Kevin Horrigan

Kevin Horrigan | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Last week, three smart-alecky judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency was right to rely on the best available scientific evidence and had the authority to regulate carbon emissions to limit so-called “greenhouse gases.”

The court turned back a noble effort by some state governments (Texas proudly in the lead) and job-creators (chemical companies, coal mines, manufacturers) who had pointed out that the EPA had relied on consensus findings by “scientists” that man-made global warming was real. The states and industry groups said the EPA should have done its own studies instead of relying on outside experts.

“This argument is little more than a semantic trick,” the three-judge panel ruled. “EPA did not delegate, explicitly or otherwise, any decision-making to any of those entities. EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment: It sought out and reviewed existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.”

And then — get this — the judges wrote, “This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

To which I say, fine. Show me an atom.

In my continuing quest to be hired by Fox News or a high-paying astroturf front group, I’d like to point out some of the problems with this appeals court decision:

First, who do these judges think they are, anyway? Judges David B. Sentelle, David S. Tatel and Judith W. Rogers only got their jobs on this podunk bench when their predecessors — Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas — got other gigs. Tatel and Rogers were appointed by President Bill Clinton, a noted Democrat. Sentelle was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, a former Democrat who must have been having a bad day.

Second, where do these judges get off putting any credence in the 2010 study published by the National Academy of Sciences that found that 97 to 98 percent of climate researchers believe in man-made climate change?

What about that 2 percent to 3 percent, huh? “Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one,” said Henry David Thoreau, whom I am going to quote here even though he was an early tree-hugger.

By my calculations, using data from the Gallup Poll on religious belief, Americans are three to five times more likely to not believe in God than climate researchers are to not believe in man-made global warming. Unless that doesn’t support my argument, in which case, forget it.

Speaking of which, why didn’t the judges contact physicist Richard Fuller of the University of California-Berkeley? Before last October, he could have told them he was skeptical of all that climate change “science,” so with the help of $150,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, he did his own study.

What did Fuller’s study find? You don’t need to know. Suffice it to say that before last October, he was a real, live Berkeley-based climate skeptic. We skeptics are not responsible for any changes of mind he may or may not have had since last October.

If Charles Koch wants results to come out in his favor, he should send $150,000 to me. The key to sowing doubt is investing in people who will make facts come out the way you want them to come out, or failing that, twist the facts until they are unrecognizable.

This is the key to success in America today: If facts are not on your side, make sure that billionaires and corporations are.

According to an article by Tom Clynes in the current edition of Popular Science, “Public opinion in the U.S. about anthropogenic (a “sciencey” word for man-made) is also changing. Jon Krosnick, a professor at Stanford University, said 83 percent of Americans now believe that the earth has been getting warmer. One reason: Americans think they can now see it for themselves.

“You no longer have to believe a scientist who is telling you that something is happening that you can’t see,” Krosnick told Clynes. “Now people are saying, ‘I can tell my plants are flowering much earlier, and I’m wearing shorts and T-shirts to the fall fair when I used to wear jackets.’”

While it is excellent policy to rely on your own gut and not believe science, you can take this too far.

For example, it is not particularly hot outside these days, and even if it were, which it is not, it’s usually hot around here in the summer. Hot? You think this is hot? This is not hot.

That’ll be $150,000, please.


Kevin Horrigan can be reached at khorrigan@post-dispatch.com.

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