Hyping draft climate studies only serves alarmism

Both government and news media thrive on end-of-days narrative.

Guest opinion by Chris Horner

Another week of the Trump presidency, another bout of fevered reporting on claims promoted by the career (and holdover) federal employee “resistance.” But particularly when it comes to climate change, it seems the ordinary way of doing things is simply too much to ask.

“Climate” has become very big business since Congress first requested quadrennial “National Assessments on Climate Change” in 1990. A big part of that business is government. Another is the news media. Both of which thrive on the end-of-days narrative.

The two met this week to ride the latest national assessment, a draft of which prompted excited reportage and a particularly embarrassing correction by The New York Times.

The first step overboard was to hype a long available draft document as a leak, smuggled from a censorious regime’s clutches. It’s enough to remind one that drafts generally do not survive required reviews intact.

The first national assessment was due in 1994, but only with the 2000 presidential election looming was the bureaucratic machinery engaged to produce one. Curiously, that voluminous tome heavy with policy implications emerged mere days before the election with then-Vice President Gore on the ballot.

After we at the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed litigation, that document was ultimately stamped with a disclaimer that it had not complied with the Federal Information Quality Act, which sets standards for “influential scientific information.”

It seems that the bureaucracy took the wrong lesson from this episode, hyping drafts instead of perfecting final products to survive challenge.

Aggressive campaigns politically weaponizing drafts as authoritative, and publicly available documents as prized “leaks,” are reason enough for caution. But measure is a characteristic that the global warming — now climate change — debate has lacked for too long.

Last week was yet another reminder we would be well-served by returning to standard procedure, be it by ratifying major international (e.g., climate) commitments as treaties, conducting science, or reporting the news.


Chris Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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48 thoughts on “Hyping draft climate studies only serves alarmism

  1. Trump hasn’t yet appointed NOAA or NASA administrators, but instead has been letting these be run by acting administrators promoted from within. This doesn’t sound like a good way to drain the swamp.

    • The swamp creatures have the notorious habit of clogging up the drains in much the same way as a large bowel movement clogs the toilet. Now, I recognize the unpalatable nature of the description I’ve just presented but I feel it’s necessary to provide a glimpse of what this administration’s dealing with.

      • To Tom Jedd:
        Your comment was an insult
        to large bowel movements
        for no logical reason.
        I demand a retraction.
        They are natural, and healthy.

        The NOAA and NASA-GISS junk climate science,
        on the other hand, is not natural or healthy —
        the wild guess computer (confuser) models
        are tools (toys) used to scare people,
        with a false CO2 crisis that is used by smarmy politicians,
        to promote more government regulations
        and more goobermint spending on “climate science”

        The politicians who encourage this (Obama)
        or say nothing (so far) about the junk science (Trump)
        are the “movements”.

      • It is difficult routing-out a clog when the pipes are made from the same material as the clog itself.

      • Richard Greene you are correct. And, I apologize profusely for my bowel movement statement. In my haste to write the comment I did not adequately qualify my large bowel movements analogy. I agree, a large bowel movement is not unnatural and is healthy. Indeed, I feel quite refreshed after having a particularly large and satisfying bowel movement. But, what I meant, and forgot to qualify, was a large and vociferous bowel movement accompanying a bout of food poisoning. I think we can all agree that that is a most foul and unhealthy form.

      • The BM’s only pose a problem if and when they follow a severe bout of constipation which tends to make them Hard and Dry. Constipation is something that Congress is highly practiced at, producing bills and legislation that is particularly Hard and Dry, thereby difficult to pass.

    • He can’t do everything all at once – but then it would be nice if he got a move on with the “Climate Change” issue.

      • Trump should appoint a Science Advisor right away, e.g, Happer, Dyson, Lindzen – and have the advisor assemble a small climate group to consult.

        A priority should be to have these advisors/consultants boldly and repetitiously debunk the negative nonsense about CO2 and complain about the corruption of 4 of the 5 main data sets.

