Perry Continues His Anti-Science Crusade

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Although I doubt Gov. Perry would wear tinfoil on his head – and muss up that beautiful head of hair!? – he’s most definitely thrown in with the conspiracy theory crowd on the wacky “Climategate” affair. Yesterday, Perry sent a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson demanding that she withdraw the agency’s finding, announced yesterday, that greenhouse gasses pose a threat to public health and welfare.

Perry’s letter is two-and-a-half pages of invective dressed up as rational argument culled, one assumes, from the climate denial camp’s Internet outposts.

If you don’t follow these sort of things, “Climategate” is the latest scandal du jour hyped by skeptics as the final blow to anthropogenic global warming. The tornado-in-a-shot-glass controversy revolves around the stolen emails of researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in England.

Skeptics have seized upon certain emails that they’re trying to spin as incontrovertible proof of a global conspiracy of evil scientists to fool the public into thinking that the earth is warming…

Why?

Because the all-powerful enviro-fascists have taken over the universities, the peer-review process and the United Nations. Duh. Evidently, the vast plot has been so successful that they’ve fooled the governments of the world into meeting this week in Copenhagen, Denmark to work on a climate treaty.

The diabolical scheme has played out for decades and perhaps began as early as 1824 when Joseph Fourier first posited that atmospheric gasses might increase surface temperatures. You think it’s just a coincidence that the Rothschilds were coming to power around that time?

But, have no fear, Professor Perry is on the case. By the third paragraph of his letter, he’s fully exposed one of history’s greatest scientific frauds:

The disclosure of potentially fraudulent and criminal behavior requires that the EPA conduct an independent and public review of the science prior to implementing these findings and regulations. It would be unsconscionable for the EPA to ignore what appear to be systematic attempts by certain scientists to achieve preordained results, as well as efforts by the same scientists to discredit and censor others who reached conclusions differing from official [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] dogma.

Presumably, Perry is referring to a handful of emails – out of thousands spanning a decade – that if read in the worst possible light could indicate some funny business.

For example, in one message one scientist writes about a “trick” that allows him to “hide the decline.” The skeptics think – or want the lay public to think – that this is some sort of “smoking gun,” proving that researchers are going out of their way to disguise the cooling of the planet. An understanding of the technical issue being discussed shows that their is no nefariousness involved.

British science journalist Fred Pearce has a nice capsule summary of the issue in a longer article on how climate scientists screwed up their response to the scandal.

Even a cursory reading of the e-mail shows that is not the case. In fact the “trick” — more sensibly described as a graphic device — was used by Michael Mann in a 1998 paper in Nature in which he added aggregated temperature records from instruments to complete a set of temperature data derived from tree rings.

Although there may have been some unprofessional behavior indicated in the emails there is no indication that any temperature data was deleted, much less anything that would undermine the overwhelming amount of evidence that catastrophic climate change is highly likely in this centuary.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, among many other credible groups, has taken a sober, informed look at the matter and has concluded contra Perry:

While the emails do raise some valid concerns about scientific integrity, the email content being quoted does not indicate that climate data and research have been compromised. Most importantly, nothing in the content of these stolen emails has any impact on our overall understanding that human activities are driving dangerous levels of global warming. Media reports and contrarian claims that they do are inaccurate.

[...]

The thousands of stolen emails span more than a decade. Whoever stole them could only produce a handful of messages that, when taken out of context, might seem suspicious to people who are not familiar with the intimate details of climate science.

Opponents of climate action have been attacking climate science for years. The fact that out-of-context personal attacks on scientists are the most successful argument they can offer speaks volumes about their failure to gain any traction by arguing against the evidence.

Their strategy has unfortunate consequences, too. On December 8, the Guardian reported that University of East Anglia scientists have been receiving death threats.

But Perry thinks the feds should abandon any efforts to regulate greenhouse gasses. In fact, they ought to take a page from the Texas playbook and shred the regulatory system

Rather than making it more difficult to produce domestic energy and build new facilities that provide good jobs for our citizens, the EPA and other federal agencies should focus on streamlining the regulatory process and removing barriers for air permits. This would allow replication of Texas’ economic, energy and clean air successes in other states.

The governor takes a high-minded, considered tone in this letter but really this is just another chapter in his seemingly never-ending crusade against the world of facts and science.

Calling for an abandonment of greenhouse gas regulation because of some relatively minor academic unprofessionalism, as Perry is doing, is like scrapping a new truck because you scratched the bed when moving a desk. Such a radical act leads a reasonable person to conclude that you might have ulterior motives.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.