deniers on June 25: 61.
THE MEDIA PREFERS FABRICATED DRAMA TO GENUINE FACTS
When a government agency doesn’t incorporate plagiarized disinformation into their work product, is that suppression – or your tax dollars working the way they’re supposed to, with decisions based on sound science? Deniers like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Roger Pielke, Jr. say it’s the former, and they have spun some of the more gullible members of the status quo media, like CBS, who reported Friday:
Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA center director quashed a 98-page report that warned against making hasty “decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”
Well, this “report” was actually first just “proposed comments” and then actual “Comments on the Draft Technical Support Documents for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act.”
I worked in a federal agency for five years. Lots of internal people provide comments on draft documents. Some of it’s good, some of it’s irrelevant, and some is outright disinformation – typically the latter is from holdovers from a previous administration. In this case, it actually looks like the comments were
- Unadulterated and long-debunked disinformation
- From someone unqualified on the subject about which they are writing
- Cut and pasted from a blog without attribution
- Delivered too late and not actually germane
Such comments should not be incorporated into an official government document – certainly not without a serious inquiry first. They might, however, be the basis of an advserse employment action, as the euphemism goes.
largely lifted from an attack on the EPA published last November in climate science disinformation specialist Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report [WCR]. And all this came without any attribution of the large swathes of copied material to WCR or the original author (presumably either Michaels or sidekick Chip Knappenberger).
I won’t repeat the entire Deep Climate analysis, but let me quote from the central thesis of the WCR November 19, 2008 post: Why the EPA should find against “Endangerment”:
However, the Endangerment TSD is largely a dated document which relies heavily on the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s AR4 was published in the spring of 2007, but to meet the deadline for inclusion in the AR4, scientific papers had to be published by late 2005/early 2006. So, in the rapidly evolving field of climate change, by grounding its TSD in the IPCC AR4 the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by late 2008, nearly 3 years out of date.
And a lot has happened in those intervening three years.
And from the EPA “report,” with duplicated language in bold:
Although a real effort has been made to introduce references to more recent CCSP reports, the draft endangerment TSD is largely a dated document which relies primarily on the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A lot has happened in those intervening three years since the input deadline for AR4. The IPCC’s AR4 was published in the spring of 2007, but to meet the deadline for inclusion in the AR4, scientific papers had to be accepted for publication by early 2006. Given the lag between submission and acceptance the real cut-off for new research was even earlier. So, in the rapidly evolving field of climate change, by grounding its TSD in the IPCC AR4 the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date. [Emphasis added]
Deep Climate shows that again and again Carlin (stole) borrowed from WCR – sometimes entire paragraphs verbatim as well as numerous graphs without any attribution whatsoever. That used to be called plagiarism, but for Roger Pielke, Jr., it makes the Carlin “suppression” equal to the suppression of NASA’s James Hansen under Bush. But then, Pielke never could distinguish between disinformation and accurate scientific information (see “Why do deniers like Pielke shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?“). In fact, the two cases couldn’t possibly be more different as NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explains here. I would add one more difference: Hansen is one of our leading climate scientists and has never been accused of a basic firing offense like plagiarsm, whereas, as Deep Climate writes:
So there you have it. Four key sections of Carlin’s masterpiece, and indeed his central guiding premise, were lifted directly from an intellectually vacuous and misleading attack on the EPA on a blog run by a PR disinformation spinmeister with a long history of links to fossil fuel interests. And, of course, none of this was attributed to World Climate Report or the author (presumably Pat Michaels or Chip Knappenburger), compounding the shoddy misleading “scholarship” with outright plagiarism….
I fervently hope that now real and hard questions will start to be asked about the role of the major particpants in the shameful orchestrated attack on the EPA, starting with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Carlin himself. And it’s also high time to subject to greater scrutiny the fossil fuel companies and their PR surrogates who are behind the dissemination of so much of the gross misinformation that made up the Carlin report.
As for the EPA itself, it might want to check out some of Carlin’s other past work – who knows what other shenanigans might lurk. The only faintly embarrassing question the EPA needs to answer now is this: How did Alan Carlin ever manage to stay on the payroll for so long?
And Carlin didn’t even copy particularly good disinformation.
