Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I think it’s safe to assume a policy battle between the incoming House and the Obama Administration regarding mitigation efforts due to global warming will be both incredibly ugly and ultimately harmful to U.S. and global interests.

John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, published a long overdue four page memo last Friday to the heads of the Obama Administration titled, Scientific Integrity [PDF]. The memo’s guidelines of course have no authority over Congress.

The Union of Concerned Scientists published a statement regarding the Holdren memo. Essentially their response was that while the memo asserted the type of approach they supported, they qualified their support, I think prudently, by noting the importance of properly executing the standards and objectives noted in the Holdren memo. This memo means little if the Obama Administration doesn’t enforce the principles noted in the memo. I checked the National Academy of Science’s website given I would have preferred they be the source for perspective on the memo, but their website had not published a press release regarding the Holdren memo.

So while the Obama Administration publishes a measly memo more than a year late, the Republicans are loaded for bear, both within in Congress and between Congress and the Administration. The Hill reports that:

. . . key members of the new House Republican majority have said they plan to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, said Thursday he will work to delay implementation of the EPA’s effort to reduce interstate power-plant air emissions and block the agency’s attempts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

The incoming House Republican leadership team didn’t appoint their most incompetent candidates in the running for incoming Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, such as Rep. Joe Barton the BP apologist, global warming denialist, and senior Republican on the Committee, or the denialist who claims God’s promise to Noah per the Bible guarantees that global warming isn’t true, John Shimkus. Instead the leadership appointed Michigan Rep. Fred Upton. Rep. Upton has falsely claimed there is no scientific consensus regarding climate change and is so misinformed regarding Climategate he’s advocating for congressional hearings.

I see little reason for confidence we’ll achieve an appropriate amount of progress in mitigating the effects of climate change in the next two years. As harmful as the creation-evolution debate has been to our society, that harm pales in comparison to the pending economic harm we’ll encounter by continuing to plod along regarding global warming. And this harm won’t be constrained by our borders, but felt by many (most?) of the world’s people.

Rather than the 112th Congress debating the optimal policy prescriptions given what science informs us, we’ll instead encounter House Republicans who enjoy a majority arguing the premises established by science are either wrong or in such sufficient doubt we shouldn’t act. The quality of policy prescriptions will suffer because House Republicans will misconstrue scientific descriptions. A proper cost-benefit risk analysis at even half the confidence level climate scientists have regarding their predictions would still overwhelmingly argue in favor of aggressive mitigation efforts. But we’ll see no such critical thinking by House Republicans over the next two years, what we will encounter is a chamber of Congress sink to the depths of what we encountered by the Tea Party conventions or a Glenn Beck show. Our leaders have become the worst of us.