On Tuesday I appeared at the US Senate at a hearing called by Senator Ted Cruz's sub-committee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. Senator Cruz introduced me as "an international bestselling author, a Top Five jazz recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist". In fact, at that moment, I was America's Number One jazz vocalist, but I thought it was a bit early in the proceedings to jump up and demand the record be corrected.
You can read various accounts of this event across the Internet from one perspective or another. Among the climate wallahs, there is a lively back-and-forth at Judith Curry's pad, at Anthony Watts', Bishop Hill's, and Junk Science. On the politics of it - ie, Republicans and Democrats - I have a couple of thoughts, one of which has to do with the 2016 election. But that is a separate subject, so I'll leave it for another day.
There was an altercation underway as I entered the room, when two Greenpeace activists attempted to get in the face of Professor William Happer about something or other. You can see it here. It is, to be legalistic about it, witness-tampering, and a sadly appropriate start to a hearing that at least partly addressed the climate of intimidation in global-warming science.
As for the hours that followed, I'll let the reports from all sides speak for themselves, and just make a couple of points. On the morning of the event, Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat and Ranking Member, sent a message, warning me that I was obligated to "respect the decorum of the Senate". I've been invited to Buckingham Palace, the White House and parliaments around the world, and nobody has ever felt it necessary to pre-issue such a warning. In the event, the US Senate has no "decorum" worthy of respect, as we'll get to in a moment.
You can find my written testimony here. A few excerpts. First, the general overview:
When I look at what has happened to those who speak out, I recall the wise words of Stephen McIntyre:
'As a general point, it seems to me that, if climate change is as serious a problem as the climate 'community' believes, then it will re quire large measures that need broadly based commitment from all walks of our society.'
Mr McIntyre is exactly right: If we take Big Climate at their word that the entire global economy needs massive re-orientation on a scale never before contemplated, it will require the largest societal consensus â€“ left and right and center, in America, in Canada, in Britain, in Europe... Yet all Big Climate does is retreat ever deeper into its shrinking echo chamber and compile ever longer lists of people who are beyond the pale â€“ Professor Curry, Professor Christy, Professor Bengtsson, Professor Pielke, Professor Soon, Lord Lawson, the Bishop of Chester, the winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics, the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics... It might be quicker for Mann, Trenberth, Gavin Schmidt and the other climate enforcers to make a short list of those to whom they are prepared to grant a say in the future of the planet.
In shoring up this cartoon climatology, the alarmism industry is now calling on courts and legislatures to torment their opponents.
And unfortunately certain members of the Senate are willing to entertain it:
Too many people within the climate cartel are demanding that dissent from the alleged "consensus" should be not merely a civil offense but a criminal one â€“ and far too many legislators and bureaucrats are willing to entertain it. Your colleague, Senator Whitehouse, is among those who favor criminal penalties for those who disagree with him on climate policy. Earlier this year, you, Senator Markey, were rebuked by the President of the Cato Institute for "an obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don't like... You abuse your authority when you attempt to intimidate people who don't share your political beliefs" ...
This climate of intimidation, led by influential legislators of the most lavishly funded government in the world, sends a powerful signal to others.
Climate alarmism is going nowhere. The two-decade global-warming pause, which no late 1990s climate model foresaw, led the public to doubt Big Climate's confident predictions for the future. In response, federal bodies such as NOAA and NASA have adjusted the past to make the present appear hotter, and thus supposedly demonstrated that in fact there is no such "pause". As a result, public opinion, which no longer trusts the Big Climate enforcers to tell them what the climate will be like in 2050, now no longer trusts them to tell them what it was like in 1950. A recent poll found that, notwithstanding the urgings of the President and the Secretary of State and others, only three per cent of Americans regard climate change as their major concern. Three per cent. There is your 97 per cent consensus, gentlemen.
Here's my opening statement:
I said above that the Senate had no "decorum" to disrespect. By that I mean that, when my pal Ezra Levant and I gave evidence (as we say in the Westminster tradition) in the Canadian Parliament, members from all parties turned up and asked thoughtful and engaged questions. When we run into each other in Montreal, the representatives of the Bloc QuĂ©bĂ©cois and I do not even agree on what country we're in. But that afternoon we had a pleasant and civilized exchange, and one that had some rewardingly non-partisan after-glow in the months that followed.
In the US Senate, at least on Tuesday, senators wander in and out constantly. Their five-minute "question" sessions are generally four-minute prepared statements of generalized blather followed by a perfunctory softball to "their" witness, after which they leave the room without waiting to hear the answer - and then come back in when it's their time to speak again at which point the staffer feeds them the four-minute blather they're supposed to be sloughing off this time round. The video doesn't capture the fakery of the event because under Senate rules the camera is generally just on whoever's speaking. Whether this meets the "decorum" of the Senate, it certainly doesn't meet the decorum of life; it's a breach of the normal courtesies - and, frankly, Americans are the chumps of the planet for putting up with it. Since the 17th Amendment, senators have been citizen-legislators like any other, and so their contempt for the citizenry who have graciously consented, at their own time and expense, to appear before them demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the relationship.
