House climate hearing featured only one consensus expert

In its most fiery hearing of the year so far, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology yesterday debated a topic that needn't be debated any longer: the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that climate change is happening and that humans are its main driver.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and the Republican majority invited three global warming skeptics, one of whom has no formal training as a climate scientist, to speak on the current state of climate change research. It was a panel of alt-scientists employing alternative facts; a blatant snub to the climate science community, where 97% agree that humans are the main drivers of climate change.

The Democrats only got one pick, choosing a renowned leader of the climate science field, Dr. Michael Mann, the Penn State climatologist who in 1999 published the “hockey stick” graph which showed global mean temperatures taking a dramatic upward turn since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

From left to right, Dr. Judith Curry, Dr. John Christy, Dr. Michael Mann, and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.

From left to right, Dr. Judith Curry, Dr. John Christy, Dr. Michael Mann, and Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.

In a previous post, we called this panel the Final Four of March Sadness, and the Democrats on the committee tended to agree. The committee’s official Youtube page only highlights the Republican opening statements and questioning, so we’ve taken the liberty of highlighting a few other key moments.

Here’s Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) lamenting the lack of consensus scientists on the witness panel:

“For a balanced panel, we would need 96 more Dr. Manns” was such a striking quote that we thought it needed an equally striking visual. Behold: 96 more Dr. Manns (or is it Dr. Men?).

This is what a 97% consensus on anthropogenic climate change looks like.

This is what a 97% consensus on anthropogenic climate change looks like.

In fact, there are actually 96 more Dr. Manns in that picture (don’t accuse us of manipulating data!). If this panel had equal time to talk, perhaps the reality of human-caused climate change would have made an impression on Smith and the rest of the Republicans. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Curry, Christy, and Pielke Jr. gave the standard climate skeptics responses meant to obfuscate or misrepresent the issue: they cherry-picked data, overplayed the measurement of uncertainty, and tried to extend the debate with the red herring that we need more data and better models. When surrounded by three skeptics and a sympathetic Republican audience, it was Mann who looked like the fringe scientist.

Eventually, the understandable frustration from Mann and the Democrats boiled over and the hearing devolved into name-calling. Here we see Mann sparing with Chairman Smith over the validity of a Science Magazine article that called Smith a climate denier:

In essence, Smith accused one of the world’s most prestigious academic journals of not being an objective source for the best science on the planet. This is especially glaring considering Smith wants regulation “based on sound science, not science fiction.”

Here’s the link to his Heartland Institute speech, judge Smith’s impartiality for yourselves.

For his outburst, Mann was vilified by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA):

In the end, there was no progress. Established science was debated, likely no opinions changed, and the scientific method was barely discussed. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) managed to manufacture some consensus as the hearing drew to a close:

Esty is correct: even if you’re a skeptic, you can’t say that we need more data but then cut climate research. You can’t have your climate cake and eat it, too.