When yesterday’s winners are sworn in, the political climate in Washington will change. Some worry climate science and energy innovation will be left out in the cold. Andy Revkin says climate scientists are already girding for a wave of congressional hearings that some are comparing to the McCarthy hearings:
Michael Mann, the climatologist at Pennsylvania State University who has for years been a focal point for assaults on climate science, made the point most directly in a recent Op-Ed article in the Washington Post. He listed some of the elected officials who have used, or plan to use, their offices to probe the integrity of climate research and rejected any claim that such efforts are about revealing the truth:
“The truth is that they don’t expect to uncover anything,” Mann wrote. “Instead, they want to continue a 20-year assault on climate research, questioning basic science and promoting doubt where there is none.” (Representative Joe L. Barton, a Republican of Texas who led an inquiry into Mann’s research in 2005, sent a response, and Mann then wrote a rebuttal to the letter.)
Revkin says he sees no legitimate reason to resist such hearings, which he defends as the right of the government to oversee its research investments. In a follow-up post spurred by a reader comment, he says the greater threat posed by a more Republican legislature is to science funding itself.
I see the looming problem as much deeper, with cuts in money for science unlikely to be climate-centric. This election almost guarantees an end to the brief stimulus-driven period of increased investment in advancing energy technologies that could supplant finite fossil fuels.
President Obama was right when he campaigned on the idea that the country has to abandon its “shock to trance” approach to energy policy and investment if it ever hopes to cut the addiction to oil pointed out by his predecessor, not to mention the persistent allure of coal (“clean” or otherwise).