Take this guy Brian Schatz, the Senator from Hawaii. He did his shtick, lobbed a softball at his witness, Rear Admiral Titley, and stood up to leave. I said I'd like to respond, and he demurred on the grounds that he was outta there, he had to get back to washing his hair or whatever. I said I'd still like to respond to what he said, and so I did - to an empty chair. A pseudo-parliament is a fine place in which to debate pseudo-science, but "decorum" has nothing to do with it.
There is another kind of basic rudeness, which I have never experienced in a real parliament. If you're moderating a panel discussion on C-SPAN with five panelists, it's generally considered polite to distribute the questions broadly. In this case, the Democrats asked no questions of anyone other than their guy - Rear Admiral Titley. For example, there was some extensive discussion of the satellite record: They have the scientist who created and developed the satellite temperature record sitting at one end of the table: John Christy. This is a remarkable scientific accomplishment. Yet they directed all their questions on the subject to the bloke down the other end - Rear Admiral Titley, who knows no more about the satellite record than I do. This is like inviting Sir Isaac Newton to a hearing on gravity and then only asking questions of Mr Timeserver sitting next to him. It may represent the "decorum" of the Senate but in any other area of life it would be regarded as insufferably ill-mannered.
So by the time Senator Ed Markey turned up, I'd had enough of it. Markey is the Massachusetts guy (whom I discussed on the radio with Howie Carr yesterday afternoon) and he began by comparing Rear Admiral Titley to Galileo - at which point I threw up my arms. I would have let this twaddle go, except that Markey then went on to insult the three scientists on my right. And, as with so many of the staffer-insulated ignorant bullies of the Senate, he did so with no intention of letting them respond. Dr Judith Curry is a very brave woman who has withstood an extraordinary onslaught from the ugly misogynist types that climate alarmism attracts. She was not cowed by this know-nothing senator and she wished to respond, as she indicated discreetly.
Markey ignored her. Again, we're way beyond the rules of the Senate here. In the rules of life, a gentleman does not insult a woman and then stand on parliamentary dignity to deny her a reply. If that's the "decorum of the Senate", then Senator Markey puts the dick in decorum. Nevertheless, with characteristic pomposity, he sought to use the Senate's crappy rules to prevent those he'd abused from responding to his crude insults:
Markey must have been a little shocked when climatologist Judith Curry demanded to be able to respond to his testimony trying to discredit her views on climate science.
"I did not ask you a question," Markey, a Democrat, retorted when Curry asked if she could respond to his testimony during a Senate hearing Tuesday on the science behind global warming.
"Why can't she respond senator?" Conservative author and columnist Mark Steyn shot back at Markey. "You impugned her integrity. I think she's entitled to..."
"I was basically called a 'denier' â€” that I'm denying science," said Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech University. "Did you read my written testimony?"
Markey sought to discredit Curry in his testimony by framing her as ignoring the evidence humans are putting the planet at risk. Curry was not happy with essentially being labelled a global warming "denier" and pushed back against the senator's remarks.
"Are you aware the IPCC and the consensus has no explanation for the increase of ice in the Antarctic?" Curry said. "Are you aware that they have no explanation for the fact the rate of sea level rise from 1920 to 1950 was as large, if not larger, as it currently is?"
"Are you aware that temperatures have been warming for more than 200 years, and, that in the 20th Century, 40 percent of the warming occurred before 1950 when carbon dioxide was not a factor in the warming?" Curry continued.
Curry highlighted even more uncertainties among climate scientists many Democrats and environmentalists are loathe to admit. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has trouble explaining the recent "hiatus" in warming as well as the warming trend before the 1950s.
"Doctor, as I just said in my testimony â€” corroborated by Dr. Titley [another witness on the panel] â€” this is the warmest year ever recorded," Markey shot back. "Last year was the warmest year ever recorded until this year. This was the warmest November ever recorded. October... was the warmest ever recorded."
"You do not have an answer for that," Markey said before going on to site Galileo and claim Curry was relying on "something that is perhaps God-made rather than dependent upon something that is man-made" and backed by science.
"Are you saying there's no natural variability senator?" Steyn cut in. "There were alligators at the North Pole. What was that? Was that you in your SUV?"
Markey was forced to acknowledge the planet does in fact warm and cool on its own, but said natural variability is regional and the warming trend "is straight up."
