Why talking to the US Congressional Science Committee about climate change is admirable, but futile

September 23, 2014

Climate Change, Energy

White House Science Adviser John Holdren ( Photo from AP)

White House Science Adviser John Holdren ( Photo from AP)

Last week, Dr. John Holdren, science adviser to the White House, spoke before the Congressional Committee on Space, Science, and Technology about climate change, but they weren’t listening.

Republican Representative Steve Stockman: “How can you take an element which you give to the credit for the collapse of global freezing and into global warming but leave it out of your models?”

“I’m a little puzzled because we still don’t have metrics of how to determine global wobbling.”

Dr. John Holdren tries to explain why Global Wobbling is not relevant when creating climate models. Climate models are making projections for time scales of usually around 100 years, whereas wobbling, which refers to the changes in the earth’s tilt and orbit, operates on time scales of around 100,000 years.

This is like worrying about the shifting of continental tectonic plates when figuring out how long your overseas flight will take.

This would be like Google maps considering Einstein’s special relativity time dilation when figuring out how long it takes to drive to Target.

Stockman thinks he has outsmarted Holdren by using Archimedes’ principle of displacement to point out that melting ice shouldn’t raise sea levels. However, he forgot that because of thermodynamics, heating causes expansion, and also that not all melting ice is in the water.

Also, when ice melts, it loses the ability to reflect more sunlight.

Later, Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher continued to ask about irrelevant topics, including his question “At what level does carbon dioxide concentration become harmful to human health?”

John Holden again has an excellent response!

“Vice Chairman Rorhabacher, I always enjoy my interactions with you. I have to say, with respect, that’s a red herring. We are not interested in carbon dioxide concentrations because of their direct effect on human health, we are interested in them because of their effect on the world’s climate, and climate change has effects on human health.”

Ground-level carbon dioxide is not the issue here. The issue is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing a greenhouse effect.

Here’s another example:

Ozone is necessary to block a large percentage of harmful UV radiation. The Ozone Layer is found mainly in the stratosphere.

On the other hand, ground level ozone is considered pollution, also known as photochemical smog, since breathing in ozone is harmful to human health.

However, when we study the hole in the ozone layer, we aren’t concerned with the levels of ozone that harm human health; we are concerned with concentrations in the atmosphere and how the change in atmospheric concentrations may alter our atmosphere’s ability to absorb UV radiation, which still does affect human health.

Unfortunately, we have multiple members of the US Congressional Committee on Science, Space, and Technology who refuse to have an open dialogue with scientists. They are not asking him for recommendations on how to deal with the effects of human activity on the climate, but are grasping at irrelevant diversions to avoid compromising their positions.

This antagonistic approach to questioning scientific authorities is further evidenced by Republican Representative Larry Bucshon, who openly accuses climate scientists of conspiring in order to sustain their careers.

It would seem logical to assume that energy companies, and particularly companies that prevalence of petroleum products, would have a much stronger vested interest in climate change legislation. Yes, scientists do require funding to continue their research, but scientists would continue to find sources of funding even if climate change did not exist.

I am not insisting that debate on climate change response is over. But we need to discuss relevant issues instead of allowing ourselves to be sidetracked by ideologies. The fact that they don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change is troubling, but what is more concerning is that they are not trying to start a discussion; they are just trying to win an argument.

As always, if you have found compelling evidence to dispute the claims in my writing, please feel free to present it.

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About jslachman381

I'm a Yale graduate who majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.

View all posts by jslachman381


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One Comment on “Why talking to the US Congressional Science Committee about climate change is admirable, but futile”

  1. magnocrat Says:

    Those who are well funded by government will always envy those who are even better funded. Anything linked to the science of weaponry will always be well funded.
    Any research which throws doubt on our continued pleasent civilised life- style will be buried for as long as possible.



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