Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It comes in threes

The first is the Court of Appeals hearing on the EPA endangerment finding, Eli did a series on that but the long and the short is that the Supreme Court said that EPA had to treat CO2 as a pollutant, and it is going to be REAL hard to get past that. Brad Johnson sets the stage and it looks like the judges are not happy campers with denial (from Greenwire, paywall)

Patrick Day of the Coalition for Responsible Regulation argued that the finding “erroneously decided to completely divorce” the risk assessment from the agency’s regulatory decisions. EPA’s inadequate endangerment finding, he said, authorizes “ineffective and perhaps even fruitless regulations.”
Judge David Tatel, who was particularly aggressive in questioning both sides, sharply dismissed Day’s logic.
“I do not understand your argument,” he said. “Why don’t you try again?”
Tatel and Sentelle both seemed concerned that the petitioners were asking the court to overturn the scientific basis for EPA’s endangerment finding or the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts. Both judges indicated that was not their job.
UPDATE: From Reuters
U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel pointing out the agency had found the science certain enough. "To win here, you have to make an argument that EPA's decision is actually arbitrary and capricious," Tatel said.
and from the Environmental Defense Fund
Against this backdrop, today’s Petitioners forwarded non-scientific reasons that they claimed would permit EPA to avoid finding that greenhouse gases are harmful to human health. That line of reasoning prompted Chief Judge Sentelle to note that:
Sometimes in reading Petitioners’ briefs, I got the feeling that Massachusetts hadn’t been decided.
Among these non-scientific factors: Petitioners urged that EPA must consider humans’ ability to adapt to a changing climate in determining whether greenhouse gases endanger human health. In a hypothetical, Judge Tatel probed the flawed implications of that argument – he asked whether Petitioners’ position meant that EPA could determine that a cancer-causing pollutant did not pose a danger to public health on the grounds that society may, at some future point, develop a cure for cancer.
The second is a bit of serious merriment, as the folks at the Canadian Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) fisk Tom Harris' version of a climate change course. Tom, a public relations guy, took over a Carleton University course from Tim Patterson, a noted rock head and denialist there. Evidently lectures at CU are (partially) available as videos to those taking the class and to staff, so a staff member asked for and got access. The Ottawa Skeptics had a field day and dug out 142 issues for the bunnies delectation. Eli, being a backwards bunny will start at the back. Others (one, two, three, ) have taken the lead
T. Harris Claim 142. ‚Climate science is changing quickly.‛
CASS makes the excellent point that climate science is undergoing refinement reinforcing basic ideas rather than rebuilding from scratch but Eli asks why not, we bunnies are changing the climate at lightening (for geology) speed, which is the problem. One of the principles of engineering is if you want to understand how a system works, give it a kick and observe. Unfortunately, if you are in the box, this can be annoying.
T. Harris Claim 141. ‚Prepare for global cooling.‛
Often referred to as the Year 10K problem. Eli would suggest that it would be a good thing to hang around for.

Oh hell, its the usual spinach. Go read the CASS report, Skeptical Science or Coby Beck and the other blogs.

Eli admires how CASS anticipates the spittle headed its way. The CU faculty find that academic freedom depends on academic responsibility
Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research and teaching on an honest search for truth.
They show in their report, that in Harris' class
There was no free exchange of ideas, but the one-sided presentation of a biased viewpoint that contradicts much established research. Indeed, not only were alternative views not given time, but students were actively encouraged to ridicule those individuals who espoused views considered "alarmist" by the instructor (see our comment concerning "blooper of the week" above). Finally, as we demonstrate extensively in our analysis, the material presented was not an adequate representation of the current state of the field of climate science. The teaching of critical thinking and skepticism is healthy in a university setting where students are expected to move beyond the confines of rote learning.
but, dear parents of pre-college bunnies who wonder what they will expose the young'uns to, there is a far more serious issue here. The major responsibility of the faculty at any university or college is to evaluate itself. In the strongest form this occurs in hiring and the granting of tenure, where the department faculty plays a decisive role in figuring out if the applicants have half a clue about the field they will teach and do research in.