"Do you know what the little ice age was senator?" Steyn said to which Markey responded by claiming Boston's record levels of snow are a product of global warming.
But perhaps the strangest exchange of the three-hour hearing came from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Mark Steyn, a Canadian political commenter without any scientific background. Markey was speaking around the 2:11 mark of the hearing when, in an unusual break of Senate decorum, Steyn began peppering the senator with questions and interrupting his responses, apparently in an attempt to question Markey's credibility on the issue.
Markey: If you want to ignore that these changes are taking place and that they are having a dramatic impact, then you are in the right place.
Steyn: Do you know what the winters were like at Plymouth Rock? Do you know what the winters were like at Plymouth Rock, senator?
Markey: Well, here is the thing. We...
Steyn: You don't. How long has your family been in Massachusetts?
Markey: We are new arrivals and I have to admit...
Steyn: You should have been in there in 1750.
Markey: The Irish weren't arriving in 1750, so I apologize for being late to the country and I'll have to chastise my grandparents for not leaving until the economic conditions in 1902 forced them here, but that notwithstanding, there is as much consensus that man is causing climate change as there is in Galileo's original theory.
Steyn: What percentage of climate change is man causing, senator? What percentage of climate change in anthropogenic?
Markey: Well, according to the scientists who are in Paris right now, which would fill pretty much the entire space of the building in which we're in right now and the number of deniers would still be the ones who are at the table.
Steyn: Yeah, what's the percentage senator?
Here's the video:
This exchange was also noted by a website called Fabius Maximus:
This is the Q&A between Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Judith Curry (Prof Atmospheric Science, GA Inst Tech), and Mark Steyn (arts reviewer and conservative activist)... Senator Ed Markey has been briefed by activists, doesn't listen to the testimony, and so not only does not understand the other side of either the science or policy debates (which differ), he does not know there is an other side (he just sees error). Material that contradicts his belief is ignored...
Markey: What I am saying is that this warming is something that while it may have variability, year-to-year in specific parts of the planet that the trend is straight up.
Steyn: Yeah, do you know what the Little Ice Age was, Senator?
Markey: Again it is climate change. We had a hundred and ten inches of snow in Boston last year with measurements of water 21 degrees warmer than normal off the coast of Massachusetts. This was an unusual event for us. The warming of the ocean intensifies the amount of precipitation when arctic air hits that water. Now if you want to deny that, if you watch these changes are taking place and that they're having a dramatic impact, you are in the right place.
Steyn: You know what the winters were like at Plymouth Rock, Senator?
Here is the relevance of my question. The snow last winter in Boston is only relevant in the context of the snow a century ago and two centuries ago. Otherwise, it's merely an old weather forecast. So I was interested to know whether Senator Markey knew anything about the Massachusetts climate before last winter's snowfall. Fabius Maximus sniffed:
That art critic Mark Steyn has all the good lines shows that this isn't a debate so much as performance art.
Unfortunately, the "decorum of the Senate" means that there are never any debates and only performance art, procedurally rigged to the advantage of the posturing preening senator. It's easy for Fabius Maximus to fight vainly the old ennui at this particular bit of performance art, but in fact it was most unusual. I've been told that there's never been an occasion where two witnesses turned the tables on a senator and bombarded him with questions. If that's the case, Americans shouldn't wait another 200 years to do it again. No citizen should consent to be insulted to her face by a mere elected representative.
Certainly, Senator Markey, like so many cowardly bullies, didn't take it well. He was supposed to come back for his scheduled second round of questions. But, after that exchange, he declined to return.
To Fabius Maximus I'm an "art critic" (no art critic would regard me as such). To Media Matters I'm a "shock jock" (I guest-host on the radio once every couple of months, so shock-wise the after-effects are apparently huge and lingering). To Senator Cruz I'm "a Top Five jazz recording artist". Sad that there's no longer a place for a Renaissance man - or, in my case, a Medieval Warm Period man. Yet the issue in the above exchange is not my ignorance, but the invincible ignorance of Ed Markey, a man who has a larger staff than the Prime Minister of Australia and who is paid by taxpayers to jet off with his entourage to the Paris gourmet-banquet marathon and who intends, when the moment is right, to ram through a massive tax and regulatory regime in service of a chimera. And yet he knows nothing.
I will say this, however, since it appears to be an issue to so many people: I've bluffed my way through many areas of endeavor and in my experience it's much harder to bluff your way through, say, ballet criticism than climate science. Or at any rate what passes for "climate science" to the likes of Senator Markey.
On the politics of the day and its relevance to the 2016 election, I'll have more to say in a day or two. But I thank Senator Cruz for inviting the world's only shock-jock art critic to his sub-committee, and I came away with my admiration for the rare courage of professors Christy, Curry and Happer profoundly increased.