It has been drawn to my attention that Myron Ebell will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy. Not everyone is entirely happy about this3 and doubtless Trump will be distressed by that, but he is unlikely to take this unexpected opposition too seriously. Scratching my head and trying to think of a contrarian way to approach the matter, I thought I’d try reading what he has actually said, instead of reading what other people who don’t like him say. First of all, slightly to my surprise, I discover that I’ve had no cause to edit his wikipedia page5.

The NYT tells me that

Mr. Ebel leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose-knit group that says it is “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” He has been one of the nation’s most visible climate contrarians, known for dispensing memorable sound bites on cable news shows and at events like the annual conferences sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based group that rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Mr. Ebell has said that “a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-rate scientists have gotten a long ways” by embracing climate change. He frequently mocks climate leaders like Al Gore, and has called the movement the “forces of darkness” because “they want to turn off the lights all over the world.” No one, it seems, is immune to his criticism. He called Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, issued in mid-2015, “scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent and morally obtuse.” “It is also theologically suspect, and large parts of it are leftist drivel,” he added.

Well, I didn’t like Laudato Si all that much either. But since the NYT points me at the CHC, whose wiki page I certainly have edited, let’s read what he has to say there.

But before we go on, here’s a lovely sunny picture from, errm, the summer to cheer us all up in these dark rainy days2.

DSC_5070

Scrolled down? Jolly good. On we go. Here are ME’s posts at the CHC1. Let’s go through them:

* [2016/01] UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat Announces Steps for Signing and Ratifying the Paris Climate Treaty. The Next Step Is Up To the Senate. Gloss: politics, not science. The point he is trying to make – and if we’re honest, it is a good one – is that the Paris Treaty is actually, errm, a treaty and should therefore be presented for ratification. Obama is not doing this – he is at best sidestepping the law – and we guardians of Law and Decency really don’t give a toss about that, do we, because a Higher Duty says it’s the Right Thing To Do.
* [2016/01] Robert M. Carter, RIP Meh: Carter wasn’t worth his time, but then he wasn’t worth mine, either. No scientific content, and in an obituary niceness is expected, unless you’re me.
* [2015/12] President Obama Thinks Paris Climate Treaty Will Bind Next President – more not-science.
* [2015/09] Pope Francis Will Try To Meet with Ailing Fidel Castro and Will Be Met by Obamas at Andrews AFB – Da Pope has betrayed him, so he’s taking the piss, but without the accompanying pic it is hard to even tell.
* [2015/08] EPA’s Colossally Costly Power Plan Fulfills Obama’s Campaign Promise – again: politics, not science.
* [2015/06] Pope Francis’s Climate Encyclical: Help Poor People by Dismantling Industrial Civilization – a familiar theme: the Left are anti-lifting-poor-out-of-poverty la la la. There’s more to say on that, but not here. Although it briefly touches on the science: Laudato Si’ fails to get the science right (see paragrahps 2026 [he means 20-26 I think -W]) it is mostly about politics, as is LaSi itself. He is, of course, wrong to say so unreservedly that it “fails to get the science right”.
* [2015/04] AEI Holds Carbon Tax Love-In. Apart from the “love-in” of the title, a straight report of a carbon tax event, which as you know I’m in favour of as are all right4-thinking people.
* [2015/02] New York Times Repeats Scurrilous Greenpeace Attack on Willie Soon Without Checking the Facts: here he is defending the indefensible, but as with the Carter obituary (has anyone heard from Soon recently?) he’s just defending someone on his own side; and once again there’s no science in there.
* [2015/02] British Political Elites Unite In Economic Suicide Pact – more politics.

