Moniz Explains To GOP Member How He Knows Humans Are Warming The Planet: ‘I Know How To Count’

Yesterday, new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sat before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to discuss the Department’s proposed budget and ended up explaining basic climate science to a member of the majority party.

In an exchange with former committee chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) reported by E&E Daily, Moniz was blunt:

It’s indisputable that we are experiencing warming, and that the pattern of consequences that has long been expected, in fact, are appearing around us, unfortunately — typically at the higher end of the predicted ranges,” Moniz said, pointing to melting ice caps, intensified storms, droughts and wildfires.

In recent years, the subcommittee has been used to push false talking points about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and to hold hearings just to throw climate denier talking points at real climate scientists.

Last year, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) sponsored a raft of bills that would dismantle key public health and clean air provisions and undermine landmark environmental legislation. Last week, the committee marked up Rep. McKinley’s bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating toxic coal ash.

Unsurprisingly, McKinley’s asked Secretary Moniz if global warming was “primarly man-made, or natural and cyclical.”

The conversation that followed was educational, hopefully for all parties. Watch the exchange here, courtesy of Forecast the Facts:

Here’s the transcript:

MONIZ: I believe, in my view, there is no question that a major component is anthropogenic. And that comes from–

MCKINLEY: Interesting. Is that from a consensus?

MONIZ: It is practically, I would say 98 percent of scientists involved in this area–

MCKINLEY: But you’re well aware the petition project has 32,000 scientists and physicists who’ve disagreed!

MONIZ: But sir–

MCKINLEY: They say it’s contributing, I think it would be irresponsible to say we don’t contribute, but is it primarily…?

MONIZ: If I may say — and I’d be happy to have a longer discussion — but a few facts: first of all the rise in CO2 emissions in the last half century is clearly tracked to our global increased energy use. Secondly, I know how to count. I can count how many CO2 molecules have gone out from fossil fuel combustion and I know how many additional CO2 molecules are in the atmosphere–

MCKINLEY: Let me just close with saying, in terms of consensus, I think consensus has a place in politics, but consensus doesn’t have a place in science.

MONIZ: …Again, sir, I just want to clarify: my judgment is based on numbers, on data, and not on the consensus, and I would be really delighted if we could have a discussion.

MCKINLEY: We could have that, I liked that.

The “petition project” McKinley refers to is the infamous Oregon Petition, an effort to gather signatures saying that climate change is not caused by humans and if it is, that it is beneficial. Its numbers are meaningless because signatories do not need to have any knowledge of real climate science. As Brian Angliss put it: “What expertise does a nuclear engineer or a medical doctor or a food scientist or mechanical engineer have that makes them qualified to have an informed opinion on the cause(s) of recent climate disruption?”

Secretary Moniz acquitted himself well in the face of all of these assertions, and it is likely he and Rep. McKinley would draw a large audience if their “longer discussion” became public. While it is too soon to tell if he convinced McKinley, subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield certainly seemed impressed.

Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) told Politico after the hearing, “The difference between Chu and Moniz is like night and day … I think he’s much better than Secretary Chu, myself. I think he’s more knowledgeable. I think he has a more practical approach to the political arena.”

Former Secretary Chu would also explain climate science to House members, but as he said himself about his rhetorical abilities, “I’m a scientist, not a politician!” It is possible his successor found more success with counting.

52 Responses to Moniz Explains To GOP Member How He Knows Humans Are Warming The Planet: ‘I Know How To Count’

  1. SecularAnimist says:

    David McKinley is just one more bought-and-paid-for stooge of the fossil fuel corporations, spouting whatever pack of lies they tell him to spout on any given day.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Uummm; Two Approaches

    One approach is to try to politely explain the basic facts of climate science to a politician who doesn’t want to understand and whose mind is preoccupied (while you try to explain) with trying to find words, and ways of putting phrases, to continue to cast doubt on the subject. Dead end. (It has to be done, but don’t expect anything important to come of it.)

    Another approach is to let Hillary Clinton — someone supposedly on “our side” — and other would-be Democratic contenders that we will not support anyone for the nomination — no money, no feet on the streets, and no votes — who does not have a clear, compelling, credible, courageous, and sufficient (to the challenge) stand on climate change and how she/he will address it if elected. And to let them know this in no uncertain terms. And to let them know this ASAP. And to let the Democratic party leadership know that if the ultimate nominee is not such a candidate, he/she will not get our voting support in the general election.

