July 3, 2009
We will tell you what you need to know
The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic
The professional penalty for offering a contrary view to elites like Al Gore is a smear campaign.
By Kimberley Strassel
Wherever Jim Hansen is right now -- whatever speech the "censored" NASA scientist is giving -- perhaps he'll find time to mention the plight of Alan Carlin. Though don't count on it.
Mr. Hansen, as everyone in this solar system knows, is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Starting in 2004, he launched a campaign against the Bush administration, claiming it was censoring his global-warming thoughts and fiddling with the science. It was all a bit of a hoot, given Mr. Hansen was already a world-famous devotee of the theory of man-made global warming, a reputation earned with some 1,400 speeches he'd given, many while working for Mr. Bush. But it gave Democrats a fun talking point, one the Obama team later picked up.
So much so that one of President Barack Obama's first acts was a memo to agencies demanding new transparency in government, and science. The nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, joined in, exclaiming, "As administrator, I will ensure EPA's efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and program, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency." In case anyone missed the point, Mr. Obama took another shot at his predecessors in April, vowing that "the days of science taking a backseat to ideology are over."
Except, that is, when it comes to Mr. Carlin, a senior analyst in the EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics and a 35-year veteran of the agency. In March, the Obama EPA prepared to engage the global-warming debate in an astounding new way, by issuing an "endangerment" finding on carbon. It establishes that carbon is a pollutant, and thereby gives the EPA the authority to regulate it -- even if Congress doesn't act.
Around this time, Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. "We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA," the report read.
The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from "any direct communication" with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office." (Emphasis added.)
Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: "With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don't want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate." Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.
The emails were unearthed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Republican officials are calling for an investigation; House Energy Committee ranking member Joe Barton sent a letter with pointed questions to Mrs. Jackson, which she's yet to answer. The EPA has issued defensive statements, claiming Mr. Carlin wasn't ignored. But there is no getting around that the Obama administration has flouted its own promises of transparency.
The Bush administration's great sin, for the record, was daring to issue reports that laid out the administration's official position on global warming. That the reports did not contain the most doomsday predictions led to howls that the Bush politicals were suppressing and ignoring career scientists.
The Carlin dustup falls into a murkier category. Unlike annual reports, the Obama EPA's endangerment finding is a policy act. As such, EPA is required to make public those agency documents that pertain to the decision, to allow for public comment. Court rulings say rulemaking records must include both "the evidence relied upon and the evidence discarded." In refusing to allow Mr. Carlin's study to be circulated, the agency essentially hid it from the docket.
Unable to defend the EPA's actions, the climate-change crew -- , led by anonymous EPA officials -- is doing what it does best: trashing Mr. Carlin as a "denier." He is, we are told, "only" an economist (he in fact holds a degree in physics from CalTech). It wasn't his "job" to look at this issue (he in fact works in an office tasked with "informing important policy decisions with sound economics and other sciences.") His study was full of sham science. (The majority of it in fact references peer-reviewed studies.) Where's Mr. Hansen and his defense of scientific freedom when you really need him?
Mr. Carlin is instead an explanation for why the science debate is little reported in this country. The professional penalty for offering a contrary view to elites like Al Gore is a smear campaign. The global-warming crowd likes to deride skeptics as the equivalent of the Catholic Church refusing to accept the Copernican theory. The irony is that, today, it is those who dare critique the new religion of human-induced climate change who face the Inquisition.