Back in January, in the midst of one incredibly cold winter, John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, posted a short video on the agency’s website entitled The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes. In that video, Holdren claimed that a “growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.” In short, global warming was responsible for colder winters.
This, of course, would be yet another step towards galactic nonverifiability—If global warming is responsible for everything, it can be never be tested empirically.
But as a number of climate scientists soon pointed out, Holdren’s claim of a growing body of evidence on this issue was simply false. In fact, from September 2013 on, three peer-reviewed studies appeared debunking the notion that polar warming had led to an increase in what are known as winter blocking episodes—situations where extremely low temperatures become locked in for exceptionally long periods of time. That was why, in April, we filed a formal request for correction with OSTP under what’s known as the federal Data Quality Act.
After we filed our petition , by the way, yet a fourth study appeared disputing the global warming/polar vortex connection.
Yesterday, shortly before OSTP’s 90-day deadline for responding to correction requests, we received the agency’s denial (see below). OSTP claims that Holdren was simply expressing his “personal opinion” rather than any “comprehensive review of the scientific literature”.
On its face, this response is shovel-ready nonsense. Holdren, and others at OSTP who parroted his claim, at no point suggested that they were speaking personally rather than as agency employees. To the contrary, they employed both the agency’s resources and stature to disseminate the polar vortex claim.
More importantly, the specific contention—of a “growing body of evidence”—can be tested by any kindergartner. Four recent studies on this issue all contradict the global warming/polar vortex connection, more than countering the older studies that support Holdren—that at least balances, and more likely outweighs, whatever Holdren was relying on. And the notion that the body of evidence supporting him is growing is nonsense.
If Holdren were selling pizza, the FTC would’ve been all over him long ago.
See the response: 229015759-OSTP-IQA-Response (PDF)
Now watch his video:
On the plus side, Holdren’s “personal opinion video” issued by the White House only has 230,662 views as of this writing. From an outreach perspective, it’s a big flop for the White House.