Monday, November 29, 2004
Part 1: A Window of Opportunity to Challenge the Science
Remember Kyoto? Remember all that stuff about healing the divisions in the free world? Both are now safely luxuriating in the footnotes.
Earlier in the month, barely a day after Bush's re-election, Myron Ebell, "director of global warming" at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, appeared on the "Today" programme, presumably feeling pretty flush with that fresh four-year mandate, to make a start on this painful but necessary process. Immediately he launched into a bitter attack on Sir David King, claiming his warnings on climate change were "ridiculous" and "alarmist", and dismissing their factual basis as "a tissue of improbabilities". Ebell continued:
"We have people who know nothing-about climate science like Sir David King, who are alarmist and continually promote this ridiculous claim". (Paul Waugh, Joe Murphy, 'Bush Aims to Make an Aggressive Start', The Evening Standard, 4 November 2004; p. B4)Note that this was not so long since Downing Street had put pressure on the hapless King to
"limit his contact with the media after making criticisms of the US administration for failing to take global warming sufficiently seriously,"
after he had dared to write in Science ('Climate change science: adapt, mitigate, or ignore?', 9 January 2004; p.176):
"In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today - more serious even than the threat of terrorism". (quoted in: Vanessa Houlder, 'Scientist denies 'muzzle' on media contacts', Financial Times, 10 March 2004; p. 5)
The attack continued into the week, with The Times running a piece by Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography in the University of London, who pilloried Blair for his "addiction" to the Kyoto Protocol, whatever he thinks that is, and claimed:
"It is an assault on different cultural values which have been honed by history and the wider horizons of geography" (Philip Stott, 'Kyoto will be rained on', The Times, Features, 5 November 2004; p. 17)
I don't relish the prospect of going head-to-head with a Professor Emeritus of anything, but if he's claiming that some science doesn't apply in the US because of "different cultural values", then I reckon I'm on fairly firm ground.
Evidence of Repulican hatred of the science on climate change and most other things is not hard to find. The problem, in fact, is trying to find the time to read it all. Take the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists from February, for instance. Entitled 'Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science', its central claim, that
"The Bush administration has repeatedly intervened to distort or suppress climate change research findings"
was reported widely. Yet the link to the report itself came in right down the bottom of a Google search. This is a pity, because the report is ram-jammed with real shockers. To demonstrate that abstinence-only progammes were effective, for instance, the Bush Administration instructed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to assess their efficacy by tracking only
"participants’ program attendance and attitudes"—
plainly irrelevant measures—rather than
"the birth rate of female program participants." (pp.10-11)
So, to re-cap: if you want to discover what a good idea attempting to enforce abstinence is, the best way is to ask the participants how they feel about it, not how many of the females in the programme have babies. But I'll leave that there for the time being, for fear of treading on the ape's toes.