You get the idea. I’ll stop going post-by-post, because they are all much the same: politics, and economics, not science. When given the chance he takes minor sideswipes at the science, yes, but it is never his major focus. He takes the piss out of John Kerry getting the GHE wrong (Kerry has probably mistaken it for the ozone layer). There’s a post in July 2014 pointing to him being interviewed by James Delingpole. ME insists that he puts forward freedom and open markets above all else; and he and JD are worried about the Vast Socialist World Gummint Conspiracy. ME repeats the tedious “flat 20 years temperature” which is silly (also seen slightly earlier in the 17 year version), but such talk wasn’t uncommon in 2014 (Kevin Trenberth took the pause seriously in Science in 2015 and didn’t give an unambiguous answer; that’s not the same as “flat” of course, but still). There is also interesting discussion – worry, perhaps, about the success of the tactic – of the way their opponents make GW a moral issue (a strategy I wasn’t terribly happy with just recently). And his assertion that this makes it necessary for him to show that GW is fake. But they spend almost none of the interview talking about science. Another fragemnt is “…we first have to make the scientific case that the planet is not in peril and we’re not all going to fry; yes there may be some warming and yes there has been some warming but its not really in the top 20 challenges that we face…”.

I think the best clue to his thinking on this does come from the interview6. You should listen to it, if you want to know what he’d be like in charge. If he walks-his-talk, he’ll be in favour of repealling regulation, just like Trump promised.

I got bored reading all those essentially-similar blog posts. So I switched to wiki, which told me, under the heading “Global warming denial”, that In 2001, Ebell stated his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the European Union and the rest of the world to harm America’s economy. He justified the allegation with a quote from European Commissioner Margot Wallström in her response to Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.[20]. The [20] is a ref to EU sends strong warning to Bushover greenhouse gas emisssions. Unfortunately, it is only a ref to what MW says, and doesn’t even mention ME. This falls rather short of wiki’s normal standards.

Googling throws up the smoggies who provide the damming:

Believing that man-made climate change exists, as I do, does not necessarily mean that you think that it is rapid or a serious problem or that the policies to address it will actually do anything or that you are willing to pay the costs of those policies

which is the only quotable quote they can find for him since 2007.

You might say, since it is so clear that science is not his major focus, but politics and economics is, then why should he get the task he has been given? And the answer, obviously, would be that those agencies and policies do have major political and economic ramifications. Asking someone pure science, or possibly even mostly-science-with-little-understanding-of-economics, to do the job wouldn’t obviously make sense.

Afterword: ME could have written my We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution?

Notes

1. Also known as “globalwarming.org”. I’ve never been too sure how seriously to take the identity of each fragment of this clearly interlinked group, but really, who cares exactly who he is writing the words for, it is words that are identifiably his that matter.

2. If you’re in the northern mid-latitudes, at least.

3. Conversely, the nutters are both delighted by the appointment and by the outrage it has caused.

4. “right” as in “correct”, not as in “wing”.

5. Well I have now but I hadn’t then: check the timestamps.

6. Listening to that I thought he sounded quite unpolished. Entirely unlike a pol; in that he took some trouble to clearly articulate a logically coherent message. He very much was not just ramming home pre-made talking points. This is roughly congruent to Gavin’s “I’ve been at events & on radio w/Ebell – he’s not that impressive” which I’ve only just seen.

Refs

* The US Libertarian party
* They may not like it, but scientists must work with Donald Trump say Jack Stilgoe and Roger Pielke Jr. ATTP has a convoluted reason for not liking it, but ter be ‘onest guv I didn’t finish parsing it.
* The CEI (though not explicitly ME) are cautiously in favour of a Universal Basic Income; even citing Hayek.
* Love Global Warming: What’s wrong with mild winters, anyway? – ME in Forbes, 2016/08. A useful antidote to anyone who thought his views were actually sensible.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark S
    2016/11/12

    The Wikipedia history tab provides some clues to the origin of the ‘hoax’ quote.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Myron_Ebell&diff=21371407&oldid=21371089

    It seems to be a Radio 4 program in 2004 that is no longer accessible.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/interview/octnov_2004.shtml

    I doubt it’s a direct quote.

    [Ah, I think I now see what has happened. That link has now migrated further down the paragraph until it no longer appears connected to the statement. The link is still available, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/interview/octnov_2004.shtml, and is http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today3_climate_20041104.ram I’m now trying to play it. Ah, but it is only 170 bytes. Rats. Even the Internet Archive’s copy is the same -W]

  2. #2 SteveP
    2016/11/12

    Myron Ebell – Free market ideologue. Self appointed expert on climate science. Darling of those who are scientifically illiterate but highly fluent in reality TVl, but most especially, a darling of their ownership class.. Expected to become a lightening rod of discontent among younger voters when Trump fails to deliver on industrial job growth, and global warming evidence becomes painfully inescapable.

