Friday, September 30, 2005

The Credibility Strain

This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic; from the London Guardian:

 
Michael Crichton's latest novel, State of Fear, is an action-packed thriller in which the hero is a scientist who discovers that climate change is all a fraud. The novel has sold well, but it was still something of a shock yesterday to find its author as an expert witness testifying on global warming in front of the United States Senate.

Crichton had been summoned to give evidence by Senator James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, who recently called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people".

Some scientists speculated that Crichton might be the best witness Senator Inhofe could find. A 2004 survey of 900 peer-reviewed and published scientific papers on climate change failed to find a single one who went against the belief that man-made change is happening and is dangerous.
[...]
What followed was a detailed critique of one of the major studies into climate change, carried out by the American climate researcher Michael Mann in the late 1990s, effectively accusing the scientists of failing to adhere to proper scientific standards.

Drawing on what he said was experience from his medical background, he told the assembled senators that any study where a single team plans the research, carries it out, supervises the analysis, and writes their own final report carries a "very high risk " of undetected bias.

But despite his critique of what is commonly regarded to be one of the first - and most important - studies on the history of global warming, he said it was not his intention to debunk the theory of global warming.
[...]
Not all senators were uniformly impressed. Hillary Clinton was the first to try to cut him down to size. "His views on climate change are at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists; it also appears in a work of fiction," the senator for New York said dismissively. "I think that the topic of this hearing is very important but organised in a way to muddy sound science rather than clarify it," she added, before thanking the other four witnesses who attended, but not Crichton.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer joined in. "We are here to talk about sound science - a worthy and important subject. We are not here to talk about plays, novels, art or music - although as a member for California I do appreciate the focus on the arts."
[...]
By the time Crichton and the other four panellists had finished their opening statements, most of the senators, including Mrs Clinton, had left to attend another Senate hearing on the ramifications of Hurricane Katrina.

Outside the committee room, Peter Saundry, executive director of the National Council for Science and the Environment, said he was bemused by Crichton's apparent position. "If you read his book, you are left with the impression that environmentalists are only one step up from the sort of people who will cross the road to murder your children, but then you get to the author's note at the back and he makes this statement saying he is not a climate change denier. It's hard to know what his position is."
 


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