Senator James Inhofe’s Sneer-Reviewed Science
After an exhaustive review of peer-reviewed scientific studies included in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports; four reports by the National Research Council (NRC), a division of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; 20 federal studies; and the international Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the EPA concluded:
“that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) — in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
The EPA was correct in relying on the IPCC and NRC reports because these reports represent our current understanding of climate change science so they must be used to inform policy. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) suggests otherwise. His position is nonsensical and completely disrespects thousands of international experts and their fields of expertise.
The IPCC 4th Assessment Report (2007) is the result of 2500+ scientific expert reviewers, 800+ contributing authors, and 450+ lead authors from 130+ countries. IPCC WGI, WGII, and WGIII Reports are scientific summaries written by scientists. The review process is illustrated below:
According to the IPCC website:
The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.
The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.
The IPCC is an intergovernmental body, and it is open to all member countries of UN and WMO. Governments are involved in the IPCC work as they can participate in the review process and in the IPCC plenary sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. The IPCC Bureau and Chairperson are also elected in the plenary sessions.
Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.
130 countries endorsed the reports, and since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion. Despite strong political reasons for them not to endorse, the following countries endorsed the IPCC 2007 reports because the science was undeniable:
United States of America – Fossil fuel-based economy, strong lobby efforts opposed to regulating fossil fuel emissions
Saudi Arabia – World’s largest producer/exporter of oil
China – Rapidly industrializing using coal-fired power plants
India – Rapidly industrializing using coal-fired power plants
The IPCC WGI Report (2007) concluded:
“Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
I highly recommend watching the NSF video series linked below for a very good overview of the IPCC.
The National Academies
To meet the government’s urgent need for an independent adviser on scientific matters, President Lincoln signed a congressional charter forming the National Academy of Sciences in 1863 to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science.” As science began to play an ever-increasing role in national priorities and public life, the National Academy of Sciences eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970.
According to the National Academy of Sciences website:
Most of the institution’s science policy and technical work is conducted by its operating arm, the National Research Council (NRC), which was created expressly for this purpose and which provides a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. The NRC enlists committees of the nation’s top scientists, engineers, and other experts, all of whom volunteer their time to study specific concerns. The results of their deliberations have inspired some of America’s most significant and lasting efforts to improve the health, education, and welfare of the population. The Academy’s service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role.
The Academy membership is composed of approximately 2,100 members and 380 foreign associates, of whom nearly 200 have won Nobel Prizes. Members and foreign associates of the Academy are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research; election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. The Academy is governed by a Council consisting of twelve members (councilors) and five officers, elected from among the Academy membership. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is the president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The NRC’s mission:
“is to improve government decision-making and public policy, increase public understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. The Research Council’s independent, expert reports and other scientific activities inform policies and actions that have the power to improve the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.”
An Overhaul of U.S. Drug Safety: Our hard-hitting report identified major reforms in the Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety system. In total, FDA has taken more than 40 actions as a comprehensive response to the report.
Strong Instruction on Evolution: In part because of our many publications on the teaching of evolution, a U.S. district court judge struck down a local school board’s requirement that “intelligent design” be taught as an alternative to evolution.
Saving Hubble: Our report played a big role in persuading NASA to maintain the Hubble Space Telescope, which continues to provide thousands of breathtaking images and critical data for astronomers.
Boosting American Competitiveness: Recommendations from our self-funded report formed the basis for the recently reauthorized America COMPETES Act, whose objective is making the U.S. a stronger contender in the global marketplace.
Leadership on Climate Change: Our reports on the science behind climate change have done much to raise awareness among government officials and the public, putting global warming on the nation’s agenda of serious policy issues.
Better Hurricane Protection for New Orleans: Recommendations from our reports led to many improvements in plans for strengthening post-Katrina hurricane protection systems in New Orleans.
According to the National Resource Council (2010):
“A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems…. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”
By relying on the IPCC and NRC reports, the science that informed the EPA’s Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act is the best current science regarding greenhouse gases and their dangers to humanity. Any suggestion to the contrary must be considered ignorant of the science or a purely political tactic to delay action.
Military intelligence experts warn that climate crises could topple governments, embolden terrorists and destabilize regions. Health officials say climate change could be the biggest global threat of the 21st century. The property/casualty insurance industry lists climate change as its greatest risk.
Senator James Inhofe
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has a long history of being anti-science with regard to environmental issues such as climate change. For example, in the year 2000, Inhofe actually sued his own government in order to block the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) from being used or published. This report described the consequences of climate change in the United States and suggested various adaptation measures. And as many of us know, in 2003, Inhofe stated that global warming was “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” For more of Inhofe’s flat-earth history please see Earth Last and James M. Inhofe.
According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, climate change is increasing risks for many of Inhofe’s constituents:
Why would a US Senator be so anti-science with regard to climate change? I can think of 1,189,050 rea$on$.
Are Inhofe and his fellow political flat-earthers just targeting the EPA or is this just the first shot across the bow of an effort by ideologues to weaken or dismantle the National Academies? Science gave us the car, space travel, the Internet, and cures for many killer diseases. As our population grows and developing countries modernize, energy demands will be increasing rapidly at a time when fossil fuels will be dwindling and becoming increasingly expensive to tap. The next revolution is renewable energy technologies and the countries that take the lead will be the ones that can offer their citizens more and better jobs. Science will underpin this revolution so science must be respected by our policy-makers.
For our health, our national security and our economic competitiveness, we need to curb our fossil fuel addiction. Otherwise, we’ll wind up clients of the Chinese, paying top dollar for renewable technologies that we should have invented ourselves.
Senator Inhofe should be reminded that he works for Oklahomans and Americans -
not fossil fuel companies and China.
Please visit these other sites that are covering the story:
EPA Endangerment Finding Followed the Rules, Inspector General Finds – Union of Concerned Scientists
EPA Inspector General Criticizes Greenhouse Gas Ruling Procedure – Shawn Lawrence Otto at Huffington Post
Inspector General Report Requested By Inhofe Confirms Greenhouse Endangerment Finding ‘Met Statutory Requirements’ – Brad Johnson at Think Progress
Inhofe Gets Inspector General to Spend $300,000 Confirming EPA Endangerment Finding ‘Met Statutory Requirements’ – Joe Romm at Climate Progress
Is EPA’s Inspector General Playing Politics? – Shawn Lawrence Otto
Shooting the Messenger — Denialism and the EPA Endangerment Finding – Policy Lass
Report Critical of EPA Instead Raises Questions About Watchdog – Shawn Lawrence Otto at Huffington Post
Sen. James Inhofe and his demands to probe the EPA – Don Shelby at MinnPost.com
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have sought outside review of the science in its bid to regulate greenhouse gases, a federal auditor found. The EPA countered that the science – and the case for action – was solid. – Douglas Fischer at The Daily Climate
How Inhofe Turns Balloon Animals into ‘News’ – Eric Pooley