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again
    2016/11/13

    https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/regulations

    There’s a difference between the CFR and the FR. The FR announces ongoing activities of the agencies and notifies you when you can comment on a proposed regulation. Once a final decision is issued in the form of a final regulation, the regulation is then codified when it is incorporated into the CFR.

  4. #5 Russell
    2016/11/13

    “Mr. Ebell has said that “a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-rate scientists have gotten a long ways” by embracing climate change”

    A dangerous declension for a man with nary a tiger in this think tank, and three months to restaff the EPA Directorate.

    My guess is that he’ll be ringing up Steve Koonin.

  5. #6 Dan Riley
    2016/11/13

    Different usages of “treaty”. The set of international agreements the US is a party to that are subject to the article II treaty clause is a tiny subset (wp says 6%) of the things international law considers treaties. If Obama already has the authority to implement the Paris agreement, through executive branch authority or prior delegation of authority from the legislature (I believe he does, though SCOTUS may yet disagree), then it doesn’t require article II consent and Obama isn’t sidestepping the law any more than his predecessors for the last 60+ years.

    Ebell’s argument wrt this is actually worse than most, as his basic argument in the first link seems to be that the UN definitions of terms ought to be what determines how the US constitution is interpreted–a very weird position given his political inclinations.

    The problem with Mr. Ebell as Trump’s agent isn’t that he’s a politician with little in-depth knowledge of science. The problem is that his views of the science are entirely determined by his political views, which I would think is the wrong way around for someone in charge of staffing science agencies (but I would, of course).

  6. #7 Hank Roberts
    op. cit.
    2016/11/13

    Mirowski, Philip, “The Rise of the Dedicated Natural Science Think Tank”

    “… Analysts need to take neoliberal theorists like Hayek at their word when they state that the Market is the superior information processor par excellence. The theoretical impetus behind the rise of the natural science think tanks is the belief that science progresses when everyone can buy the type of science they like, dispensing with whatever the academic disciplines say is mainstream or discredited science….”

    [That sounds like the usual I-hate-Hayek-but-haven’t-actually-read-him kind of stuff; and the juxtaposition of the two sentences, without any logical connection between them, is weird -W]

  7. #8 Everett F Sargent
    United States of Deplorables
    2016/11/13

    Rumor has it that Willie Soon in in the running as Pumpkinhead’s chief science adviser.

    Time to add RCP11.0 to the IPCC AR6.

    Clean Coal!

    We’re No. 1

    https://youtu.be/QSPPuU66Qpk

  8. #10 Steve Bloom
    SF Bay Area
    2016/11/13

    The Senate-ratified treaty was the UNFCCC, with its commitment to avoid dangerous climate change. Further agreements toward implementing it don’t require ratification. Not that complicated.

    Also from 2007, here’s a detailed article specifically about Ebell’s science views. Possibly this resulted in him pulling in his horns? Anyway, case closed.

    [2007 was a long time ago. If you can’t find something more recent, your case is weak. And the words then are mostly weak too: There has been a little bit of warming,” as he puts it, “but it’s been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it’s caused by human beings or not, it’s nothing to worry about” and we just came out of a Little Ice Age in the middle of the 19th century. And the Little Ice Age was a time of great trial for human civilization” and says that one of the three official records of those surface temperatures—the one kept by nasa—is “cooked,” because the agency’s weather stations are often set too close to “urban heat islands,” which read disproportionately high, and that other stations fail to cover large rural areas. None of that is true, but for 2007 I think it is unremarkable (for comparison, here’s me on the IEA in 2007).

    Perhaps more interestingly, Ebell says… “They had two climate models for the precipitation impact of global warming in the Midwest. One showed the Midwest becoming a desert and the other one showed Kansas becoming as lush as Indiana.” “Those studies are dated and irrelevant,” says Kevin Trenberth… Trenberth is allowed to say that old studies are irrelevant, but ME’s assessment of the science from 2007 must still be his present day views?

