The American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth Green is vying to be the Charlie Sheen of the denial crowd. He said in a 2008 speech, “For the last decade, warming peaked, and has recently declined: we’re back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978.” Not. Not even close.
He also said “No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly.” Not (see World’s Engineers: “The Technology Needed to Cut the World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 85% by 2050 Already Exists”).
But in some sense that’s all standard denier fare. Green went the full Sheen in reply to a recent Chris Mooney column on how “Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left.”
Sheen Green wrote “Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals” (!) and he even played the “card-carrying socialist” card.
What follows is Mooney taking the sheen off of Green at Science Progress:
The Debate Over Left-Right Science Abuse Turns … Emotional
By Chris Mooney
On Tuesday, I posted a long and widely read piece at DeSmogBlog dismantling the claim that there is anything “equivalent” about science abuse on the left and the right today. For some, this seems to have been a pretty powerful statement. And thus my friend Phil Plait, who I’ll be glad to see at CSICON in New Orleans next month, weighed in and said:
This is one of the most important political articles I’ve read in quite some time. Chris lays out the political reality of antireality in a stark way. The article is frustrating and infuriating, because it shows just how the right’s leaders have lost their grip on reality, and is a grim reminder of just how important the elections next year are.
But my article prompted precisely the opposite reaction from the person it was most directly criticizing–Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute. He didn’t respond very favorably, perhaps because I showed a quotation of his from 2003 that seemed to undermine his claim to support mainstream climate science.
Green accused me of “uninspired personal attacks,” though I am not aware of making any. Pointing out what Green said in 2003 is not a personal attack. I’ve written tons of things in the past–including some I don’t agree with any longer. It’s fine to point that stuff out.
If there was something about my tone that offended Green, though, I do want to apologize for that. I wrote with zest, to be sure. But I certainly did not intend any personal attacks.
In any case, to rebut me, Green really unleashed:
Let’s take the first one. Mooney says: “On the left, we eat alive our own allies when they make false claims. That’s precisely what happened on vaccines and autism.”
This is actually comedy-club material when you consider that the Left still worships at the altars of Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, Al Gore, and David Suzuki, who have declared the End of Days virtually every day for 40 years now. White House Science Advisor John Holdren is infamous for his extreme doomsday views and solutions, while Gore, who has a climate-footprint larger than some entire countries, just held a Climaggedon Telethon and still gets around $150K per speech from Left-leaning audiences pining for his non-existent presidency.
We get some emotion-laden phrases here: “worships at the altars,” “extreme doomsday views,” “Climageddon Telethon,” “pining for his non-existent presidency…” We do not get a rebuttal. And FYI: The notion that I worship at the altars of Carson and Ehrlich, when I was born in 1977, strikes me as deeply weird and disorienting.
But it continues:
On to the third argument, that only the anti-science types on the right are associated with the major political parties. Mooney says: “But the fringes aren’t very relevant—unless the inmates are running the asylum. That’s what you have today on the right, where Republicans and Tea Partiers overwhelmingly reject mainstream knowledge in key areas and these views are also endorsed by elected representatives and even presidential candidates.”
So let’s see who is running the asylum under Obama. As I pointed out in 2009, Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals, and until recently, Carol Browner, Gore’s disciple (and yes, a card-carrying socialist), was part of Obama’s team as well. Her disciple, Lisa Jackson, has unleashed an unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations into the teeth of an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, apparently, has nightmares about hydrocarbons, but was apparently firmly behind funding Solyndra, the solar-cell manufacturer that just ate half-a-billion dollars in tax subsidies. Big checkbooks in the asylum, these days.
This is even more extraordinary, Again, it’s off point. Even if everyone in the Obama administration was a Bolshevik [they're not, of course; rebuttal to this Browner stuff here], that would do nothing to strengthen Green’s case, since he does not show a single instance of science abuse. The fact is that the science the administration wants to use to make policy on climate is widely accepted science.
Keith Kloor is particularly shocked by Green’s tone in this passage–but should he be?
Motivated reasoning theory tells us that when phrases like “card-carrying socialist,” “unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations,” “environmental radicals,” and “nightmares about hydrocarbons” are used, we’re no longer engaged in a dialogue. If I now proceed to refute Green again, I’ll just be feeding a cycle of polarization. If one is interested in having a real exchange, it is far better to step back. Otherwise, we’ll just be acting like Congress acts–unable to find any common ground.
So I’ll say again to Green: I’m sorry if you saw a personal attack in what I wrote. That was not intended. However, I do not find your rebuttals persuasive or, really, on point (on the Christian right, you’ve just ignored all the evidence I produced). And a lot of people, like Phil Plait, find my arguments pretty persuasive. Soooo…don’t you think there can be something more like common ground here? I’m not saying the left is innocent–just that it doesn’t really compare right now to the right.
I propose we slice it this way. Let’s just focus on presidential candidates, the people the parties put forward to represent them. Most GOP candidates today reject evolution and climate science. Do you know of President Obama rejecting anything in science as well established as these two bodies of knowledge? I certainly do not.
– Chris Mooney