Not so well known is that the faculty also evaluates adjuncts, instructors, whatever you call em. There is no way that the Carleton University Department of Earth Sciences met its responsibilities in this case. Harris is simply not qualified to teach a course on climate change.

Something else will turn up


dbostrom said...

Tom Harris on display at Carleton's website:

" Climate changes all the time and sea levels will naturally respond and so we must adapt to this. But the hypothesis (and it has never been more than that) that human-caused so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions, which is what most of Copenhagen was about, are causing a climate crisis is highly speculative with more and more research suggesting this is very unlikely.

The assumption in the above article seems to be that the science of the issue is “settled”. Reality is the complete opposite. In fact we are in an era of negative discovery where the more we learn about climate change science, the more we realize we do not understand."

A Beijing Appeal to Copenhagen [see comment(s)]

Mr. Harris is a MechE; as we know, the Earth's climate is governed by a system of sprockets, springs and chains similar that found on bicycles so it's wise to defer to his judgement. In the case of "negative discovery" I think he's trying to use nontechnical terms to explain that we have to pedal backward in order to go forward.

Harris bio as proudly displayed at Carleton:

Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.) Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition

MechE, so teaching earth sciences is a perfect fit.

CA $1162/credit hour to bask in Harris' scintillating beams of wisdom. What a bargain, eh?

dbostrom said...

By the way, so far the comments section at the Carleton press release where Harris makes an appearance is wide open. Harris' remarks there are nothing if not target rich for corrections.

John Mashey said...

So, have any students asked for their money back?

KB said...

How did Harris get the job? Was it handed over to him by Tim Patterson? Someone should really get fired for this.

Anonymous said...

I would not be at all surprised in the Denialati start to indulge in the conspiracy theory that the CASS report was released in an attempt to vindicate Peter Gleick, and to legitimise his release of the Heartland documents.

The thing is, whilst I see no conspiracy to take some of the heat from Gleick, CASS's report does in fact go a long way to demonstrating why Gleick's concern about Heartland is justified.

If there was justice in the world, Gleick would be given a medal, and Harris his marching orders.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Anonymous said...


Wow! I was expecting that Harris was teaching a nonmajors course with no prereqs. Instead it's a second year course if I understand correctly.

At many universities, nonmajors "service courses" are taught by temporary contract people, mostly with masters or high school teaching experience. On the other hand, teaching an anti-science course for majors is something that I can hardly believe. Is this really a major's course?

Anonymous said...

Re: The Court of Appeals hearing: it would be interesting to ask the bizarro-world question: if EPA had made the claim that GHGs do NOT endanger, would it have been possible to argue that such a finding was indeed arbitrary and capricious?

(My inclination is to say yes, in bizarro-world, the Coalition for Environmental Protection would have ripped apart the manner in which EPA would have either had to ignore or twist the conclusions of the IPCC, US GCRP, and National Academies, and presumably EPA would have had gaping logical holes in their bizarro-response to comments and bizarro-denial of petitions... but it wouldn't be easy, given the deference that the Courts give to agency judgment on questions of science. Arbitrary and capricious is a pretty high standard)

Anonymous said...

For the curious: the briefs in question:

non-state brief (the one with more science): http://www.nahb.org/fileUpload_details.aspx?contentID=162638

EPA response: http://rfflibrary.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/epa-endangerment-brief.pdf

industry reply brief:

And we can see that "slams" was perhaps not the right word for a brief which pretty much ignored the Mass v. EPA precedent...


Brian said...

I haven't looked at this too closely, but the Bloomberg link correctly identifies the tailoring rule as the most vulnerable aspect of the law.

The irony is that tailoring limits the reach of EPA regulation. The denialists are trying to forcibly extend the reach so far that Congress comes in and kills it under President Romney.