Part VI of John Everett’s testimony is a criticism of a geoengineering approach to ocean acidification. I agree with his conclusion (that adding alkaline calcium carbonate to the oceans is not a useful approach to ocean acidification) but nevertheless find this section to be problematic. I’ll return to it once I’ve finished with the rest of his testimony.
Part VII is a collection of research suggestions “that would go a long way toward establishing the likely effects of an increased CO2 world.” On the surface, it’s hard to take issue with his suggestions, but in the context of the rest of his testimony, they ring rather hollow.
For example, his first research suggestion is the development of
“a CO2/temperature timeline based on extant research on past climates, at least back to about 600 million years before the present. This effort would provide a critical review of candidate papers and unpublished work that goes well beyond a typical peer-reviewed journal publication, or prior summary reports of the IPCC.”
I think that it would be great to have a comprehensive review of the state of paleoclimatology and paleogeochemistry. But Dr. Everett ignores what we already know about those topics– so what good would such an effort be?
“The acidification debate has showed us we lack a sufficient understanding of some fundamental chemical and biological processes. The research to resolve these questions should continue and perhaps be centrally coordinated internationally so that scarce dollars are targeted at real and important knowledge gaps.”
Given his treatment of existing research, I find his appeals for further research to be disingenuous. It seems to me that he is emphasizing the unknowns in carbon geochemistry as though they somehow invalidate the knowns. It’s a classic antiscience tactic, from creationists’ ‘things evolution can‘t explain’ arguments (eg, this) to the Tobacco and Carbon industries’ ‘sound science’ rhetoric. This suspicion is confirmed with his last suggestion:
“Before the next IPCC assessment begins, assemble a USA review team and nominees forthe IPCC writing and Chair assignments that make up a cross-section of scientific viewpoints. There are qualified scientists in agencies, industry, and among the citizenry who can contribute. Just as we shouldn’t have too many from the energy industry, the same goes for the agencies, universities, and NGOs. We all have biases, even if we think it is the other person who is the one with an agenda. We cannot afford to have homogenous authoring and review teams.”
It seems innocuous at first glance- everyone likes diversity, no one likes groupthink. But this suggestion presupposes that a ‘cross-section of scientific viewpoints’ will not be ‘homogeneous’. That’s the point of a scientific consensus: empirical evidence and theoretical understanding point unequivocally to some conclusion. Instead of presenting information which challenges the consensus on ocean acidification, Dr. Everett complains about ‘biases’. Science studies reality, and because reality is structured, science is necessarily biased. Geologists have a homogeneous consensus on the age of the Earth. Should geology journals and books include Young Earth Creationist viewpoints just to be unbiased?
Creationists, in fact, have used the same rhetoric as the basis for their Teach the Controversy campaigns. Climate ‘skeptics’ have used the tactic to ‘establish a controversy’ that would not otherwise exist, following the tobacco industry’s cue of selling doubt as a product. A recent bill in the Kentucky legislature turns this classic antiscience rhetoric against evolution, abiogenesis, and climatology simultaneously, reading:
“Teachers, principals, and other school administrators are encouraged to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories being studied […] including but not limited to the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
The language, like Dr. Everett’s, seems innocuous: who can argue with teaching critical thinking skills or ‘open and objective discussion’? But everybody knows that that’s not what the bill is about. It’s about forcing religious propaganda into science classrooms in spite of critical thought. And Dr. Everett is turning the same tactics on the legislature.