Deniers go ape for Scopes climate trial, Inhofe quotes John Stuart Mill — an early proponent of sustainability!

Who would ape the Luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their call for “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” on global warming?  Why the monkey-see, monkey do deniers at Planet Gore and the office of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OIL).

Inhofe’s office actually quoted me:

Joe Romm, of the Center for American Progress, asks the board members of the Chamber “to declare whether they are evolved members of humanity or dedicated to our self-destruction.” This scathing, ad hominem response brings to mind John Stuart Mill, who, in his renowned essay “On Liberty,” discussed the practical implications of stifling opinions thought to be incorrect or misguided.

Note:  If you aren’t evolved, then my attack wouldn’t be ad hominem.  Ad simian, maybe.

In any case, my fact-based critique quotes at length from the major court case already held on climate science (see here), in which the witness for the deniers, John Christy, essentially agreed with the witness for climate science, NASA’s James Hansen on the key points, and where he didn’t, the judge explained that “it appears that the bulk of scientific opinion opposes Christy’s position” and that Christy’s view “does not fall within the mainstream of climate scientists.”

What is truly bizarre is that Inhofe staffer David Lungren quotes Mill:

To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty.

So many things are wrong with this argument.  We’re not talking about an “opinion.”  Climate science is … science.  There have been innumerable “hearings,” including the Vermont court case, but far more importantly, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process in which every single member government — including the Bush Administration, China, and Saudi Arabia — got to “hear” every single word of the scientific conclusions of the hundreds of scientists who have reviewed thousands of articles (articles which themselves were subject to a scientific “hearing” in the peer review process).  The IPCC summaries are agreed to word for word by every government (which is one reason they tend to be watered down).  The results of the hearings can be found here and are summarzied here, “Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly.”

The deniers just don’t like the facts that they hear, so they stick their fingers in their ears and yell “La la la la la la la” over and over again or is that “ooh ooh, ee ee, ah ah” (see “Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?”*).

I am filing this under humor in part because it is unintentionally hilarious that Inhofe’s staffer quotes Mill, a man who understood the difference between science and opinion — a man who was one of the early proponents of the argument that unlimited growth was unsustainable!  Indeed, on that final point, Wikipedia’s entry on Mill notes:

Mill demonstrated an early insight into the value of the natural world – in particular in Book IV, chapter VI of “Principles of Political Economy”: “Of the Stationary State” in which Mill recognises wealth beyond the material, and argues that the logical conclusion of unlimited growth is destruction of the environment and a reduced quality of life.

If you want to see just how brilliant Mill was, read “Of the Stationary State“:

It must always have been seen, more or less distinctly, by political economists, that the increase of wealth is not boundless: that at the end of what they term the progressive state lies the stationary state, that all progress in wealth is but a postponement of this, and that each step in advance is an approach to it….

Even in a progressive state of capital, in old countries, a conscientious or prudential restraint on population is indispensable, to prevent the increase of numbers from outstripping the increase of capital, and the condition of the classes who are at the bottom of society from being deteriorated….

I cannot, therefore, regard the stationary state of capital and wealth with the unaffected aversion so generally manifested towards it by political economists of the old school. I am inclined to believe that it would be, on the whole, a very considerable improvement on our present condition. I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human kind, or anything but the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress.

That’s someone ahead of their time.  And Mill wrote this in 1848 when the world population was a mere 1.2 billion — under 5 times smaller that today!

I seriously doubt Inhofe’s office agrees with Mill’s views, which they obviously don’t understand.  I can’t possibly believe that if Mill were alive today he would come to any other conclusion but that he was right all along and that we urgently need to stop the global Ponzi scheme and embrace sustainability fast.  After all, Mill also “clearly set forth the premises of the scientific method,” something Inhofe’s office utterly rejects (see Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Inhofe, CO2 “” but not the sun “” “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850 and Inhofe keeps making stuff up, this time utterly misquoting Revkin on Hansen and “Uber-denier Inhofe misquotes Hadley, gives big wet Valentine’s kiss to Pielke “” go figure!“).

It’s worth nothing that in “On Liberty,” Mill notes:

… the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

Preventing harm to others — ruining a livable climate for billions of people — is what climate action is all about.


Finally, uber-denialist, Chris Horner, weighs in on behalf of a monkey trial for climate science in a piece a Natinal Review Online’s Planet Gore titled, “EPA, Coward of the County“:

They can’t win, which is why they don’t fight. They are cowards, and the more hysterical and threatening their rhetoric gets in the face of this refusal, the more they prove far too much.

Yes, it’s a long way from quoting John Stuart Mill to quoting a Kenny Rogers song.  But what do you expect from a guy who works on climate issues as a Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which actually runs ad campaigns aimed at destroying the climate for centuries. You can read all about Horner at  He is a master of pushing long-debunked denier talking points, stating as recently as April 2005, “the atmosphere inarguably shows no appreciable warming in the 25-year history of satellite and radiosonde measurements (initiated in response to the cooling panic).” Amazing how “inarguable” denier claims turn out not only to be arguable but scientifically disapprovable “” yet CEI still keeps the long-debunked statement on its website.

Finally, the Christian Science Monitor has a great piece, “Are climate change deniers like creationists?” which notes:

Both groups willfully ignore mountains of firmly established scientific evidence. Both groups falsely portray the scientific community as divided over settled science. Both groups make spurious appeals to academic freedom, arguing that “both sides” of the debate should be presented as though they possess equal merit. And both groups derive most of their funding from privately funded think tanks, having scant presence in the science departments of accredited colleges and universities.

The piece then points out “in some cases, it’s the very same people who deny both phenomena”:

Steven Milloy, a prominent climate change denier and “junk science” contributor to Fox News, told the Cato Institute in 2007 that “[e]xplanations of human evolution are not likely to move beyond the stage of hypothesis or conjecture.”

Actor and commentator Ben Stein, whose 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed claimed that belief in evolution led directly to the Nazi Holocaust, asserted on Fox News this year that “global warming is by no means proved.”

Roy Spencer, a researcher at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, author of the 2008 book “Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor,” and the “official climatologist” of Rush Limbaugh’s EIB network, wrote in 2005 that “intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism.”

Onion Scopes small

12 Responses to Deniers go ape for Scopes climate trial, Inhofe quotes John Stuart Mill — an early proponent of sustainability!

  1. TokyoTom says:

    Joe, Horner`s “coward of the county” bothered me too; he misunderstands the law (that the Supreme Court has essentially forced the EPA to issue and endangerment finding) and he ignores the fact that the only reason why the finding is pending is because Bush and Republicans couldn`t be bothered to amend the Clean Air Act to overrule the Supreme Court (by amending the CAA to provide that it doesn`t apply to climate threats).

    Libertarian environmental law prof. Jonathan Adler agrees with me; I`ve put up a brief post with legal background and thoughts on political gamesmanship that might be useful to readers:


  2. pete best says:

    Yes, the USA will be fighting the paranoid delusional for ever on every subject that requires the status quo to remain as it it for power and wealth seem to be their idea of what life is about even at the expense of an awful lot of us. We have to face the facts, when it comes to US politics even complete nonsense seems to carry as much weight as peer reviewed science. To us Europeans 50 US states seem to be livng an uneasy alliance as many states seem to be at odds with each other and your politics is a dichotomy of what looks like real loathing of the two political parties.

  3. Chris Winter says:

    Three things:

    1. That choice of title was a remarkable instance of cultural tone-deafness on Horner’s part.

    2. His NRO piece references the CEI comments on EPA’s proposed endangerment ruling. Whatever the legal merits of the case against endangerment, those comments are based in large part on the same long-debunked arguments against mainstream climate science.

    3. Such a trial might be a useful test of basing regulatory action, or legislation, on the precautionary principal. Of course, that depends on the astuteness of counsel.

  4. Stuart says:

    Chris – tone deaf is right! I wonder if Horner forgot that at the end of the song the “coward” whips all the bullies.

  5. Bill says:

    What’s most interesting about the NAM petition is that it does not deny that there is global warming caused by human activities. It cites a submitted-but-not-published paper that suggests that current models overstate the rate of change. But the real gist of the petition is that maybe global warming is good or, at least, not so bad at least for some people. Specifically, NAM wants a trial on the issues of whether hot weather is better for people than cold weather, whether maybe ocean acidification isn’t a problem, whether global warming will be good for health because increased precipitation induced by global warming will reduce particulates in the air (which also come from industry), and whether global warming will really induce more extreme weather events (narrowly defined). (Indeed, NAM’s electricity counterpart, the Edison Electric Institute acknowledges that we need to cut GHG’s by 80%; it merely wants someone other than anyone in its industry to bear any of the costs.)
    Of course, apart from their patent frivolity and narrow focus, NAM’s claims that global warming might be good are entirely ill-suited to a trial-type hearing in which, at most, a few paid experts are cross-examined, leaving out the vast array of scientists and studies who are not represented in the proceeding. (In a trial NAM would argue that EPA could only consider studies by witnesses who are available for cross-examination.) NAM’s goals are really two-fold (a) promoting public confusion, which would certainly not be reduced by a trial with highly-paid litigators showing off, and(b) delaying EPA action by the year or more that would be required to conduct a trial, briefing, etc. Part of the intended public confusion is to create the misimpression that EPA is afraid of a trial. The simple fact is that a traditional trial is totally inappropriate for the type of broad scientific and public policy issues posed by global warming. Did anyone have their uncertainty about Darwin or their certainty about the Old Testament changed by the Scopes trial? That is why U.S. administrative law calls for rulemakings to be conducted by non-trial procedures which permit the agency to consider both its independent expertise and the full scope of scientific data available.

  6. Kevin says:

    I understand that there is little debate among climate scientists. However, saying the debate is over isn’t working because the other side didn’t get the memo. They continue to rehash long debunked arguements w/out rebuttal. It hasn’t helped that this summer has been extraordinarily cool in those parts of the country where support is weakest (and where the swing votes in the Senate live). While a majority of the public appear to think that yes the science is real, a good part of that support is rather soft. How much of the continual hammering with no real response do you think can occur before we lose that majority support?

    [JR: Talk to the folks who aren’t responding, not me. Start with the White House and scientific community, then go to enviros duped by ecoAmerica, then….]

  7. Ron Broberg says:

    I especially appreciate the Mill’s quotes.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Hmmm, also in 1848 CE Europe had a bunch of revolutions.

  9. Mike#22 says:

    From the USCC’s filing, somewhere around page 12, “A Proceeding On The Record Would Permit The Parties To Provide Any Necessary Confirmation That Temperature Increases Would Overall Benefit Human Welfare And The Environment, And Allow EPA To Receive Evidence Rebutting unsubstantiated Claims To The Contrary.”

  10. Dan R says:

    Roy Spencer’s approach to creationism is best summed up in his words here.

  11. Dan R says:

    “I also became open to reading the Bible because I discovered that a very intelligent friend of mine believed the Bible was the word of God” – Dr. Spencer, from my previous link.

    I wonder whether that very intelligent friend is this man, but I am merely speculating.