Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 18, 2011

Orrin Hatch’s Second Reply

Orrin Hatch has now replied to my most recent letter, which you can read here.  Following is Senator Hatch’s latest.

March 30, 2011

Dear Dr. Bickmore:

Thanks for your most recent letters regarding my position on the climate change issue.  I appreciate your continued engagement on this important question.

You argue in your letters that I am too quick to dismiss the views of a majority of climate scientists and just as quick to accept the position of minority, whom you refer to as “those on the fringes.”  It is true that in my letters and on my website I use a few quotes from lead authors of the IPCC reports and a few factual statements related to atmospheric carbon dioxide as examples of why I am not yet convinced that anthropogenic carbon emissions are a problem that must or can be tackled by public policy.  However, I think you are too quick to assume that those few examples reflect the extent of my research into the matter and the extent of my interaction with scientists from all sides of the debate.

A telling element of the question is the persistent insistence that the debate is settled and that a consensus exists when AGW remains a hypothesis by basic standards of the scientific method.  There is significant evidence that contrary scientific views have been inappropriately kept out of the literature.  This evidence only increases my interest in the contrary views.  So far, I have not seen hard evidence that we have anywhere near the level of understanding of the feedback effects of clouds and water vapor to give us much certainty in the IPCC’s general circulation models.  And I have seen no hard evidence supporting the calculation by the IPCC that it has greater than 90 percent confidence in its conclusion that humans are dramatically altering the climate.

The constant appeal to authority would be more convincing if it were backed up with something more than hypothetical computer modeling that has reflected significant adjustments with each IPCC report, if there were a more clear consensus on the feedback effect of clouds and water vapor, and if there were a conclusive explanation for the observed causal relationship problem of the Vostok ice cores.

The IPCC models did not predict that NOAA’s satellite data would show Utah’s annual average temperature declining in the last 15 years, with a steeper decline in the last 10 years.  If human CO2 were the major climate driver, this would not be occurring.  At least, this is what many climatologists (including IPCC lead authors) have told me.

However, during this same period, solar activity has hit a major low.  A growing number of scientists consider solar activity to be a greater driver of climate change than was calculated by the IPCC.  Greater scrutiny is being given to the link between the solar Maunder Minimum and the cooling period known as the “Little Ice Age.”  Scientists are only now beginning to fully explore the link between the cooling reflected in the satellite data in the last decade or so with the remarkable drop in solar activity during this same time.  I would be happy to forward more information about this ongoing scientific inquiry if you are not aware of it.

As a policymaker, I am always wary of any effort to centralize control of human activity.  And I am genuinely skeptical that turning control of human carbon emissions over to centralized powers is useful or desirable at this time.  As I have promised, I will maintain an open mind to both sides of the debate, and I would add that I have heard from too many experts on both sides of the issue to accept that this debate has been settled.

Again, thanks for following up on this question.  I hope you will continue to engage me on climate change and any other important issue related to our nation and planet.

Your Senator,

Orrin G. Hatch

United States Senator

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Responses

  1. Uh, somebody should point Senator Hatch (or whoever wrote this letter for him – “observed causal relationship problem”???) to skepticalscience.com, where all statements are backed up by reference to the extensive peer-reviewed literature (as of course is true in the IPCC report, though not in quite so user-friendly or up-to-date a fashion).

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

  2. Haha I love this statement:

    “The IPCC models did not predict that NOAA’s satellite data would show Utah’s annual average temperature declining in the last 15 years”

    Quick, somebody flip to the IPCC section on Utah annual temperature projections!

  3. “As a policymaker, I am always wary of any effort to centralize control of human activity. And I am genuinely skeptical that turning control of human carbon emissions over to centralized powers is useful or desirable at this time.” That’s the closest to truth Mr. Hatch comes to in this whole letter – it’s an ideological thing, man – don’t confuse me with the facts!

  4. Just for starters, have you pointed him to http://tinyurl.com/mysteryimage and asked if he can see any shift in coloration from left to right?
    (this being NASA GISS temp anomaly data)

  5. Barry, I seem to have missed the part of your letter advocating that we should “… centralize control of human activity….”

    Where did this come from?

    • Well, the only proposal on the table was the cap and trade bill. You could certainly argue that it would make for more government control. Of course, it was the only thing on the table because Republicans generally refuse to acknowledge the problem exists.

  6. The line that most clearly demonstrates the gaps in his understanding is:

    “AGW remains a hypothesis by basic standards of the scientific method. ”

    A hypothesis is an educated guess based upon observation. The fact that the theory correctly predicted the temperature rise before it was observed shows that he is incorrect. The fact that it is firmly grounded in physical laws shows the same.

    Ultimately a scientist cannot win a debate against a politician. As a scientist you will be aware of the uncertainties. A politician he is not interested in uncertainty – he already knows the Truth.

    He sees the peer review process as a tool to suppress contrary views rather than a tool to weed out nonsense. He sees referencing scientific findings as an appeal to authority. He sees improvements to our understanding as proof that we don’t really understand. He sees gaps in our understanding as proof that we understand nothing.

    It is impossible to argue with blind faith. He is willing to dismiss everything that we do know as long as there are some things that we don’t.

    There is uncertainty. Judith Curry feels that the uncertainty is much greater that what is shown in the IPCC report. This is cold comfort as the uncertainty goes in both directions. She thinks that we can only say for certain that temperature will rise somewhere between 0 and 10C for a doubling of CO2. I hope for our sake she is wrong. Otherwise Mr Hatch is leaving the fate of humanity up to the a toss of the coin.

  7. [...] is my reply to this letter from Senator Orrin Hatch [...]

  8. Blunderous stupidity from the line:

    “And I have seen no hard evidence supporting the calculation by the IPCC that it has greater than 90 percent confidence in its conclusion that humans are dramatically altering the climate.”

    Would you climb into a car that had a 90% chance of crashing? How about 90% of the doctors diagnosing a problem?

    Almost an epitaph.


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