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.
Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senator