    Both approaches are necessary — and others too — but the second approach is Essential for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has been living and watching these recent years.

    CAP can play a vital role with respect to the second approach. Will it?



  3. M Tucker says:

    As long as Republicans control the House nothing will get done. They, of course, are not interested in the truth they are interested in obstruction.

    I do not see a powerful movement to make climate change an issue in the House races next year. The mid-term elections are mostly ignored by young voters. The Congress is where the laws are written and if you cannot pass climate change legislation all you have is EPA and the Energy Department. The Republicans in the Senate are holding up the EPA director’s approval.

  4. rollin says:

    It is quite frustrating for climate scientists and others in the know to constantly have to come up against a barrage of self-serving fiction.
    Apparently a large portion of the people do not want to do anything about climate change or other predicaments. You can throw evidence at them all day long and it’s just like a rain storm to them, easily dodged with an umbrella of denial.
    There has to be a way around this political road block.

  5. M Tucker says:

    “I think consensus has a place in politics, but consensus doesn’t have a place in science.”

    Too bad because that actually is how science works. I saw it happen during my lifetime with plate tectonics. The theory was ridiculed at first but after overwhelming evidence from multiple lines of research became known it overthrew the previous paradigm. Because their will always be outliers a conclusion is reached by consensus. We have seen another consensus with the verdict that the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid impact. There are still some paleontologists who argue against that consensus. And, of course, no one pays attention to the opinion of medical doctors or engineers or astronauts or anyone who does not work in the fields of plate tectonics or paleontology.

    With climate change we have overwhelming evidence from multiple lines of research supporting anthropogenic climate change.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    If so many don’t want to take action, who is buying all those solars, electric cars etc? ME

  7. Sue says:

    Here’s hoping Moniz is equally blunt with thenPresident!

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    Moniz says he is concerned about global warming, but has maintained tight relationships with oil companies during his career. It’s time he chose one or the other.

  9. Michael Yellin says:

    It is unfortunate that Moniz did not challenge McKinley’s comment about 30,000 physicists and scientists signing a petition questioning anthropogenic global warming. It’s shocking and tragic how the leaders of our nation are so uninformed.

  10. Jay Dee Are says:

    Response to Brian Angliss: Mechanical and nuclear engineers study thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid mechanics, all of which matter to climate. They also get a good dose of applied math. Anyone trained in these fields should be able to get a handle on the physics of climatology and see that the climatologists are right about climate change.

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    Babar Hussain, who runs the Pakistan Weather Portal, said: “In 2013 the maximum was 51C/52C. The heatwave started on 12 May in Sindh province and gripped the entire country by 15 May. It lasted, with only a minor break, until 10 June. In that time, it reached 51/52C in Larkana, [a city of 2 million people in southern Sindh province] while Lahore, Punjab province’s capital of about 15 million population, recorded 47C on 23 May, its hottest temperature since 1954.”

    The effect of the heatwaves on human life has been devastating. Newspapers in Pakistan have reported hundreds of deaths because of the heat since early May, but no official numbers have been released.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Excellent idea, but it founders on the rock of political untrustworthiness. After the Obama fiasco, I find it hard to credit that anyone would believe anything said by any politician who is seeking power. I’d say that our only hope is mass mobilisation to do the needful ourselves. Politicians in capitalist dystopias always, without exception, side with the money power. Perhaps Nader is correct-only the billionaires can save us. Bloomberg, for one, seems not floridly mad, and to be prepared to protect future generations.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ability to speak out of both sides of one’s mouth is a requisite for success in late capitalism. Keep that good old Hopium flowing to the addicts. When they have to go ‘cold turkey’, watch out. Then PRISM, FISA, FEMA etc will come into their own. The Night of the Short Acronyms.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is probably not being merely ‘uninformed’. It is, I believe, primarily ideological rigidity, the means by which small minds navigate a disturbing and incomprehensible omniverse. Under no circumstances is free, unbridled, questioning, truly sceptical thought to be allowed.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    The melting of the Antarctic Ice Shelves from the bottom , the deniers reply……. volcanoes in the South Sandwich Islands

    The South Sandwich Trench

  16. Chad Brick says:

    In response to Jay Dee Are:

    “Anyone trained in these fields should be able to get a handle on the physics of climatology and see that the climatologists are right about climate change.”

