U.S. Senate Hearing: Odd Climate Query

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

You are very often described as a “contrarian” climate scientist.
What does that mean?

– U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), U.S. Senate Hearing, 1/16/2014

Senator Whitehouse asked Dr Judith Curry this curious question during a Q&A after she provided testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee regarding the President’s Climate Action Plan last Thursday.

Curry is one of two climatologists to testify that day.

According to Wikipedia, Dr Curry has been Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology since 2002.  She’s a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee.

Curry serves on NASA’s Advisory Council, Earth Science Subcommittee. She is a recent member of NOAA’s Climate Working Group and a former member of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board and Climate Research Group.

She has published over 130 scientific papers. She received the Henry G. Houghton Research Award from the American Meteorological Society in 1992.

Among other things, her scientific research studies include hurricanes, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, remote sensing, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She’s been a researcher for 30 years.

In short, Dr Curry has impeccable climate science credentials.

Dr Curry’s Answer

Dr. Judith Curry

I have no idea.

Skepticism is one of the norms of science. The way that we test theories and ideas is to challenge them. A good theory will be able to defend itself against challenges.

When people trying to defend their theory by calling people who challenge their theory by names – deniers, whatever – that is not a good sign that it is a strong theory.
– Dr. Judith Curry, U.S. Senate Hearing, 1/16/2014

Senator Whitehouse was not through with her. A followup question was:

Is it true that in 2007 that you wrote in the Washington Post about climate change that if the risk is great that it may be worth acting against even if the probability is small and you have yet to see any option worse than ignoring the risks of global warming and doing nothing. Is that your Washington Post editorial from 2007?
– Senator Whitehouse

If that sounds like a great big run-on kinda weird question that doesn’t quite make any sense, that is because it is. Whitehouse took two sentences from two different places in a 2007 Washington Post op-ed and fused them together. He didn’t explain the context, either.

In other words, Whitehouse compounded the confusion of the fusion with obfuscusion. 😉

In the op-ed Curry criticized a human-caused global warming skeptic named Bjorn Lomborg for his casual dismissal of the IPCC’s upper limit for global warming from the then newly released 2007 IPCC AR4 assessment report.  She said that Lomborg only considered the middle of the road prediction for his commentary and dangerously ignored the upper limit.

During questioning Whitehouse implied that back in 2007 she supported AGW consensus theory and felt action was needed but that her testimony on Thursday was inconsistent with her previous position.

Curry, however, understood Whitehouse’s run-on sentence and said:

Yes. I wrote those words in 2007. My thinking has evolved somewhat since 2007 as I’ve seen increasing evidence
(that AGW is a weak theory).

I still think there is a real risk there and that we need to figure out how to deal with it.

In 2007, I had more confidence in the (IPCC) consensus.
(than I do now)
– Dr. Curry

Curry still believes that there is real risk from global warming and that we need to consider mitigation steps, just not as drastic as she once believed. She is less certain the consensus is right than she was 6 years ago because of new scientific evidence.

In other words, Dr. Judith Curry is a true skeptic. She’s neither a “denier” nor a “contrarian”.

If You Don’t Like the Message, Shoot the Messenger

The deniers are forcing inaction
(on climate change)
– Senator Whitehouse, U.S. Senate Hearing, 1/16/2014

Senator Whitehouse was totally oblivious to Dr. Curry’s written and oral testimony. He ignored both.

During his Q&A time, he tried to put words into Curry’s mouth favorable to his own position and to discredit her as a scientist at the same time.

Dr. Andrew Dressler is the other climatologist that testified. Whitehouse didn’t question Dressler at all.

Dr. Dressler has only 5 scientific papers to his limited credits. By comparison to Dr. Curry, Dressler is a scientific schoolboy still on training wheels.

Yet, Dr. Dressler did not rate any scrutiny whatsoever. Why?…because Dressler agrees with Senator Whitehouse’s political position.


It’s unfortunate that most Congressmen spend 10x more time at hearings pontificating their own preconceived beliefs than seeking input and understanding from their own witnesses.

Senator Whitehouse is not an isolated example. Pretty much all of them are like him.

That is the main lesson learned by this writer from Thursday’s U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the President’s Climate Action Plan, after suffering through 4 long, boring hours of testimony.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Jan 20, 2014, in Climate, climate change, economics, Economy, Energy, energy policy, environment, Global Warming, Government, news, Opinion, Politics, science, technology, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Mankind is in a very dangerous situation now because politicians have distorted science into a tool of government propaganda.

    How serious is the problem?

    Thousands or millions may die:




    With deep regrets,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    • Political bias is a non-partisan entity. Politicians are not scientists, nor do they understand nor really care much about science at all. They often mandate things, like CCS for example, that are technically infeasible for a political end.

      To politicians everything boils down to how they feel about big government solutions.

      If the politician favors big government and big government solutions then they accept AGW without question because it requires the biggest government solutions of all.

      If the politician favors fiscal responsibility and limited government then they oppose AGW without question because it reduces government’s power.

      Science and evidence has nothing to do with it.

Comments and questions are welcomed!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: