EPA Inspector General: EPA met statutory requirements for rulemaking and generally followed requirements and guidance related to ensuring the quality of the supporting technical information.
Here’s some background on the denier molehill-to-mountain du jour.
In December 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency reviewed a mountain of scientific evidence and found that “Six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations.”
In April 2010, the country’s most famous climate science denier, Sen James Inhofe (R-OIL) asked for a federal investigation into this rather obvious finding.
In February of this year, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a January 2008 letter from then EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson explaining to President Bush that:
… a finding is still required by the Supreme Court case, and the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research.
Today, after spending an estimated $297,385 in putting together its report, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes. The first sentence of that report is above.
Since it spent all that money, I suppose the IG felt obliged to come up with some complaint to satisfy Inhofe. Here is IG’s torturous explanation of that complaint:
Whether EPA’s review of its endangerment finding TSD [ Technical support document] met Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements for peer review depends on whether the TSD is considered a highly influential scientific assessment. In our opinion, the TSD was a highly influential scientific assessment because EPA weighed the strength of the available science by its choices of information, data, studies, and conclusions included in and excluded from the TSD. EPA officials told us they did not consider the TSD a highly influential scientific assessment. EPA noted that the TSD consisted only of science that was previously peer reviewed, and that these reviews were deemed adequate under the Agency’s policy. EPA had the TSD reviewed by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists.
In plain English, the EPA based its assessment on major peer-reviewed reviews of the peer-reviewed literature, including those by the IPCC and National Research Council. The EPA correctly states that it does not need to do a full peer review of such peer-reviewed reviews of the peer-reviewed literature. The IG’s “opinion” is that it should have.
As Climate Progress noted yesterday:
The Agency examined peer-reviewed studies included in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report; four reports by the National Research Council, a division of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; 18 federal government studies; and the international Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. (A description of these entities’ peer-review structure and a listing of the data and findings considered by EPA can be found on pages 3-4 of the endangerment finding).
Again, these peer-reviewed studies are themselves primarily reviews of the extensive peer-reviewed literature.
Not surprisingly, the OMB wrote to the OIG explaining that what the EPA did was perfectly fine:
OMB believes that EPA reasonably determined that the Endangerment TSD itself (as opposed to the underlying peer-reviewed scientific assessments of the NRC, IPCC, USGRCP identified and discussed in the TSD) did not have the impacts or characteristics required to meet the OMB Bulletin’s definition of a highly influential scientific assessment. In making its endangerment findings, EPA noted that the underlying “scientific assessments of the IPCC,USGRCP, and the NRC represent the best reference materials” on which it was prepared to rely; that it had determined not “to perform a new and independent assessment of all of the underlying climate change science”; and that it had “no reason to believe that putting this significant body of work aside and attempting to develop a new and separate assessment would provide any better basis for making the endangerment decision.” Thus, it was not the Endangerment TSD prepared by EPA itself but the conclusions of these three underlying peer-reviewed scientific assessments that informed the agency’s decision.
Duh. Has any body of scientific knowledge been more reviewed in recent years than the peer-reviewed climate science literature?
This whole episode is a molehill against the ever-growing mountain of evidence that human-caused warming is a danger to humans.
Attempting to create a new scandal, Inhofe highlighted the opinion of the OIG that more rigorous procedures should have been followed, saying that “the endangerment finding, the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying regulatory agenda, was rushed, biased, and flawed.”
Right-wing blogs are trying desperately to twist this confirmation of the endangerment finding’s integrity into a story of corruption, using Inhofe’s press release to falsely claim “EPA’s own inspector general calls greenhouse gas science flawed.”
Tragically, the deniers can’t stop unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases from being an ever-growing danger to humans. Ironically, in fact, their success at creating doubt and inaction has dramatically increased the chances that we will see the worst-case impacts. I will have a complete review of the our scientific understanding of likely impacts up shortly.