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Professor Perry Sues EPA, Lectures on Climate Change

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I had a long post on the announcement this morning that Perry is suing the EPA over greenhouse gas regulation. But, alas, the new blog system ate my words.

I’ll say this: Perry is up to his neck in pseudo-scientific gobbledygook and he’s bringing Attorney General Abbott and Ag Commissioner Todd Staples along with him. The (“frivolous“) lawsuit today is neither a legal nor scientific document. It is a political one: poorly-reasoned, poorly-sourced and containing enough tin-foil hat conspiracies to block a Mexican border blaster.

However, I’m sure it will please the conspiracy-minded tea party crowd and the Big Money donors in the fossil fuel industries. The lawsuit can’t possibly be intended for anyone who has even a cursory understanding of climate science.

In the second paragraph, there’s already a tip-off that the thing was thrown together. The document refers to the International Panel on Climate Change. Problem is, there’s no such thing. There is an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the world authority on the issue that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Even though Perry & Co. can’t spell the group’s name right, they feel qualified to viciously attack the IPCC’s credibility.

Essentially, their argument boils down to this:

1) The EPA based its endangerment finding on the IPCC’s findings;

2) The IPCC has been discredited;

3) Therefore, the EPA’s endangerment finding is flawed and should be revisited.

The 38-page legal brief is filled with footnotes, giving the appearance that it’s been carefully researched. But on closer inspection many of the references are to rightwing blogs, “studies” by armchair climate analysts, and obscure anti-climate groups like the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.

Perry & Co. seem to believe that if they find a handful of mistakes in the IPCC assessment that it will cut the legs out from underneath climate science. And so they cite several acknowledged errors in the latest IPCC assessment: an overestimation of glacial melting in the Himalayas, an incorrect percentage of The Netherlands’ land mass that’s below sea-level, etc.

Folks, it’s a 2,800-page document with 18,000 references. There are going to be mistakes. But if the Himalayan glaciers are mostly melted in 2080 and not 2035, does that change the underlying physics of climate change (that a concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is leading to an increase in the average global temperature, e.g.)? Of course not. Only a fool would believe that.

There are sections in this legal brief that are shameless and childish. For example, the AG rants about the use of non-peer reviewed sources in the IPCC assessment.

Perhaps most egregious was the Fourth Assessment’s citation to a boot cleaning manual.

This reminds me of Bobby Jindal complaining about funding for volcano monitors in the stimulus bill. It sounds damaging at first but a cursory look shows it to be cynical B.S.

In fact, in a very brief section on economic activity and sustainability in the Antarctic, the assessment discusses ecological impacts from increasing tourist activity in Antarctica.

A footnote references guidelines promulgated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators for decontaminating clothes, boots and equipment so as to avoid spreading diseases or introducing non-native species to the continent.

Is this the “most egregious” citation that Professors Perry, Abbott and Staples can come up with?

They say they’re just concerned about the Texas economy.

If so, then they should be concerned about how well Texas’ economy will fare if portions of Galveston Island, Houston, Padre Island, and Freeport are swamped by rising sea-levels. Or, how changes in precipitation may affect Texas agriculture and drinking water supplies. Or, how Texas industries will be affected by a carbon-constrained economy if we don’t prepare for that inevitability.

Perry & Co. offer no constructive solutions to climate change other than business-as-usual.

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.