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Must-see video of Sen. Kerry grilling AEI’s Kenneth Green: “You just can’t just throw that stuff out there.”

By Joe Romm on November 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

"Must-see video of Sen. Kerry grilling AEI’s Kenneth Green: “You just can’t just throw that stuff out there.”"


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Senator Kerry:  Has your study been peer reviewed?
Kenneth GreenNo, I don’t work in the peer review literature, Senator. I don’t work for a university.

Steven Hayward, the F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, recently said, “The brain waves of the American right continue to be erratic, when they are not flat-lining.”  He may have had in mind his AEI colleague Kenneth Green, whose lack of knowledge on climate was laid bare for all to see by Sen. John Kerry in today’s Finance Committee hearing:

I don’t know what is more revealing and embarrassing for Green and AEI — that Green couldn’t actually name a single peer-reviewed study in his defense or that when Kerry calls him on it, his only defense is an appeal to authority — his own “opinion” (!):

GreenAll I can say, Senator, is that I read the IPCC reports, the science of climate change report in its totality cover to cover, I follow the latest journals, my doctoral degree is in environmental science and engineering.  I daresay I’m capable of understanding the literature and forming my own opinion. I –

Kerry (interrupting):  Has your study been peer reviewed?

Green: Pardon me?

Kerry: Has your study been peer reviewed?

Green: No, I don’t work in the peer review literature, Senator. I don’t work for a university.

That is uber-weird.  Green seems to be suggesting (falsely) that you have to work for a university to write peer reviewed research.  Play the video.  It sure sounds that way — otherwise the second sentence is a pure non sequitur.

Kerry: So, you don’t submit your studies for any peer review?

Green: Ah, no.

Kerry: You realize that there are something like two or three thousand studies all of which concur which have been peer reviewed, and not one of the studies dissenting has been peer reviewed?

Green: That’s not correct, Senator.

Kerry: Show me a peer reviewed study.

Green: I’ll send you a list.

Kerry: Please, because nobody else has.

Green: I’ll be glad to.

With the help of AEI’s staff, Green will probably be able to find a handful of now-debunked peer-reviewed studies that “support” his position, but it remains telling that he couldn’t name a single one when asked in a public forum.  Kerry called his bluff, and Green folded.

Here’s the early part of the exchange:

Green:  Canada, for instance, can agree to a target and if they don’t do anything they can’t be sued into government compliance.  The U.S. is unique in the status it gives treaties, when we sign a treaty, we live up to it.  Other countries can sign treaties and not live up to them.  That is a fundamental difference that makes the U.S. hesitant to embrace treaties as a general role, and I think wisely because treaties have a very high status in American law that is not necessarily reflected in the other countries.

KerryWell, actually Dr. Green, that’s not entirely true. (Laughs a little)  I’m sorry.

(Republican senator demurs in the background)

Well, let me tell you why it’s not, Senator:  I was at the treaty signing which we ratified unanimously in the U.S. Senate — the 1992 framework convention, which George Herbert Walker Bush negotiated, and it’s been 18 years since, and we haven’t done a thing to meet it.   In last 8 years emission in U.S. in green house gasses went up 4 times faster than in the 1990s.  So that’s the reason we’re talking about the need to move to a mandatory reduction — because we didn’t, and nobody else did, either.  A few people tried, here and there.  So you just can’t just throw that stuff out there and say we do it, they don’t, blah blah blah.

You don’t accept that you have to hold it at 2 degrees.  You may know something that thousands of other scientists don’t.  You know, they won a Nobel Prize; you and I didn’t.   And they won it for their work that said you got to hold it at 2 degrees Centigrade.

The G 20 … said we have to hold it at 2 degrees Centigrade.  Maybe you know something we don’t about where the tipping point is.  But I got a lot of scientists that I respect, who’s life work — from John Holdren who’s now the science advisor to the president, to Jim Hansen over at NASA and a bunch of others — who tell us that we have a ten year window to meet the standard of keeping the temperature from rising over 2 degrees Centigrade, or you reach a tipping point….

All of the evidence is coming back faster and to a greater degree than they predicted underscoring the predictions they made.  At some point you have to step back and say these guys are making sense because what they said is going to happen is happening and it’s happening faster and at a greater risk.

If this had been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it.  Here’s more:

Kerry: Every most recent scientific update, and I get them periodically.  I ask them to come in and say what’s happening; is it less than, what’s the rate?  And without exception they look at me and say “Senator, I can’t even talk about some of the things that are happening today publicly because people won’t believe it.”  Like columns of methane rising out of the ocean floor that you can light a match to and it will explode and burst into the open air because the permafrost is melting.