    Of course, “Anyone trained in these fields” number in the tens of millions. Finding 30,000 of them, many probable fakes, is hardly impressive.

  17. rollin says:

    Mulga M, most solar is being purchased by private companies and corporations as large “farms” taking advantage of various subsidies and payouts for solar electric power. Lots of money in it in some states.

    Electric cars are an extremely small market now. Even hybrids are still quite small, the US is the biggest market and only 3 percent of the cars sold are hybrids.

  18. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    From Skeptical Science on the petition:

  19. rollin says:

    The religion of profit and greed is winning the race, since all they have to do is verbally counter the opposition and control parts of the government, easy when you have a lot of money. Like most religions, ideas outside the ideology never really enter their minds.
    If our only weapons are logic and the results of scientific investigation, we have brought a pen knife to a gun fight. This is trench warfare at it’s worst and the other side is deeply entrenched while we do not even have wire cutters.

    We have been “sold a bill of goods” and most people do not even know it or are willing to acknowledge it. When most people realize reality then change will happen.

  20. Superman1 says:

    “Apparently a large portion of the people do not want to do anything about climate change”. While I believe you meant Congress-people, the reality is your statement applies equally well to the electorate, and the people in Congress are merely reflecting the views of their constituents.

  21. Superman1 says:

    Until the electorate DEMANDS something serious be done about climate change, and indicates they would be willing to accept the drastic sacrifices and economic consequences that would result, the political leaders will do nothing on their own.

  22. BBHY says:

    Carbon Dioxide molecules absorb infrared heat energy.

    They really don’t care how many people sign a petition. They will simply continue to absorb infrared heat energy.

  23. Brooks Bridges says:

    This is where you and I split big time.

    You sound like an economist saying people actually “decide” what to buy.

    Did the electorate “demand” safety belts?

    Did the electorate “demand” anti-smoking laws?

    Do you really think the majority of Americans spend their copious spare time studying the serious issues of the day and trying to get the most accurate information?

    They’re humans.

    As Ronald Wright said: “We’re running twenty first century cultural software on hardware that hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years.”

  24. Joan Savage says:

    “ judgment is based on numbers, on data, and not on the consensus..” – Moniz


  25. Timothy Hughbanks says:

    He isn’t uninformed – he’s propagandizing. He knows he’s spewing BS, he has probably been told a dozen times that the “30,000 scientists” he’s citing could very well include his dentist and plumber. Any politician who has the gall to sit there and lecture an accomplished scientist about how consensus is reached in science is playing for the camera – he’s playing his part.

  26. prokaryotes says:

    Moniz, he seems to be really cool and uses “natural” rhetoric here! He doesn’t even bothered to point out how flawed that other guys arguments are. LOL

  27. Climate Lurker says:

    That was funny, watching the construction engineer trying to school the NUCLEAR physicist on what science is.

    Thank you, Moniz! I’m really starting to like you!

  28. Joe Romm says:


  29. Hanyewi Sunkmanitu Tanka says:

    you know, I REALLY wish one of the folks being “questioned” in these “hearings” would, when they are repeatedly interrupted, opt for absolute SILENCE and when one of the closed minded twits ask WHY they are not answering would have guts enough to say “Well, if you would STOP INTERRUPTING me every three words like a SPOILED CHILD so that I CAN answer your questions it would improve your understanding of the issues at hand. But you absolutely DO need to SHUT UP long enough for me to speak IF you actually WANT me to speak on the subject!”

  30. Gagar says:

    Still suprised that 10 years later, we still hear about the oregon petition. How is it possible ?

  31. Merrelyn Emery says:

    We are different people you know. But thanks anyway, ME

  32. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Quite right! You certainly do not want to be me, let me assure you. No-one deserves that fate.

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Precisely no.

  34. Glenn says:

    Not to mention counting the special interest money he’s lining his pockets with! #OccupyCommonSense

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Why do you think that the Right throughout the Anglosphere make the sabotage of public education such a high priority? A dumb, ignorant, pathetically and forlornly greedy, popular mass is the greatest guarantee of their eternal rule.

