Junk Science Hits Fan
Washington Times Patrick J. Michaels
Back in December 2000, President Clinton
and Vice President Gore were busy fellows — what with dishes to pack,
furniture to ship and an election to contest. So busy were they that
they neglected to read some of the fine print in a cascade of
administration-ending paperwork. One of these was an obscure item called
the "Federal Data Quality Act" (FDQA), which was dutifully
signed by the president.
Put simply, the FDQA prohibits the use of junky science in the
promulgation of federal regulations and laws. And, now that the new hats
are in town, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the FDQA is being
turned against the "science" of the Clinton-Gore team,
particularly concerning the global environment.
Specifically, it has been turned against the "U.S. National
Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and
Change" (USNA), a document that breaks the cardinal rule of
science: If a hypothesis doesn't work, throw it out. The Assessment
can't pass the simplest of scientific tests.
The Assessment began with a 1997 letter from Mr. Gore to all the federal
agencies, and was published 10 days before the 2000 election. If the
Office of Management and Budget chooses to apply FDQA, the Assessment
will be redacted down the Memory Hole soon.
And none too soon. The power of the USNA's bad science can be seen in
recent drafts of the energy bill of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle,
South Dakota Democrat, in which the USNA provides the findings necessary
to induce new fuel economy measures and prohibit drilling for domestic
oil — all in the name of global warming and its pernicious effects on
In fact, that it serves as the basis for legislation is the reason that
the USNA has run afoul of the law. The FDQA requires scientific
objectivity and normal reproducibility of positive results in any
simulation or scientific experiment that underpins prospective
regulations. The Assessment has neither.
The Assessment purports to project the consequences of United States
warming, produced by two computer models. One is from Canada and the
other from the United Kingdom. Both models are extreme outliers. Unlike
the consensus of the dozens of available models, the Canadian model
produces an exponentially increasing heating. The result is a ridiculous
rise of 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit in projected U.S. temperatures this
century. The U.K. model predicts greater precipitation changes than any
other model the USNA looked at.
A horde of peer reviewers — some from federal laboratories that have a
track record of global warming doomsaying — told the USNA that the use
of these two models was wrong. Even the greens at the United Nations
agree that these models can't be used to make local and regional climate
projections with any reliability.
How does even the rankest climate amateur know the Canadian model is a
joke when applied to the United States? Because it "predicts"
that U.S. temperatures should have changed 300 percent more than they
did in the last 100 years. In fact, neither the Canadian model nor the
British can beat a table of random numbers when it comes to predicting
U.S. temperature for the last century.
A climate model is nothing but a statement of scientific hypothesis:
What we "think" should happen based upon currently fashionable
theory. When a hypothesis doesn't work (i.e., performs worse than a
bunch of darts thrown at the Dow Jones), the ethic of science requires
that it be thrown out. In this case, it means that the USNA should have
used better models, or, absent a defensible model, it should have used
none. If a computer simulation of climate can't beat a table of random
numbers over the United States, it borders on scientific malpractice to
continue to apply it.
It wasn't that the politically chosen leaders of the USNA didn't know
there was a problem. In fact, the USNA's politically handpicked steering
committee was so disturbed about the finding of the peer-reviewers that
it commissioned its own study. Guess what? The USNA's own scientists
verified that the temperature models didn't work over the United States.
And yet the report went forward, now serving as the basis for the most
sweeping energy legislation ever introduced in this nation's history.
Well, anyway, all of these shenanigans are precisely what the Federal
Data Quality Act was designed to prevent. The irony is that the obscure
piece of legislation that slipped through when Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore
weren't minding the store is about to throw the USNA and its global
warming hysteria into its well-deserved dustbin.
Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the
Cato Institute and author of "The Satanic Gases."