We just voted $400 million to move Newstalk, Alaska, to move it inland because of what’s happening in terms of the ice melt.  There’s some 400 villages threatened.  Ask Lisa Murkowski, or Mark Biggouch about what’s happening in Alaska.

All I can say to you is that we have to employ the Precautionary Principle here.  If I’ve got a few thousand scientists over here and you and a few others over here, the weight is pretty heavy to say to me that as a public person I ought to implement the precautionary principle.  And if I have chief executives like Jeff Immelt, Lou Hay, and Chad Holliday of Dupont and a bunch of other people who run Fortune 500 companies telling me, “Senator, we have to price carbon.  And we want certainty in the market place,” I’m going to listen.

Unless you can give me an overpowering reason why those guys are all wrong, and I don’t think you have….

Green:  All I can say, Senator, is that I read the IPCC reports….

He may have read them, but he didn’t get anything out of them.

Green’s lame defense of himself is no surprise since he regularly spouts stuff like, “No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly” “” from a 2008 speech AEI later removed from their website (excerpts here).  And last month, he weirdly compared EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Clint Eastwood and carbon polluters to criminals.

Kudos to Senator Kerry for exposing this American Enterprise Institute “expert.”

CAP’s Russell Sterten helped with this post.


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24 Responses to Must-see video of Sen. Kerry grilling AEI’s Kenneth Green: “You just can’t just throw that stuff out there.”

  1. Bruce says:

    So, is there any list of peer-reviewed studies claiming to debunk climate change?
    Is there anything? Will Green weasel about the definition of “peer-review” or “study”?

    Did Sen. Kerry goof when he talked about columns of methane rising from the ocean because of melting permafrost? I believe those are separate phenomena, unless permafrost is melting undersea.

    [JR: It does not appear that he goofed here.

    The normally frozen methane hydrates are melting at the same time as (and adjacent to) the land-based permafrost. Are the methane hydrates part of the permafrost? I checked Wikipedia, and they wrote:

    "Arctic methane release is the release of methane from seas and soils in permafrost regions of the Arctic.... Sea ice loss is correlated with warming of Northern latitudes. This has melting effects on permafrost, both in the sea,[11] and on land.[12]”

    Footnote 11 goes to a Yale e360 piece that notes, “These ‘methane chimneys sometimes’ contained concentrations of the gas 100 times higher than background levels and were so large that clouds of gas bubbles were detected “rising up through the water column,” Orjan Gustafsson of the Department of Applied Environmental Science at Stockholm University and the co-leader of the expedition, said in an interview. There was no doubt, he said, that the methane was coming from sub-sea permafrost, indicating that the sea bottom might be melting and freeing up this potent greenhouse gas.”

    So it would appear that permafrost can be underwater.]

  2. Dennis says:

    Green is like all the other denier-scientists out there: he expresses his opinion but cannot identify any research that backs it up.

  3. Chris Dudley says:

    There seemed to be a little confusion about an ice free Arctic in the video. There has been some work suggesting essentially no summer ice around 2013 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7139797.stm though other workers are not in agreement. But in the video, Kerry then talks about an ice free passage. This is already happening with some commercial navigation in the Northeast Passage this year. The chances of navigable passages in 2013 are high.

    This may illuminate the ocean-permafrost-methane question in #1: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/09/24/methane-bubbles-in-the-arctic-ocean-give-climate-scientists-the-willies/

  4. The peer-review process is rather less of an obstacle then some might imagine. So it is a pretty shocking indictment of an argument when it cannot even pass that minimal hurdle. And we’re not talking about this year or last, but of the preceding decades. Real research might be obstructed for a brief period of time, but eventually it gets published. Scientists might not believe it once it has been published. But if there is anything with any meaningful level of scientific merit, it will get published. (That said, it is in the secondary and tertiary responses that then occur WRT to any published paper where much of the real testing occurs. Here again, the process of “Inquiriential Darwinism” continues to cull out the weak and the nonsensical.)

    This process is not perfect, but it is pretty damned good. And these poor, sorry, lying hypocrites are so incapable of escaping their ideology, and their ideas are so devoid of any logical merit or scientific legitimacy, that they can’t even get past the first hurdle.

    Obviously it is because of a conspiracy …

  5. Bruce says:

    I stand corrected.

    Holding a fireplace lighter to one of these methane columns would be a good video snippet for “Climate Crock of the Week”

  6. Arthur Smith says:

    Eli Rabett has collected a few of the worst “peer-reviewed” contrarian papers – sadly they range only from the laughable to the idiotic; none of them would qualify for the “not even wrong” category. What is peer review coming to nowadays?