    However oceans are heating up, too. “I think that’s made up,” Ebell says. “I understand that the oceans are primarily heated by direct solar radiation. I do not understand how—beyond just the surface—they are heated by the warming up of the atmosphere. It seems to me that the atmosphere would have to warm up significantly above the previous level before that radiation could actually heat up the ocean.” “That’s the most preposterous bullshit I’ve ever heard,” exclaims Tom Wigley is a definite hit. ME is talking out of his arse here in the most egregious way. OTOH, so was Kerry in my quote, and I don’t see you attacking Kerry.

    The rest is similar. It isn’t really defensible and I won’t try to defend it; but it was more defensible in 2007. And if he hasn’t repeated it since then, well, good, he has learnt something -W]

  9. #11 Nick
    2016/11/13

    Pity he hasn’t a doctorate

  10. #12 Dan Riley
    2016/11/13

    “Although the United States is legally bound by the UNFCCC, the UNFCCC does not provide the Executive with an independent source of authority for imposing quantitative emissions restrictions on industry.”

    From “International Agreements on Climate Change: Selected Legal Questions” by the indispensable Congressional Research Service,

    http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/142749.pdf

  11. #13 Hank Roberts
    meanwhile
    2016/11/13

    > juxtaposition of the two sentences,
    > without any logical connection between them, is weird -W

    Try this one:
    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674046467

  12. #15 Everett F Sargent
    2016/11/13
  13. […] Ebel is further described, in a post at Science Blogs, as the “Evil Arch Climate Uber Villain.” What’s the old expression, “you shall be known by the company you keep.” What we are […]

  14. #17 Hank Roberts
    head in sand, body at beach
    2016/11/13

    > populist posturing

    —-quote—-
    Back in 2012 Rick Perlstein published an eye-opening piece titled The Long Con, in which he documented the close association that has always existed between right-wing organizing and direct-mail commercial scams — in fact, it’s pretty much impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. Send us money to keep Obama from imposing Sharia law; invest in this sure-fire scheme to profit from the coming hyperinflation….

  15. #18 GregH
    2016/11/14

    [That sounds like the usual I-hate-Hayek-but-haven’t-actually-read-him kind of stuff; and the juxtaposition of the two sentences, without any logical connection between them, is weird -W]

    And yet Mirowski has made studying Hayek and the rise of the think-tanks who promote his theories a big part of his work. I wonder if you find his comments grating exactly because some of the free-market theorizing done in the US is frank propaganda with no scientific basis, ie. unbelievable. And yet, Myron Ebell and Donald Trump are their constituency.

  16. #19 Steve Bloom
    Sf Bay Area
    2016/11/14

    The only logical conclusion from to reach Ebell’s science commentary having dried up around that time

    Wear your blinders with pride, William. As you said, must be the job.

  17. #20 Steve Bloom
    2016/11/14

    Ignore that sentence fragment. I was going to respond in detail, but then decided it was pointless.

  18. #21 matt
    2016/11/14

    More quotes. He is a tosser, just call it already. I left out quite a few standard denier memes. Mangled up sources for some – (?). Dont ask me to find – I am getting “Global Warming is a hoax” type videos being recommended to me.

    [Well, for the sake of amusement I’ll take up your challenge on his behalf -W]

    Only top 2 address science.

    [Then I won’t trouble myself with the other ones, obvs -W]

    Doesn’t understand ocean CO2 uptake (2013 )
    https://youtu.be/GJlXMTh3olk?t=4m15s

    [Yeah, that one is crap. He has failed to learn not to talk about things in vague terms there. Notice, however, that “Thom” also getes it wrong, by asserting that it is a simple matter of osmosis. It isn’t osmosis, and it isn’t simple -W]

    “[Scientist X said] we should be planning for global cooling rather than GW, and we should take this as a very serious suggestion.” (2007)
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2qwr19_myron-ebell-discusses-global-cooling-6-21-07_news

    [2007; stale -W]

    Consensus is false. Claims 60:40 among leading climate scientists (2015)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoFkzdKaj_M

    “The whole case for GW is silly, and I believe the vast majority of scientists think its silly.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdXroIqkh48

    “North Korea is the ideal here, they have no emissions at all” (?)