    • Yep.
      Those pushing the coup were hoping that if they could get enough distractions going they could neutralize President Trump to at least some extent.

  2. returning to standard procedure

    not likely – might as well accept the idea that climate science IS a political position (the predictions of alarmism demand political action) – accompanied by the usual political shenanigans

    climate science long ago took a back seat to models and political agendas – it’s new territory for the science-minded – either you adjust – or wither under the onslaught – by adjusting i mean “quit being shocked and awed” by the latest alarmist outrage – be cool – be confident – stay rational

    this leak was a very clever (if unoriginal) plan – besides putting pressure on the admin to release it – it puts a spotlight on the report – but that in turn gives Trump and other skeptics a spotlight when revealing its weaknesses – except Trump’s response probably won’t be cool & confident & rational

  3. I have read the entire 5th draft. There are major portions that are egregiously wrong, such as attribution for reasons illustrated in recent guest post Why Models run Hot. Needs a thorough scrubbing.

  4. Partly what is going on is Trump’s inexperience with government, and part a deliberate slow-walk of all appointments by the opposition Democrats. Given that everyone reporting on the issues is pushing some agenda, actually determining what is going on is a bit difficult.

    • In all due respect I disagree. Trump is a real estate developer. Another developer, in reference to Trump, stated that getting the building constructed was not the real ‘work’. The real work was dealing with the mayors, the city councils, the aldermen, the bureaucracies, the zoning boards, the inspectors. That developer wrote, “Trump knows that game.”

      After witnessing 11 Presidential elections I feel I can state with some certainty that I have never witnessed one that has experienced the incredible animosity, attempted sabotage, and negativity as this one. It’s a real fight. Trump’s gotta fight his adversaries carefully.

      • Tom, you are right. He is fighting dems and reps..Trump is not a member of the club. He most likely has not placed congress people’s relatives and friends in cushy positions.

      • Tom,
        I completely agree. In my long life I don’t remember any president suffering under the continued, oppressive attacks such as Trump endures. I suspect that he could come out and state that he is in favor of the US flag, motherhood, and apple pie, and the MSM would find reason to a complain about him. The Fourth Estate has become a left-leaning Fifth Column.

      • Yep Clyde …. those are synonyms for the flag of oppression, anti women’s rights, and genetically modified foods. That’s how it would be reported.

      • After witnessing 11 Presidential elections I feel I can state with some certainty that I have never witnessed one that has experienced the incredible animosity, attempted sabotage, and negativity as this one.

        I could not agree more, Tom. Here in the UK, I am heartily sick of hearing every night on the news (I only watch ITV news now) their left wing bias by heavily criticising every thing that Trump says or does. They ignore the fact that the majority of voters voted for him and they never interview any Trump supporters.

        I’m currently composing an email of complaint to ITV News – not that it will make a shred of difference but it will make me feel a little better.

      • Drat! I can’t say what I want to say. Been trying for hours, on and off, to post the following comment – which wasn’t posted (apparently because WordPress has/is having problems with Twitter accounts) but when I tried to submit it again (not using my Twitter account this time), I was told: “It looks like you already made this post”, or something like that, and then it didn’t get posted again! So this is my final attempt:

        After witnessing 11 Presidential elections I feel I can state with some certainty that I have never witnessed one that has experienced the incredible animosity, attempted sabotage, and negativity as this one.

        I could not agree more, Tom. Here in the UK, I am heartily sick of hearing every night on the news (I only watch ITV news now) their left wing bias by heavily criticising every thing that Trump says or does. They ignore the fact that the majority of voters voted for him and they never interview any Trump supporters.

        I’m currently composing an email of complaint to ITV News – not that it will make a shred of difference but it will make me feel a little better.

    • The reason for now that NOAA and NASA don’t have Trump-appointed administrators is because Trump has yet to nominate any. As a multiple times per day reader of WUWT, I would have heard names of ones being blocked or slowed by Democrats if that was the case.

