In a most-welcome announcement, hundreds of climate scientists have decided to set aside their past policy of disengagement from the world of politics and confront head-on congressional conservatives who deny both the existence and principle cause of global warming. Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Joe Barton, and F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., all expected to be assuming the chairmanships of key committees on January 2, 2011, have pledged to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions and the so-called Climategate scandal involving the hacking and release of thousands of emails between leading British climate scientists. (Multiple independent investigations subsequently cleared the scientists of any wrong-doing and validated their research.) I would hope that they would be attempting to find who was behind the illegal invasion of privacy but I doubt that is going to happen.
James M. Taylor, senior fellow and specialist in global warming at the conservative Heartland Institute in Chicago, was quoted by Neela Banerjee, Tribune Co. Washington Bureau, as saying, "The budget is spiraling out of control while government is handing out billions of dollars in grants to climate scientists, many of whom are unabashed activists". (For conservatives true concern for budget deficits, see my preceding blog post.) First, research grants are in no way "handouts". Ask any PhD. Second, according to Wikipedia, an "activist" is "one who is politically active in the role of a citizen". Therefore, a scientist who renders an opinion based upon his or her research cannot be an "activist". Nor could Mr. Taylor, for that matter. The difference is that Mr. Taylor's statement, which cannot be based upon peer-reviewed scientific research, is, therefore, opinion. (I realize that anyone who places science on a higher level than ideology-tested opinion is likely to be accused of being an elitist. I'm willing to take that chance.) Mr. Taylor's job as a think-tank mouthpiece doesn't make him a mere citizen; nor does it make him an expert. He is paid to find arguments which justify the pre-determined biases of his employers. He seems to fulfill that role very well.