Recently I viewed the video Sen. Cruz Questioning Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on Climate Change in the Judiciary Subcommittee on “Over-regulation and its impact on minority communities”. The video was from a couple weeks ago and went viral at that time. It became perfectly clear why when I at last viewed it. Skeptics got used to be viewed as the underdog and blamed for not having the evidence on their side, but in this video we saw Mr. Mair initially claiming to be driven by the science, the evidence and the data, yet when the questioning advanced, it became quickly clear that he wasn’t driven by the science, nor by the evidence, nor by the data. He probably wouldn’t even notice the science, even if it bit him. 😉
This is how the story goes. In his written testimony, the president of the Sierra Club wrote that the science behind climate change and its effect on minority communities should not be up for debate, which provoked a sequence of questions from Senator Cruz, which the president of the Sierra Club had a hard time answering. Just watch the video if you didn’t already.
The first thing that this video learned me was that Mr. Mair hadn’t much knowledge of the arguments he used in the case he was defending. I didn’t expect that he would be fluent with it, but I expected at least some basic knowledge about the core assumption of his written testimony. He relied on his staff when confronted with real world data and his staff didn’t know much about it either. They even gave him wrong information. For example, he looked like a fool relaying the meaning of the phrase “the pause”. His advisor(s) believed it was, drum roll please, “the stall in global warming during the forties”.
They were obviously confused by the temperature datasets. Beside the wrong definition of “the pause”, the advisor(s) also whispered in Mair’s ear that the claim that the satellite record showed no demonstrable warming in the last 18 years was “refuted a long time ago and it is no longer up for scientific debate”. But then, on the question whether it was “correct that the satellite data over the last 18 years demonstrated no significant warming, he answered firmly “No”. He obviously didn’t look at the numbers. Later he resolutely agreed with the statement that “satellite data are objective numbers” and that is where he got himself stuck.
That last answer brought him on a really slippery slope, especially after Senator Cruz started asking whether the Sierra Club would issue a retraction if it was demonstrated that the data showed otherwise. From that moment it was dangerous for Mr. Mair to go further on this path. Agreeing on a retraction based on data he didn’t know anything about, but agreeing that these were nevertheless objective numbers, could mean risking having to admit that his written testimony was based on a false claim. He then chose to stick with the “we-concur-with 97%-of-the-scientists” meme until the very end. A very smart move from his side, but also a weak point in his defense.
Okay, in a way I can dig their confusion. I could understand where that comes from. When I was a believer I assumed that scientists used the best data available and that this data showed us that there was a clear problem. Later, when I looked deeper into the issue, it was quite disturbing to come to the realization that:
- the global temperature isn’t measured, but is estimated
- there are several institutes that have their own estimations
- the alarmist messages from the (scientists in the) media are based on the least reliable and most pliable data…
It is this data that gave rise to the claim that “2014 is the hottest year ever”, not from that what he agreed were the “objective numbers”.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Mair and his advisor(s) were actually thinking that those alarmist messages were based on satellite data. He certainly thinks the NOAA (surface) dataset, which results are used in the media to raise the alarm, are the best data available at this moment.