As I have shown in many dozens of blog posts on Climate Progress, there is a vast and growing scientific literature since the IPCC stopped accepting new research for its 2007 report – literature that makes clear the situation is much more dire than what the IPCC found. See, for instance, “High Water: Greenland ice sheet melting faster than expected and could raise East Coast sea levels an extra 20 inches by 2100 – to more than 6 feet,” which highlights a half dozen studies that sharply increase sea level rise projections above the IPCC estimate – notwithstanding Carlin’s laughable assertion that “The idea that warming temperatures will cause Greenland to rapidly shed its ice has been greatly diminished.”
Carlin’s “analysis” of Greenland is especially disingenuous given his central argument that the 2007 IPCC report overestimated climate impacts. The ice sheet is suffering staggering ice loss now – see “Two trillion tons of land ice lost since 2003, rate of Greenland summer ice loss triples 2007 record” – which is all the more worrisome because it was not predicted by the IPCC’s climate models, which have largely ignored ice dynamics. The IPCC underestimated a major impact here.
And that is a central point of the major synthesis report released in June that the media largely ignored. Unlike Carlin’s crap, this is the real deal:
Since the production of the IPCC report, new knowledge has emerged that furthers understanding of the impacts of human influence on the climate and the response options and approaches that are available to tackle this complex issue. To bring this new knowledge together, the International Alliance of Research Universitiesi organised an international scientific congress on climate change, Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions, which was held in Copenhagen from 10-12 March 2009. Participation in the Congress was open to all. Most of the approximately 2500 people attending the Congress were researchers, many of whom have also been contributors to the IPCC reports. Participants came from nearly 80 different countries and contributed with more than 1400 scientific presentations. Abstracts for all of the scientific presentations made can be found at http://www.iop.org/EJ/volume/1755-1315/6.
The report has been produced by a writing team comprised of members of the Scientific Steering Committee for the IARU Congress and individuals invited to give the writing team academic and geographic breadth. It is based on the 16 plenary talks given at the Congress as well as input from over 80 chairs and cochairs of the 58 parallel sessions held at the Congress. The names of the plenary speakers and the chairs and co-chairs of the parallel sessions can be found on the inside cover of this volume. The writing team has, in addition to presentations at the Congress, drawn upon recent publications in the scientific literature to create this synthesis.
This report has been critically reviewed by representatives of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP)ii, by the parallel session chairs and co-chairs, and by up to four independent researchers from each IARU university. This extensive review process has been implemented to ensure that the messages contained in the report are solidly and accurately based on the new research produced since the last IPCC Report, and that they faithfully reflect the most recent work of the international climate change research community.
You may have noticed a slight difference in the process by which this synthesis report was put together and what Carlin did. And that slight difference – otherwise known as scientific analysis and synthesis performed by actual scientists and peer-reviewed by other scientists – leads to a somewhat different set of conclusions:
Recent observations show that greenhouse gas emissions and many aspects of the climate are changing near the upper boundary of the IPCC range of projections. Many key climate indicators are already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which contemporary society and economy have developed and thrived. These indicators include global mean surface temperature, sealevel rise, global ocean temperature, Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. With unabated emissions, many trends in climate will likely accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts….
Since 2007, reports comparing the IPCC projections of 1990 with observations show that some climate indicators are changing near the upper end of the range indicated by the projections or, as in the case of sea level rise (Figure 1), at even greater rates than indicated by IPCC projections. Grasping the significance of such observations requires an understanding of climate change that goes beyond the warming of the atmosphere….
Current estimates indicate that ocean warming is about 50% greater than had been previously reported by the IPCC. The new estimates help to better explain the trend in sea level that has been observed in recent decades as most of the sea-level rise observed until recently has been the result of thermal expansion of seawater.
One of the most dramatic developments since the last IPCC Report is the rapid reduction in the area of Arctic sea ice in summer….
So EPA was absolutely correct in dismissing Carlin’s too-late, not-germane, unscientific cut-and-paste job.
Yes, the EPA might have handled the affair better, but there is no ideal way of dealing with a civil servant determined to push disinformation into the system. In my experience, if you try to reject it, the person will inevitably leak it to the media, which never bothers to check the underlying substance when it has a juicy story. I would not be surprised if Carlin ends up at some denier organization, which may be his purpose all along.
