08 March 2011

Two Views on Science and Politics

My father is testifying before the House Energy & Committee today in what will inevitably be a show hearing using climate scientists as props.  I don't expect much new or interesting to result from the hearing -- climate policy will remain unaltered and climate science will remain excessively politicized.

Having read the testimony of the various witnesses, I did note a stark contrast in how Richard Somerville presented the role of science and policy and that presented by my father.  Here is what Somerville says (PDF):
[T]he need to drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is urgent, and the urgency is scientific, not political.

Mother Nature herself thus imposes a timescale on when emissions need to peak and then begin to decline rapidly. This urgency is therefore not ideological at all, but rather is due to the physics and biogeochemistry of the climate system itself. Diplomats and legislators, as well as heads of state worldwide, are powerless to alter the laws of nature and must face scientific facts and the hard evidence of scientific findings.
Contrast that with what my father says (PDF):
Decisions about government regulation are ultimately legal, administrative, legislative, and political decisions. As such they can be informed by scientific considerations, but they are not determined by them. In my testimony, I seek to share my perspectives on the science of climate based on my work in this field over the past four decades.
The differences among the witnesses on climate science or climate policy may be less important than how they view the role of science, advocacy and democracy.