11 December 2013

House Environment Subcommittee Testimony

My testimony delivered this morning before the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is now available (here in PDF). I welcome your comments.

The hearing itself was largely uneventful. One of the other witnesses John Christy, a professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, summarized several areas where his views depart from the IPCC consensus. His testimony did not overlap with mine.

The third witness was David Titley, formerly a Rear Admiral in the Navy and currently a "professor of practice" at Penn State, and he did make several comments related to my testimony. Here are my unordered thoughts:
  • Titley repeatedly compared the issue of climate change and extreme events to terrorism and specifically 9/11. I'm not sure this is a useful (or wise) comparison. He asked what the trend data on terrorism would have said in 2000 as an analogy to the lack of discernible trends in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and drought. I think he uttered the phrase "Roger is right" about the trends.
  • Later though he invoked the raw Munich Re loss data as suggestive of unexplained trends, apparently unaware of the peer reviewed research on that dataset. No, there are not residual trends after nomalization, or at least that is what peer-reviewed research funded by Munich Re has concluded.
  • Titley was asked directly by Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) if he would like to take issue with the claims that I made in my testimony. Titley passed on the opportunity -- which Mr. Takano offered up twice -- and instead talked about global temperature trends and the probability of getting heads if you flip a coin 36 times. Nolo contendre.
  • Finally, Titley did work into his testimony the incantation, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" - for what purpose I am not sure. I doubt he realizes that the phrase originates in debates over the existence of God (e.g., here in PDF).  Richard Dawkins has taken issue with this line of argument in that context. Titley did not provide evidence of a teapot orbiting the sun.
The hearing ended on a bit of a religious argument between Titley and Spencer. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) invited me to join in, but I passed.

As always, it is an honor to be asked to give testimony before the US Congress, and a special treat to return to the Science Committee, which was so influential in my own career track and my strong appreciation of the work of elected officials and their staff.