  36. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Don’t know about your fate Mulga but I wouldn’t mind a share of your lovely lingo, ME

  37. Eastern Trisha says:

    Did he really say “Consensus has a place in politics but consensus has no place in science?” Isn’t consensus making (the verification of one’s results by other scientistis who use the exact same “repeatable” methodology to obtain the same results fundamental to the scientific method. How on earth did he get away with saying that consensus has no place in science????

  38. Star Carlton says:

    The other day I was watching one of the hearings on the spy program that was uncovered. A female senator asked the military guy in charge “Just so we can get past this issue, do you know if these phones or computers can be hacked into?” – ” And the military guy says “No, as far I know personally- that can’t happen” – and she says – ok then lets move on.

    I am thinking – the military guy just confirmed that HE PERSONALLY doesn’t know how to do it – but the fact remains – that someone else might now how – or it is going on without his knowledge. I couldn’t believe how quickly they moved on from that answer like everything was roses. Most of these televised inquiries are just for show. They want the people to think they are smart and are doing their jobs – but they are not.

  39. Joan Savage says:

    That petition represented enough wedge votes to potentially flip an election at a state level. Scary for an elected representative.

    If anyone does an honest poll about climate change views specifically on West Virginia, that might be just as helpful to McKinley as the conversation with Moniz that I hope he does have, too.

  40. Joan Savage says:

    Good question. I think Moniz just remembered to speak the politician’s language.

    Political consensus is a compromise. Scientific consensus is not a compromise.

  41. Sara West says:

    It’s be great if Dr. Moniz would have been able to actually answer the question. Poor guy kept getting cut off at every point.

  42. Tim Sherlock says:

    Exactly. These stooges are loud and abundant in this country. This is very unfortunate for people everywhere.

  43. Louis Paul Hebert says:

    If “consensus doesn’t have a place in science”, then why would a petition have a place in science.

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    He could also have been lying. After all-it’s all the rage these days!

  45. Lore says:

    Consensus having no place in science is just a lot of parroting claptrap.

  46. SecularAnimist says:

    McKinley said: “… consensus has a place in politics, but consensus doesn’t have a place in science”

    What did he mean by that?

    Nothing. It’s meaningless verbiage. It’s just a line of BS that “sounds good” and tested well in focus groups, so now it’s being spoon-fed to all the bought-and-paid-for stooges of the fossil fuel corporations, who obediently repeat it, while neither knowing nor caring what it’s supposed to mean.

  47. Superman1 says:

    Two bad examples, Brooks. Many parents wanted seat belts to keep their wild teenagers alive; there was only mild opposition from those who claimed it would be restrictive. It had the backing of the majority. Smoking was 60/40 against; that’s the only way those mandates and economic penalties could have been implemented.

  48. Joan Savage says:

    I stand corrected. It was McKinley who made a distinction.

  49. AT THE BRIDGE says:

    A popular definition of the ego, the self made mind, is that is loud, legion, and loveless, projecting the cause of it’s insanity outside itself, thereby believing it has rid itself of insanity. It has merely hidden it from it’s own awareness. The entire establishment in this country, this world, is based in that.
    Science is based it proveable facts, not fear based opinion, name calling, and judgements. The rational mind at peace can look within without fear of what it finds. Concensus has little meaning to a mind that sees only threat outside itself.

  50. kermit says:

    We have better than 60% support for taking steps to mitigate CC now. But:
    1. Folks are disinformed, and
    2. We think we are doing something by voting for this politician or that one, but then we find we are lied to.

    If you want the rabble to sharpen their pitchforks and light the torches, you need to see them informed. Not easy when the Fossil Fuel industry has formed an alliance with Rupert Murdoch and his ilk.

  51. Sasparilla says:

    Well said Mulga.

  52. Sasparilla says:

    The vast majority of the U.S. electorate, nearly all the Dems and about half the Repubs want (& have wanted for years) action on climate change.

    What you see & hear from the GOP politicians is the result of (mostly) two of the richest oil & Gas Barron’s in the U.S. (Koch Brothers) putting the election fear into the GOP via front orgs (Heritage foundation & others) they have publicly said that if any GOP member votes for climate change action – he/she will get a well funded radical GOP primary opponent in the next election cycle (where far right candidates do the best)…doesn’t work perfectly, but well enough, since this happened the GOP is where we see it today.