Dear Gov. Brown:
You have recently been widely quoted criticizing President Donald Trump’s policies with regard to climate change. You have been quoted as saying the president is “deny[ing] science” and engaging in “what are lies, distortions, and quite frankly, bizarre behavior.”
Since I possess actual scientific credentials—I have a degree in chemistry, have more than 30 years’ experience involving air-quality issues, and have twice testified before congressional committees regarding air-quality regulation—I am curious to know why you believe you are personally qualified to assert that the president is denying science.
Note the word “personally.” I believe you are a smart guy. As a smart guy, I would expect that you, and so many others who think that climate change is a clear and present danger to civilization and that the United States has a unique ability to combat that danger, would choose to dive as deep as you possibly can into a personal understanding of the scientific issues involved.
But, I don’t see that you, or many of those who echo your alarmist message, make any personal attempt to understand the details of the science involved.
I can only conclude that you
1) don’t believe you are intellectually capable of diving into the details of an issue outside of your comfort zone, and/or;
2) are incredibly confident that those scientists who agree with you are pure of heart and infallible in their conclusions, while those scientists who disagree with you are of evil intent and willing to knowingly utter false statements, and/or;
3) are somehow certain—despite your personal lack of understanding of the science involved—that you can, as a public servant, universally place your faith regarding an issue you don’t personally pretend to understand in the hands of selected academics, environmental NGOs, and the public relations professionals associated with both.
The public discussion around climate change all too frequently involves motives, not science. This is true on both sides.
The right all too often tries to paint climate-change alarmists as would-be socialists who use the issue to further their ultimate goal of centralized, government-mandated control of society.
The left typically urges the public to dismiss anyone who questions climate-change heterodoxy because—in their version of reality—anyone who would so shame themselves thus is clearly being controlled by evil corporate energy giants such as ExxonMobil.
We can discuss motivation until we are blue in the face. Indeed, media-relations professionals on both sides really, really want us to do just that. Arguing about motives is sexy. Arguing about actual science is boring.
As a scientist, I do not care one-tenth of one-hundredth of 1 percent about motivation when considering a scientific issue. I care about the science—period. If you want to tell me I’m wrong, that’s fine. If you want to tell me to shut up because you don’t like my worldview, then I’ll refer you to Pope Urban VIII for further consideration of the problem.
Personally, I find Trump’s characterization of climate change as “a hoax” unfortunate. The word “hoax” implies knowing, purposed misrepresentation. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I rather think that the errors I believe most climate-change crusaders make are about hubris, not knowing ill-will.
Many scientists have been, are, and, I suspect, always will be, blinded by hubris. Even Einstein, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, was guilty of it. After Fr. George Lemaitre published a paper, based on Einstein’s theories of relativity, proposing the Big Bang as the origin of all creation, Einstein pooh-poohed the Belgian priest’s way of thinking, saying, “Your calculations are correct, but your grasp of physics is abominable.”
The Big Bang theory was extreme. It ran contrary to accepted scientific orthodoxy at the time, one that posited a universe without temporal beginning or end. Einstein was clearly appalled that an obscure Belgian academic and theologian took his work and turned classic cosmology upside down. Yet, only six years later, Einstein applauded Lemaitre, publicly declaring the priest’s work on the origin of the universe as “the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”
It is difficult to imagine hard-core climate-change alarmists like Michael Mann or Gavin Schmidt having, much less admitting to, such honest moments of self-reflection. They are entrenched. And while I cannot definitively say why they are so entrenched, and while it doesn’t matter why they choose to be so entrenched, I believe—knowing the academic mind—that their obstinacy is about professional hubris, not about any political agenda.
Governor, should you choose to attempt to move beyond the entrenched opinions of academics like Mann and Schmidt, I challenge you to answer the following fact-based questions, the answers to which can be easily found by anyone interested in the truth, rather than an agenda:
- How much of a reduction or increase in net U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions have occurred between 2008 and now, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data?
- How much have U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions contributed to total, global greenhouse-gas emissions between 2008 and now, based on U.S. EPA data?
- What is the difference between initial IPCC predictions of global climate temperature increases based on modeling in the early 2000s and actual IPCC reports of global climate temperature increases in their latest publications?
- How does global atmospheric temperature data, as collected by NASA satellites and radiosondes, differ from the surface temperature record, and how do you explain any differences in the magnitude of trends of these data sets?
- Consider “worst-case” IPCC models involving maximum IPCC projections for global, non-U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and maximum possible U.S. greenhouse-gas reductions. What is the overall relative global effect on predicted global temperatures versus the same scenario in which the United States doesn’t make maximum possible greenhouse-gas reductions?
Should this missive cross your desk, I’m not expecting a frank, honest, reflective answer to these questions from you, Gov. Brown. I would welcome such answers, as I would welcome a frank, honest discussion of the issues I have raised with anyone. But, I am a scientist and you are a politician.
It is your PR professionals who will frame your response to this note should you offer one, just as would be the case if I sent a similar missive to your political opponents. And I think that’s a shame. We deserve better.
Richard J. Trzupek
Richard J. Trzupek is a chemist and environmental consultant, as well as an analyst at the Heartland Institute. He is also the author of “Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA Is Ruining American Industry.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.