    • It is not just the Democrats that are slow walking his appointments. McConnell had a lot to answer for.

    • Correction – slow walk by the GOP Republicans. You only need 50 votes for approval. This Senate recess – the GOP senate even put a procedure into play to prevent Trump from putting in recess appointments. This is unheard of – for the president’s own party to do this.

  5. “In the presence of wolves, sheep are said to form a tight bunch with horns outward and the weakest in the centre. Civil servants do the same.” [C.N.Parkinson, The Law, Government]

  6. Off topic, but too good to pass: California created a website for power during the eclipse: https://ia.cpuc.ca.gov/caleclipse/

    “While our utilities and grid operator have all the tools necessary to manage the grid during the eclipse, what if millions of Californians stepped in to allow our hard working sun to take a break, rather than relying on expensive and inefficient natural gas peaking power plants?”

      • Wow

        Remind us how long an eclipse lasts, and what area of Germany is covered each minute under the shadow of an eclipse.

        Remind us of how much solar irradiance is received under very heavy and intense cloudy skies.

        Remind us when is peak demand on the German grid, and how much solar irradiance is received at peak demand.

      • As moronic a post as you’ve ever managed, Skanky.

        When are you going to apologise to DR. Crockford for attempting to damage her professional reputation?

    • More importantly, what if they don’t? The reassurance sounds pretty hollow, especially after that fiasco with the dam.

  7. Now that I’ve taken a closer look at the NCA4 draft, there is clear evidence of Adjustocene shenanigans.

    They adjusted the observations to match the model in the current draft report.

      • OOPS, it’s too late, now the 2016 El-Nino blip has placed the temperature anomoly at above 2C. The magic 2C has been breached and the world survived. No increase in Storm Activity, no statisticaly significant increase in flooding or drought severity, no increase in Hurricane Activity (that one has dropped), no increase in weather extremes, only mildly warmer winters.

  8. Hype is all they got.

    There’s no accident that things happen this way, there’s no “mistake” being made.

    A Handy Guide to National Assessment Media Relations for Climate Justice Warriors:

    1) Make sure you have a dedicated climate activist, or two or five, on the inside of the group writing the new draft. (easy to do, since academia and officialdom is stocked full of climatistas)

    2) Make sure that these activists write the draft *First*, before any data has been collected, so that it will be explicitly alarmist and shrill in its warnings of the Doom To Come.

    3) As soon as the alarming draft report is written, have the climate justice warriors inside the drafting organization leak the freshly written alarmist report to sympathetic members of the MSM, who are ready and waiting for it.

    4) Make sure that the sympathetic outlets of the MSM hold onto it until its most politically useful, and in fact wait until the real draft is almost ready before public disclosure. (This is subtle, but important)

    5) The final draft, of course, will include pesky and annoying things like actual data, and because of that many of the more useful recommendations will have been removed. BUT if the MSM outlets have colluded properly, then the Draft report with all of the hype and alarmism will be “out there” in the public, available to be quoted by sympathetic public figures and politicians who you know are on your side.

    6) Likewise, if the MSM outlets wait until the final report is almost ready, they can ignore the final version and say “no, we just printed that.” Of course they didn’t, but in the eyes of much of the public this will allow the alarmist data-free version of this report to take the place of the dull, stodgy actual report which (unfortunately for the climate warriors) uses actual data to justify its conclusions.

  9. I just can’t get past reading the first few pages without shaking my head. It’s the same old story that has gotten so old in its tireless false repetition as to bore me.

    Its greatest fault is the implied obligation that somebody will have to spend much time deconstructing its chain of falsehoods, which robs time from whomever deconstructs it that could be spent on much more fruitful pursuits.

    The amount of time that this deconstruction requires is so wasteful. Falsehood can dominate simply by exhausting those who know better, … using up all their time, … keeping things at a standstill.

