Sunday, April 24, 2005

Idiot of the Day


Steven Hayward, Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and Weyerhauser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, for this gem in the National Review Online:
It is a great myth that SUVs are greater polluters. True, they use more gasoline, but they now have the same emissions standards as all other automobiles, so replacing your old clunker with a new SUV will actually help clean up ozone smog in America. Because they use more gas, they do emit more carbon dioxide, but remember, carbon dioxide is not a noxious pollutant, but plant food.
Why is Hayward an idiot? Well, because of this, for starters. Signed by two dozen luminaries of the industry-funded critics of the "global warming" thesis, this 2002 letter chided Bush about that year's Climate Action Report, which Bush himself dismissed as a product of "the bureaucracy." Not satisfied with just bitching about the report, Hayward and others recommended that heads be severed and mounted on pikes:
We therefore urge you to withdraw Climate Action Report 2002 immediately and to direct that it be re-written on the basis of sound science and without relying on discredited products of the previous administration. As production and release of this report demonstrates, pursuing your global warming and energy policies effectively will not be possible as long as key members of your administration do not fully support your policies. We therefore also urge you to dismiss or re-assign all administration employees who are not pursuing your agenda, just as you have done in several similar instances.
The Pacific Research Institute is one of dozens of groups receiving money each year ($175,000 from Exxon since 1998) to "discredit" global warming in much the same way creationists attack evolution — by claiming that it is "just a theory," by using inconsistencies to undermine an complex body of scientific research, and by accepting money from powerful groups whose interests are contrary to the entire notion of empirical validity and scholarly ethics. Nothing they say should be taken seriously, and yet a perusal of the list of signatories reads like an index of op-ed contributors to conservative publications like National Review and Weekly Standard.

I'm especially irked by this sort of nonsense today after chatting with a federal USGS employee last night at a dinner gathering. This fellow — a biologist who studies marine life — was describing conditions I've known about in the abstract for quite some time (e.g., that the Bush adminsitration is more hostile to serious scientific labor than any other administration in US history). He was exasperated and exhausted, observing several times that he was ready to quit and join the droves of non-partisan biologists and geologists fleeing the various federal agencies charged with studying the environment and creating decent policies to ensure its vitality. Federal employees, he said, are walking around afraid to use terms like "evolution" and "climate change" in their research proposals and reports, for fear of just the sort of retaliation recommended by the PRI and other groups. It was a depressing conversation, enlivened only by our shared, bitter sense of humor and disgust. Mother Jones has a good series on global warming this month that I recommended to him. I don't imagine it will ease his frustration much, but it just might feed his anger enough to keep him from surrendering quite yet.