  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    You want a video snippet of burning arctic methane? Try this:


  8. Mike Roddy says:

    Good job, Senator Kerry. I wish you were our president.

    The Right wants a Scopes Trial or climate Truth Commission, to show once and for all that the science is unsettled. This is a hoot, of course, but I actually respect their tactics. Unlike most Democrats- or media outlets such as the New York Times- they are not afraid to go on offense.

    Let’s learn from them, and officially investigate the climate denial movement, and its influence on Congress and our media. The Democrats are supposed to be in charge, after all. Let’s see if they can get a heart transplant and actually do something on this issue. If the Right can investigate things like Monica, the Democrats can surely do this.

  9. Bill Maddox says:


    Bill Maddox

  10. GFW says:

    Yes, that video was burning arctic methane, but it was trapped and concentrated by the ice cover on a lake. Senator Kerry is right that melting permafrost underwater has been seen to release columns of methane bubbles, but bubbles of most gasses tend to fragment into smaller bubbles as they rise through water, so I suspect any ignition of said bubbles would require an open flame positioned barely an inch over the water exactly where the bubble(s) are breaking the surface. In other words, technically true, but not as visually exciting as that frozen lake footage.

    However, if that’s a seasonally frozen lake and you measured the amount of trapped methane gas at the same spring date for many years, you might learn whether climate change is increasing the amount of methane released from such lakes.

  11. Eli Snyder says:

    The paper they’ve been using lately (presumably because it’s too new to have been debunked yet, or at least I haven’t seen a published debunking), is Lindzen and Choi’s GRL paper, reproduced here:


    Monckton uses this as the dramatic conclusion of a talk that’s been getting a lot of play lately due to having been referenced on the Glenn Beck program.

    It would be really nice to get a published response to this. It contradicts the other recent research on feedback, so it’s likely to have something wrong with it, but not having a published rebuttal plays into the “the science is not settled” argument.

    The only rebuttal I’ve seen, ironically, is by Spencer.


    Seems like when your natural allies start throwing you under the bus before there’s even been a published response you’re probably in trouble — but it would be really good to have this issue settled.

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    Actually, Mr. Green saying that he does not work in the peer-reviewed literature is of course an understatement.

    The AEI scholars don’t work in the peer-reviewed literature, and also have very little academic freedom, I think.

    What happens in such think tanks, I think, is that people who support the industry funded conclusions of the think tanks are hired. So, the people hired by such think tanks start out predisposed to right wing views, I think.

    Then, their promotions and salary depend on how much the funders of the think tank like their output.

    Then, they spend their entire professional lives surrounded by other people that share such extreme views, and groupthink results from this.

    So, the output of the AEI results from a combination of predisposition, financial interest, and groupthink, IMO.

    Chances are, the AEI is run as a tax free charitable institution.

    Do we really want to fund such propaganda operations with tax breaks?

    Isn’t it time that Congress took a look at the tax free status of such think tanks?

  13. Pete O'Connor says:

    I like Kerry, but he could be a little more careful in making that challenge. The deniers have a huge amount of wiggle room in defining which studies contradict “the global warming consensus” if you let them set the terms of the argument. They’ve already taken a fighting retreat from “#1: Global warming isn’t happening” to “#2: It’s happening but it isn’t our fault” to “#3: It’s our fault but it won’t be that bad.” (Or, on occasion, #4 “It’s our fault and it will be bad but now it’s too late to do anything about it.”) Having failed at #1 and #2, now they can just pull up studies for #3 and claim they’ve won.

    Kerry might be right in that no peer-reviewed studies in recent history try to defend #1 or #2. But the deniers can certainly find peer-reviewed studies that contradict the IPCC on the value of climate sensitivity, or on the nature of specific impacts. (Though as you said, Dr. Green’s inability to come up with even one such study on the spot was pretty telling.)

  14. Richard Brenne says:

    Seeing Dr. Green turn the shade of his shirt: Priceless.

    In addition to peer review, the IPCC process was like peer review times about 500. There’s never been such rigorous vetting of so much science in the history of science. There’s nothing even close.

    Then there’s all the top national scientific academies agreeing, and all the top scientific institutions in America, including NOAA, NASA, NSF, UCAR/NCAR, AMS, GSA, AGU as well as the vast majority of atmospheric science and other most relevant faculty at every single major research university.

    I can name the credentialed deniers including Dick Lindzen, Pielkes Sr. and Jr., William Gray, John Christie, Fred Singer, George Taylor and I can tell you their perspective (contrarian to everything you say, evangelical Christian, mired in meteorology so that they can’t see the forest of climate for the trees of weather, etc) in each case.