      • The Committee agrees that the draft CSSR is largely accurate and generally represents the breadth of available literature pertaining to the state of the science at the time of writing, …

        Okay, it “represents the breadth of the available literature pertaining to the state of the science”. This says nothing about the state of the science, only that it REPRESENTS this state. How helpful is that?

        Why not a review that examines the fundamental premises underlying the “state of the science”? Merely writing a report that confirms that it is a report fairly representing the consensus seems like nothing more than a marketing gesture to promote that very state, which is the thing in question and the thing needing a review.

        I cannot read a 123-page endorsement either.

      • Robert Kernodle,
        The committee’s quote contains two absurd weasel words, “largely” and “generally”. Why in the world would a committee have to qualify their endorsement this way?

        If I were to write a summary of climate literature and include ONLY negative aspects, NO benefits, and NO doubts, I would truthfully “generally” and “largely” be summarizing current literature. (E.g. try to find something in the report reflecting the thoughts of either Drs. Curry or Lindzen.)

        This is a parallel to the well known quote about elephants and 3 or more variables in a model.

  10. I have a new tactic. Let’s use these examples of lying scientists to fire these guys and gals, for cause, and keep them from gleaning their “rightful” pensions and health care benefits for the rest of their lives. This will be far simpler than the Nuremberg trials that are deserved, however, that just places them in jail with ongoing costs to us.

  11. I believe that there are a few ‘000 political appointees in US and a few million full time federal public servants.. Not wildly different to UK although civil servants where somewhat more dominant.

    In the UK it is almost impossible to fire a civil servant unless they have their hand in the till, or leak secret documents. Incompetence alone can take several years. Dismissal may may be a little quicker in the US. Governments change but the Civil Service goes on!

    What this means in practise is that changes to legislation can only happen easily with the cooperation of the civil service. If they want to procrastinate progress will be glacial. The political process is different in the US but the outcome may be very little different. .

    • That pretty much sums things up accurately. Removal of a “civil servant” is very difficult no matter how incompetent they may be.

  12. There was a case in Australia where the Bureau of Meteorology forecast record temperatures across large parts of Australia, which didn’t happen. But what was trumped by the media very loudly was the forecast, not what actually happened. A curious way that a theory or forecast gets precedence over actual reality.

  13. I call the practice of producing not-ready-for-prime-time climate reports and always predicting dire consequences in the future “What if” research or the “cart before the horse syndrome.” It works like this. Someone hypothesizes a future climate anomaly. Taking that hypothesis as a given, other researchers churn out reams of reports that describe the disastrous effects on people, plants, water supplies, air, fish, insects, etc. that will occur because of the anomaly. The “If such and such happens…” is dropped from the discussion.

    Focusing research on untested hypotheses to prepare for an event with a very small likelihood of occurring is the wrong research, and policies stemming from that research are the wrong policies. The “results” from such research stimulate baseless scare-mongering. Research on an untested hypothesis is based on an illusion. Get the science right first, and the right policies will follow.

    These often-quoted thoughts still have merit.

    Anon: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge”.

    Anon: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.

  14. You know what bugs me? I will get a fine if I’m a single day late on any of my submissions to the agency. However the administration is routinely years behind schedule on very standard plans. How are they so incompetent that they cannot complete an assessment within a legally mandated deadline?

  15. Luc Ozade August 15, 2017 at 6:18 pm said:

    “They ignore the fact that the majority of voters voted for him and they never interview any Trump supporters.”

    Just one little point, in fact the majority of voters did not vote for Donald Trump, they voted for Mrs Clinton. However, because of the electoral system, Donald trump won more seats in the Electoral College.

    Same problem as that which gave the ALP government in South Australia at the last general election when the voters had voted 53/47 for the Liberal Party.

    • Dudley, you are repeating what is a Democratic Party theme. All of Mrs Clinton’s popular vote edge came from California, a rather atypical State for the US, and one with rather dodgy voter rules.

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