One presumes his bosses know that he is not a scientist and that he has previously published papers arguing absurd things like “Reducing GHG emissions to the extent proposed by advocates, even if achievable, would cost many trillions of dollars, and is best viewed as a last resort rather than the preferred strategy.” Yes, mitigation should be the “last resort” for avoiding catastrophic global warming. What is this guy doing at the Environmental Protection Agency?
It is difficult to overstate just how weak Carlin’s comments are from a scientific perspective. But for completeness’s sake let me excerpt the debunking from NASA’s Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate:
[The] main points are nicely summarised thus: a) the science is so rapidly evolving that IPCC (2007) and CCSP (2009) reports are already out of date, b) the globe is cooling!, c) the consensus on hurricane/global warming connections has moved from uncertain to ambiguous, d) Greenland is not losing mass, no sirree…, e) the recession will save us!, f) water vapour feedback is negative!, and g) Scafetta and West’s statistical fit of temperature to an obsolete solar forcing curve means that all other detection and attribution work is wrong. From this “evidence”, they then claim that all variations in climate are internal variability, except for the warming trend which is caused by the sun, oh and by the way the globe is cooling.
One can see a number of basic flaws here; the complete lack of appreciation of the importance of natural variability on short time scales, the common but erroneous belief that any attribution of past climate change to solar or other forcing means that CO2 has no radiative effect, and a hopeless lack of familiarity of the basic science of detection and attribution.
But it gets worse; what solid, peer-reviewed science do they cite for support? A heavily-criticised blog posting showing that there are bi-decadal periods in climate data and that this proves it was the sun wot done it. The work of an award-winning astrologer (one Theodor Landscheidt, who also thought that the rise of Hitler and Stalin were due to cosmic cycles), a classic Courtillot paper we’ve discussed before, the aforementioned FoS web page, another web page run by Doug Hoyt, a paper by Garth Paltridge reporting on artifacts in the NCEP reanalysis of water vapour that are in contradiction to every other reanalysis, direct observations and satellite data, a complete reprint of another un-peer reviewed paper by William Gray, a nonsense paper by Miskolczi etc. etc. I’m not quite sure how this is supposed to compete with the four rounds of international scientific and governmental review of the IPCC or the rounds of review of the CCSP reports….
They don’t even notice the contradictions in their own cites. For instance, they show a figure that demonstrates that galactic cosmic ray and solar trends are non-existent from 1957 on, and yet cheerfully quote Scafetta and West who claim that almost all of the recent trend is solar driven! They claim that climate sensitivity is very small while failing to realise that this implies that solar variability can’t have any effect either. They claim that GCM simulations produced trends over the twentieth century of 1.6 to 3.74ºC – which is simply (and bizarrely) wrong (though with all due respect, that one seems to come directly from Mr. Gregory). Even more curious, Carlin appears to be a big fan of geo-engineering, but how this squares with his apparent belief that we know nothing about what drives climate is puzzling. A sine qua non of geo-engineering is that we need models to be able to predict what is likely to happen, and if you think they are all wrong, how could you have any faith that you could effectively manage a geo-engineering approach?
Finally, they end up with the oddest claim in the submission: That because human welfare has increased over the twentieth century at a time when CO2 was increasing, this somehow implies that no amount of CO2 increases can ever cause a danger to human society. This is just boneheadly stupid.
So in summary, what we have is a ragbag collection of un-peer reviewed web pages, an unhealthy dose of sunstroke, a dash of astrology and more cherries than you can poke a cocktail stick at. Seriously, if that’s the best they can do, the EPA’s ruling is on pretty safe ground.
If I were the authors, I’d suppress this myself, and then go for a long hike on the Appalachian Trail….
But while plagiarism of denier talking points that have been long-debunked in the scientific literature may pass for important input to government deliberation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute or on the blog of Roger Pielke, Jr., for the rest of us – traditional media included – the only investigation that should be going on is to answer the question Deep Climate posed, “How did Alan Carlin ever manage to stay on the payroll for so long?“
UPDATE: See also the Examiner.com’s, “CBS jumps a Whale Shark,” which comments on the CBS piece I link to:
There are plenty of instances in the traditional media of honest mistakes or just plain sloppy journalism when it comes to science reporting. Then there are times when the only explanation is naked complicity in spreading disinformation. CBS has clearly crossed the line into the latter to a degree that should leave any premium news organization embarrassed.