    Conflates “GW movement” with religion.
    Lysenko.
    Calls John Holdren a corrupt scientist without evidence or even hinting why.
    Schneider, Hansen are also bad apples (?)

    “Myron Ebell, of the Competitiveness Enterprise Institute and a prominent global warming sceptic, told BBC News: “We’ve always wanted to get the science on trial”, and “we would like to figure out a way to get this into a court of law”, adding “this could work”. ” (Climategate related)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4693855.stm

    Obama CEP is unconstitutional (around 5min)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIvmSM2PADk

    He also flirts with “this is not about science but… income redistribution” kinda stuff. Definately does not endorse this stuff, but happy to dog whistle.

    Happy to say Kerry, Gore, Greenpeace, hippies, some of the interviewers in sources above also don’t know the science. Tut-tut.

    ps. I always forget what sites automatically embed videos, if it happens, just delete comment

  19. #22 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again
    2016/11/14

    About the decline in insect populations
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2016/11/12/corruptissima-re-publica-plurimae-leges/#comment-57154
    you wrote:

    […I think you’ll find it hard to persuade the “skeptics” of this, so much so that it isn’t even worth trying…. -W]

    So, what do you tell kids who listen to you?

    [What I say here. Mostly the physical science a-la IPCC, because that’s what I know -W]

  20. #23 Howard
    2016/11/14

    He has those dead-eyes and fish-lips that one associates with a child molester. Trump could have done worse: WUWT.

  21. […] Myron Ebell, Evil Arch Climate Uber Villain I touched on his wiki entry which is as of now rather better. Naturally, I’d like to claim to […]

  22. #25 James Annan
    http://blueskiesresearch.org.uk
    2016/11/14

    I actually have a recording of Ebell vs Monbiot on BBC R4 from years back, early days in the betting on climate change saga. Had another listen to see if there was anything interesting in it. There wasn’t.

  23. #26 Hank Roberts
    head in sand, body at beach
    2016/11/14

    > the physical science a-la IPCC

    I think you’ll find it hard to persuade the “skeptics” of this.

    So, if we wait for your kids to grow up, how warm will it get?
    I realize that’s a climate-sensitivity-to-politics question for which the paleo record offers little.

  24. #27 See Noevo
    2016/11/14

    In other science news (that is, if anything outside climate change “science” can qualify as science news):

    “Over the last 8 years, the Obama-Clinton administration has undermined our space program tremendously. That will change. So many good things come out of it, including great jobs. That will change very quickly under a Trump administration and it’ll change before it’s too late…
    A cornerstone of my policy is we will substantially expand public private partnerships to maximize the amount of investment and funding that is available for space exploration and development. This means launching and operating major space assets, right here, that employ thousands and spur innovation and fuel economic growth. I WILL FREE NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low earth orbit activity.”
    – Donald J.Trump.

    [That may be interesting. There’s Will Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crash Land On Planet Trump? wherein Forbes speculates that Trump might not like SpaceX, though for reasons I find hard to understand; more likely, it is just the existing launch operatives grinding their axe. The contrast between NASA and SpaceX is instructive; it will be interesting to see how Trump parses it. Though, unless he wants to make a splashy gesture (who likely is that!?), it would be hard to see it as a priority -W]

  25. #28 Quiet Waters
    2016/11/15

    Hank #22nd (& WMC if interested):

    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1816/20151740

    ‘Wildlife friendly’ farming increases yields.

  26. […] 2016. Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic to Lead EPA Transition by Robin Bravender (and 1, 2, 3, […]

  27. […] Myron Ebell, Evil Arch Climate Uber Villain on Stoat […]

  28. […] – comes Trump’s EPA pick will make Obama regret his environmental overreach by evil arch uber-villain Patrick Michaels. A quick search shows me not having much to say about PM; I seem to have left that […]

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