    Comparing them to Jim Hansen, Stephen Schneider, Kevin Trenberth, Susan Solomon, Richard Alley, Kerry Emanuel, Tom Karl and all the other IPCC Report Group Leaders and Lead Authors is like comparing old timers or minor league baseball players to the U.S. Olympic Basketball team.

    In what could’ve been a tense situation when it was easy to misstep, Kerry did as well as just about anyone could hope for. Maybe he and Gore would’ve done as well as anyone could hope for as presidents, too.

    I’d enjoy hearing any other names anyone would add to the minor league (often in another sport) list of deniers and climate change list of all-stars.

  15. Credentialed from “elsewhere” (which is to say, living embodiments of the argumentum ad vericundiam http://www.fallacyfiles.org/authorit.html) we have Freeman Dyson and the Glorious Viscount of Bretchley (Monckton).

  16. Dano says:

    Ken must have objected when asked if he would go. At least I hope so. He’s actually not the biggest shill over there and has decent things to say a few times a year. And there are bigger dishonest hacks over there to send. He didn’t pull this off at all, others over there could. I wonder if the senior management is happy or sad they sent Ken.



  17. Jared says:

    As Pete O’Connor noted, it was unwise of Kerry to make such a broad statement. Such generalities are usually easily disputed and, while intended to show the “ignorance” the opposing individual, such statements may actually instead be perceived as showing a close minded individual who is unwilling to consider any alternate views. This is a dangerous stance regardless of your position on any subject.

    Here is a link to 450 peer reviewed papers which in some form or fashion challenge AWG: http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

    If it doesn’t appear in a “link” form I apologize, I don’t comment very often and so am somewhat inexperienced.

  18. Eli Snyder says:

    A quick random sampling of the 450 papers cited above reveals that some of them only consitute a challenge by what might be called a bit of a stretch in logic.

    For example, some papers are included to support the unsurprising observation that there are factors other than CO2 which can affect the climate. This only constitutes a challenge if you think that AGW is based on the proposition that only CO2 can affect the climate, which is obviously false.

    However, to be fair, there are some papers in there that actually dispute basic elements of the theory in some way, though of course many of these have been subsequently refuted.

    On balance, one might reasonably conclude that Kerry overstated the case somewhat. He might have been more accurate to say “there is very little dissenting peer-reviewed research, and most of that has been definitively refuted.”

    In the end, though, it essentially amounts to the same thing. A handful of debunked papers does not constitute support for a scientific position, which is essentially the point Kerry was trying to make — that the skeptical claim is unsupported.

  19. Cynthia says:

    These people like Green make me so sick it raises my blood pressure several notches (anger!!). What we need to do to solve this problem (save our PLANET!!!) is to jail these imbiciles!

  20. Cynthia says:

    If we have columns of methane gas spewing up out of the ocean, which you can light a match to, then we need to stop all this back and forth democracy crap. We have a planetary emergency! Is there no president anywhere with the courage to declare it as such and unite the public?

    There will come a time when leaders will have to confront the public, be open and honest about this crisis and do everything possible to solve it. The question is, will they do it now, while there is a small window of opportunity to avert catastrophic climate change? Or will they wait until they have no choice– when things start getting really chaotic and it’s too late to do anything about it?

    Things are beginning to change politically. However, slow, incremental changes are not enough. Like Hansen others have said, we need zero emissions now! There’s too much at stake to keep pussy-footing around! We need to suspend Democracy temporarily and focus on tackling this awful problem!

  21. Chris Dudley says:

    Further to my #3, the claim by Green that the prediction of an ice free Arctic in 2013 has been withdrawn seems difficult to support since the scientist, Wieslaw Maslowski, was quoted in February giving a range of 2010 to 2016 for his prediction. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7902766.stm

  22. Cynthia says:

    Green says, “I read the IPCC reports.” Maybe that’s part of his problem.

    1)Scientists have to submit their work to the IPCC 2 years ahead of time, making much of it obsolete. 2)A lot of crucial informatioon is left out of IPCC reports because they can’t incorporate it in the models.

    If all Green reads is the IPCC reports, that may be part of the reason he comes across as such a blubbering fool. If he did the proper research, there would be no doubt in his mind as to the seriousness of climate change- unless he’s an idiot. I think that’s the reason a lot of people are so complacent about climate change– the IPCC reports.

  23. Richard Brenne says:

    Cynthia, great points all. You made yourself so appropriately mad at 10:39 pm that you developed your own call to action by 11:57 pm! That’s what we need! I’ll vote for you!

  24. Pete says:

    This video clearly shows that “truth” is in the eye and ear of the watcher or listener.

    Senator Kerry’s new website will be interesting.