Stacking the Deck

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has appointed a 32-person task force, the Commission on Climate Change, to provide guidance on how to address the challenge of Global Warming. The group has a broad-based membership that, according to the governor’s press release, “includes state legislators; scientists; economists; representatives from the energy, transportation, manufacturing, development, and agriculture industries; representatives from environmental organizations; and local government representatives.” (My italics.)

Kaine is certainly correct to include scientists in the mix: One would hope that the Commission will be informed by the latest scientific findings relating to climatology, as opposed to, say, the latest cover story on Newsweek — especially when a stated goal of the administration is “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025, bringing emissions back to 2000 levels.” The stakes are massive.

So, it’s worthwhile to ask, who are the scientists on the commission, and what are their fields of expertise? It turns out that there are two scientists:

  • Jack Gibbons, of Fauquier County, was trained academically in mathematics and physics, worked in a research capacity in energy and the environment, and served in a high-ranking technology policy-making capacity in the Clinton administration.
  • Roger Mann, of Mathews County, is director of research and advisory services at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.

That’s it: two scientists, neither of whom is a career climatologist. While both men undoubtedly can speak authoritatively about the impact of climate change on the environment, neither one is accomplished in the actual field of climatology.

It so happens that Virginia has a state climatologist (or its close equivalent). I’m not referring to Patrick Michaels, the former state climatologist and high-profile Global Warming skeptic. I’m referring to Philip J. “Jerry” Stenger, who took over the position after Michaels departed and the office was re-named the climatological office of the University of Virginia. Stenger, a 25-year-veteran, is not, to the best of my knowledge, ideologically suspect.

I can understand that the Kaine administration wouldn’t want to burden itself by including Michaels in the commission. He’s no wall flower, he’s media savvy, and he disputes many aspects of global warming orthodoxy. Indeed, a perusal of his blog, World Climate Report, will show just how much disagreement there is among climatologists. (A quote from his most recent entry: “Rarely does anyone seem to question the quality of the temperature data, and yet, articles appear regularly in the scientific literature showing that the near-surface air temperature measurements are fraught with errors, gaps, and any number of inhomogeneities.”)

If Michaels were appointed to the Commission, Michaels would end up as the story. But why not appoint Stenger, or someone else, who is familiar with the scientific aspects of the Global Warming debate and has a command over Virginia’s meteorological history? As the commission now stands, outsiders cannot be blamed for fearing that its agenda will be driven not by science but by the ideology and self interest of its members.

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7 responses to “Stacking the Deck”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Kaine did not appoint a committee to determine if Global Warming is real or even whether mankind causes it.

    The committee is to do dealing with the potential impacts… to better understand the dimensions and scope and impacts of it.. relative to what Virginia MIGHT have to do .. in response …

    No harm done at all in risk management and contingency planning. It’s not this committee’s job to “determine” if science is correct….

    Gross’s Bottom Line Question: is this more partisan ankle-biting?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, you’re right: It’s not the commission’s job to “determine if the science is correct.” The question is: Whose science will the commission use as its starting point? Al Gore’s version of the science? The U.N.’s version, as explained by the U.N.’s public policy people? The science as explained by the media?

    It would be helpful if the commission knew what the science really says — and to know the limits of our knowledge, and the specific areas where there still is debate — as opposed to what politically or ideologically motivated businessmen, environmentalists or politicians say it says.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think it’s safe to say that Kaine is “stacked” the committee with what we used to call “commie liberals”.

    No question.

    so .. asking whether they will use Al Gore’s or the UN’s version is a foregone conclusion…



    I’m off to fight the 6hr sojourn to NC .. via i-95 or US29 .. I-95 or US 29.. awwhhh poot… I’ll figure it heading up the driveway…

    I’ll be checking back in later today or tommorrow.. until then.. don’t drink too much eggnog unless it’s good the “good stuff” in it.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    So by saying the new guy is not ideologically suspect does that mean he checked his brain and joined the rest of the world drinking the Al Gore Kool Aid? I suspect most real climatologists get a good laugh over a state commission that will kill trees and burn gas as we all drive to meetings, but which otherwise will have zero impact on CO2 emissions, climate patterns or the water level of the bay. This is the Gilmore shark commission writ large. Pure political shadow play.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Hmmm…pot and kettle it seems to me. Most of the members of this blog are not experts in the areas on which they pontificate…yourself included Mr. Bacon. As I understand, your a journalist and so you read and do research, and that apparently gives you the crediblity you feel you need. I suspect the difference between you and the scientists, who have or will also read the global warming science, will have a much greater ability to comprehend and discern the truth.

    If only formally trained experts should be making recommendations…maybe this blog should shut down.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    geeze.. what fun would that be?

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 9:03, I’m a commentator. I don’t recommend legislation and give it the official imprimature of a gubernatorial commission. Big difference.

    But that’s really not the point. The point is that the Kaine administration emphasized that it had appointed representatives to the commissoin from a broad cross section of the polity, including politics, industry, the not-for-profit sector, etc. including scientists. I’m merely using his own criteria by which to judge the commission.

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